Present day Córdoba reflects its historical influences. In the past, like much of Spain it has been ruled over by the Romans, Muslims and then the Christians, each of whom have left their mark on the character of this charming city.
Cordoba sits on an inland plain some ninety minutes drive from the coast. Its main monument, the cathedral or Mezquita, is visible from a distance. The river provides a useful landmark as most of the monuments are located in a compact central area on the north bank.
The Mezquita is considered the greatest mosque in the Islamic world and took centuries to be completed, subject to a series of expansions. It was commenced in 786AD consisting of an open courtyard and a covered area. The Arabic style is called Caliphal and is characterised by horseshoe arches.
Later sections have coffered ceilings made of European larch pines.
The Al-Hallam II extension has some beautiful doors, foliated arches and pavilions.
The Mihrab consists of thee oratories crowned by dome shaped lanterns. The architecture here is truly sublime.
As one approaches the Christian part of the complex there is an unrivalled opportunity to directly compare and contrast the two architectural styles, Moslem and Christian.
The history of the Christian part of the cathedral is very involved. Work began in 1236 when Fernando III reconquered Córdoba from the Muslims. The current structure of the cathedral crossing dates from the early 1500s and takes the form of a Latin cross.
The altarpiece is of local marble, while the transept is ogival in type.
The choir is very impressive, with stalls and the bishops seat all carved in the seventeenth century from mahogany.
A separate small chapel, reminiscent of the German weisskirche we saw in Bavaria, serves as the cathedral treasury and houses an immense silver monstrance weighing 200kg.
The minaret was built during the second expansions in the 960s with mullioned windows reflecting a western influence.
The gates on the facade of the building reveal the first decorative work done on the complex.
The other main complex we visited was the Alcázar of the Christian Kings. This differs from the mezquita by being a military rather than religious construct and of entirely Christian form. Construction began in 1328 and as with most such complexes has been an ongoing process. Walls with four towers surround a courtyard planted as gardens.
The gardens of the Alcazar also date from through the centuries but present a harmonious whole, terraced and using water to reflect the palace buildings as well as statues of the kings along the ‘Paseo de los Reyes’.