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The Fascinating Islamic Heritage in Córdoba You Must See

Roman Bridge, Mosque, Córdoba

The current Islamic Heritage remains in Spain witness of the impact left by the Islamic Era in Andalusia (711-1492 AD). It left its indelible traces in the overall Hispanic culture. It impregnated most thoroughly the Iberian Peninsula´s landscape, but also its culture and the style of life of its people.

Islamic Heritage in Córdoba (قرطبة)

Córdoba also said Cordova, is the capital of the province of the same name. The Visigoths took it over the Romans after being for a while a Roman settlement. In the 8th century, the Muslims conquered the city over the Visigoths. Later, they made of it the capital of the Umayyad Caliphate of Córdoba. During its Islamic period, Córdoba became a world leading center of education and learning. It produced famous figures such as AverroesIbn Hazm, and Al-Zahrawi.

Córdoba is home to monumental masterpieces of Islamic and Moorish architecture. The number one is without doubt the Great Mosque of Córdoba, known today as the Mezquita-Catedral. It is since 1984 classed as UNESCO World Heritage. This status encompassed also the whole historic centre of Córdoba, the Medina-Azahara and the Festival de los Patios. With four sites classed as World Heritage, Cordoba has more World Heritage Sites than anywhere in the world.

In the Center of the Islamic Heritage: Averroes, Son of Córdoba

Averroes, son and erudite scholar of Cordoba
Islamic Heritage: Averroes, son and erudite scholar of Cordoba

The Arabo-Islamic footprints remain still today visible everywhere. Be that as it may architecture, astronomy or jurisprudence and mathematics. Philosophy, poetry, music, and Flamenco dance flourished as never before elsewhere. Córdoba owned the widest library in the world and was the very center of the universal wisdom. Scholars from the three monotheistic religions had an open and equal dialogue. And different background communities lived together side by side, in full peace.

That was the environment where Averroes (1126 –1198), son of Córdoba, has lived. Averroes refers to his real name Abū l-Walīd Muḥammad Ibn ʾAḥmad Ibn Rušd (Arabic: أبو الوليد محمد ابن احمد ابن رشد‎). He was one of the most prominent erudite of his time. Averroes was both scientist and scholar, and attracted students, learners, and researchers from all over the world. His prominence and fame still nowadays shine on the whole Europe.

“La Mezquita”: a Masterpiece of the Architectural Islamic Heritage 

Great Mosque, Córdoba, Andalusia
Islamic Heritage: Great Mosque, Córdoba, Andalusia

The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba (Spanish: Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba) is a unique architectural masterpiece. It still nowadays bears witness to the genius of the Arabo-Islamic and Moorish architectural skills of that time´s Córdoba. Due to its status as a former mosque, it is also known as the Great Mosque of Córdoba. In Spanish: Mezquita de Córdoba, or simply the Mezquita.

The mosque´s structure is an important monument in the history of Islamic architecture. According to many scholars, it highly influenced the subsequent “Moorish” architecture of the Mediterranean Muslim world. It is also one of Spain’s major historic monuments and tourist attractions. La Mezquita joined the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

Abd ar-Rahman I, commissioner of the Great Mosque of Córdoba

According to history records, Abd ar-Rahman I commissioned the Great Mosque in 785 CE. That happened when Córdoba became the capital of the Islamic Andalusia. It was then expanded multiple times afterwards, notably, under Abd ar-Rahman’s successors, up to the late 10th century. They added, a decade later, a maqsura section and, particularly, a new minaret around 958.

They also added a richly decorated new mihrab (Arabic: محراب‎, miḥrāb)The Al-Mihrab is one of the essential elements of any mosque´s inner structure. It is usually a semicircular niche in the inner wall of a mosque that indicates the qibla. Also written Qiblah from the (Arabic: قِبْلَة‎), which means direction. The Qibla is the the direction towards the Kaaba in the Sacred Mosque in Mecca. Muslims use the Qibla in various religious contexts, particularly, the direction for the Salat or prayer service.

In 1236, the Christian forces captured Córdoba and the Great Mosque became a cathedral. In the 16th century, a renaissance style cathedral nave was inserted into the center of the mosque. Because of that, the mosque´s structure suffered a huge disfiguration.

Madinat az-Zahrā مدينة الزهراء

Courtyard flower decoration, Cordoba, Al-Andalus, Andalusia, Spain
Courtyard flower decoration, Cordoba, Al-Andalus, Andalusia, Spain

Medina Azahara (Arabic: مدينة الزهراء‎, Madīnat az-Zahrā, means ‘the shining city’). It is the remains of a quite large Andalusian style city, located at the outskirts of Córdoba. Abd-ar-Rahman III, then Caliph of Córdoba, commissioned this city-fortress. Its construction lasted over five decades, starting from 912.

The city included mosques, ceremonial buildings and bathhouses. The Caliph also ordered to build governmental offices, gardens, as well as other useful premises and edifices. It was by that time the very center of the power. Obviously, both the government and the administration of the Caliphate of Córdoba operated from Madinat az-Zahrā.

There were many reasons, why Abd-ar-Rahman III ordered the construction of a new city. Especially, when the new city was located at the close outskirts of the historical capital of Córdoba. However, the main motives may hide behind the Caliph´s own pursuit of power. A powerful Caliphate needed a powerful and shining city. A great city that shows and displays the supremacy and prestige of the Caliphate of Córdoba. That was intended straight to the Abbasid and Fatimid caliphates in North-Africa and the Middle East.