“No man is ever wise by chance.”

Statue of Seneca next to the entrance to the Old Town
Statue of Seneca next to the entrance to the Old Town

Córdoba was our next stop, home to the exquisite Mezquita de Córdoba, the Great Mosque. Actually it’s a Roman temple turned Mosque turned Cathedral, a common occurrence in Spain. The layering of history and events in each place in Spain is remarkable, especially in Córdoba. The original Carthaginian city was conquered by the Romans in 206 BC, who formed a Roman settlement there. The famous playwright Seneca the Younger was born there just before the birth of Christ. I forget sometimes that Rome was an empire – you expect famous Romans to have been born in Rome, but this was not always the case. The Roman provinces provided many philosophers, writers and even emperors.

One of the streets in the Jewish Quarter
One of the streets in the Jewish Quarter

Córdoba was later conquered by the Muslims in 711 AD. It grew in prominence until the 11th century, eventually becoming the capital of the caliphate of Al-Andalus, the Arab name for southern Spain. It was the most populous city in the world in the 10th century with 500,000-1 million inhabitants and a center for learning and culture. It was reconquered by Ferdinand III of Castille in the 13th century and converted back to Christianity.

Ben Maimonides, famous Jewish physician.
Ben Maimonides, famous Jewish physician.

The Old Town and the Jewish quarter have been maintained, and we wandered through there on our way to the Mosque.

Our local guide has his PhD on the history of Córdoba and authored 5 books on the topic. He was much as I imagine the Bruce would be if he lived in Spain and gave tours for a living. Something to think about for retirement. We started our tour of the Mosque in the Court of Oranges – the stately, ordered garden designed to emulate the structure of the adjoining mosque. You can see the Bell Tower-minaret from across the courtyard.

Court of Oranges
Court of Oranges
Court of Oranges
Court of Oranges
In the Court of Oranges with the Bell Tower/minaret in the background
In the Court of Oranges with the Bell Tower/minaret in the background
What remains of the Roman temple under the current floor
What remains of the Roman temple under the current floor

When we entered the Mosque itself, we saw the remains of the Roman temple under the current floor where archeologists are still uncovering details. Cordoba_Arches1

Columns in the Prayer Room
Columns in the Prayer Room
Islamic columns with a vaulted ceiling added during the Renaissance
Islamic columns with a vaulted ceiling added during the Renaissance
Detailed columns in the Prayer Room
Detailed columns in the Prayer Room
Detail at the top of one of the columns
Detail at the top of one of the columns

Then we went into the Muslim Prayer Room with its candy-cane-striped arches. The immensity and detail in this place is distracting.

The mihrab in the Mosque
The mihrab in the Mosque
After seeing the mihrab, which points the way to Mecca, we wound our way around to the Cathedral through a museum of sorts of church artifacts hundreds of years old.
As we came into the nave where regular Mass is celebrated today, it was like walking into a different time period – the Renaissance construction was such a contrast from the Islamic art we’d seen previously. The altar and choir are both magnificent in their scale and artwork.
Altar piece made from gold and silver from the Americas
Altar piece made from gold and silver from the Americas
Renaissance art in one of the chapels of the Cathedral
Renaissance art in one of the chapels of the Cathedral
Altar piece in one of the chapels of the Cathedral
Altar piece in one of the chapels of the Cathedral
The outside of the Cathedral section of the Mosque
The outside of the Cathedral section of the Mosque
Cathedral altar
Cathedral altar
Choir in the Cathedral
Choir in the Cathedral
After our tour of the Mosque, we had some free time to see more of the city. I walked down to the Guadalquivir River to see the old Roman bridge spanning its banks. I also saw one of the original 11 mills on the river.
Check back tomorrow to read about my time in Seville.
The organ, altar and choir in the Cathedral
The organ, altar and choir in the Cathedral

Title quote: Seneca, born in Córdoba in 4 BC.

One of the streets in Old Town
One of the streets in Old Town
Cordoba_WaterWheel
One of 11 water mills along the river.
Roman bridge over the Guadalquivir River
Roman bridge over the Guadalquivir River

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