Fierce Political Statements
The Independent Umayyad Emirate 756 to 929 AD
commenced with the Mezquita Aljama in 784 AD. It was open for prayer in 785 AD. The first stage of its construction was completed in 793 AD.
The Great Mosque was built, rebuilt, re-structured over a period of more than two hundred years.
Each Moorish Spain Emir - or Caliph improved on its details. The Mosque was repeatedly enlarged, to cope with the increasing populace of Cordova. It became the second largest Mosque in the World of that period.
The Great Mosque Cathedral is one of Andalucia Spain
's Top Ten Monuments
The Cordoba Mezquita
was listed as a World Heritage Site in 1984. After the Alhambra Granada Spain
, Cordoba's Great Mosque Cathedral remains the second-most important example of Hispano-Moorish-style Caliphal Architecture in Spain. The Alhambra
was voted eigth in the Seven-Wonders-of-The-World of 2007.
The Great Mosque
A Generous Offer
A Fortress Mosque
The Emir's Residence
The Origin of Mosques
The Structures's Materials and Sources
Cordoba's Unique Answer
Hallmarks of Hispano Moorish Art and Architecture
Further al-Andalus related pages
The Great Mosque of Cordoba
Space and Light created by a vast Forest of Arches
The site of the Mezquita Aljama is situated on the foundations of a Visigoth Christian Basilica: San Vicente. The Visigoth Basilica was built over a Roman pagan Temple dedicated to the deity Janus. Up till the Umayyad Prince conquered Historic Cordoba
, previously the Visigoth Basilica was shared by Moors and Christians alike. The Moors rented their half from the Christians.
Prince Abd-ar-Rahman 1 made a generous offer for the Basilica. The Church was purchased in 786. The Visigoth church was razed to the ground, though, the Basilicas's foundations were preserved.
Curiously, the orientation of the Mosque, does not tally to what was/is established Islamic tradition: The Mihrab faces South instead of pointing towards the Mecca.
Several explanations persist.
- The most obvious: the foundations orientation of San Vicente's Basilica
- Another hypothsis: the Mihrab points to where Abd-ar-Rahman 1 landed when he arrived in Spain (a confusion reflected in other al-Andalus-constructed Mosques of the same era - they believed South was the direction of the Mecca
- Another explanation: links the direction towards Damascus, as if: exhile was not the issue
The exterior of the Mezquita Aljama appears similar to what was first built. Its structure resembles a Fortress. It had to be. The Umayyadian Independent Emirate was an Enclave surrounded by enemies who often attacked.
Mezquita Aljama Caliphal Architecture Built like a Military Fortress
The Mezquita was connected by a raised-bridge walkway from the Emir's Palace. This was vital, to avoid surpize enemy attacks, while the Prince approached or left the Mezquita. Normally, a royalty-frequented Mezquita was built within the security of palatial grounds. Cordoba was almost ruined during the time the Visigoths and Barbarians stormed down south, the Moors used what was available, adapting and re-adapting utilizable structures, as adjuncts for their needs and purposes. The name 'Aljama' was a dedication in honour of the Prince's wife.
The Archiepiscopal Palais, opposite the Mezquita, was originally the Alcazaba Caliphal. The Alcazaba was constructed over the remains of a Gothic Palace. When Medina Azahara (a palatial town) was built, the Palace was forsaken in favour of the new Caliphal residence.
A Façade of the Archiepiscopal Palace
The cobblestoned pavement has an inlaid-copper silhouette of the Archiepiscopal Palace: See Detailed photo Below
Inlaid Copper Silouette on Cobblestoned Pavement
Mezquita translated means: a place where to prostrate oneself.
The first place where Friday prayers gathered a small congregation of worshipers was in Prophet Mohammed's open air court-yard. A few palm-trees there, provided very necessary shade from their widespread palm fronds, protecting the outstretched disciples from the blazing desert sunshine.
Desert dwellers had no durable architecture.
The Umayyads built The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem in 687 AD, replicating Greek and Roman techniques. The Great Mosque of Damascus constructed in 707 AD was another Umayyadian Caliphal Architecture achievement.
During this period, many Mosques were built with materials ransacked from adjacent Roman or Visigoth ruins. The pillars found were not exactly suitable. They were either too short or too long in order to reproduce the similar height of Syrian Mosques. The Great Mosque of Cordoba was built in the following way...
A brilliant architect (either Sidi ben Ayub or Abdalallah ibn-Falad) came up with an outstanding solution, solving the short and varied-sized column problem.
Each column was either buried or built-up, matching the to a certain height. The columns, on a parallel level became equal.
Above each column was placed a capital, then a heavy cyma or abacus (the flat upper part of a column). The effect became that of an upside-down tree trunk. This action gained dimensional space, which permitted, to continue working upwards.
The sturdy base contrasts the uplifting arches enhancing and accentuating the singular exquisiteness of: The Great Mosque of Cordoba
Above the abacuses were placed wider pilasters, and above the pilasters were springings, permitting their salient shafts to support state-of-the-art semi-circular moulds. These arches were designed to support the roof. The arches were symbolic of Hispano-Moorish art and architecture. The horseshoe arches were narrow at the base opposed to being a plain semi-circle.
The specially designed horseshoe arches were wider than the pilasters and underneath supporting material. This could have meant a structural disaster.
Can You See the Varying Widths of the Arches?
The Under Arch Solution
The architect's answer made Cordoba's Aljama Mezquita unique. The lower horseshoe arches, reinforced the upper structure. The final effect was/is a never-ending sensation of luminous space.
His varied arch design may have been influenced by a similar example at the Miracles Aqueduct, in Merida.
The Great Mosque was a graceful expression; the first monument of Umayyad al-Andalus. It remains a precedent to all Islamic architecture and was the first symbol of Islamic power on the Iberian Peninsula.
The architecture of the Mosque has various identifiable sources. Distinctly Umayyadian Syrian, the influence of islamic art and architecture can clearly be seen by the artisan work of various sources:
All of which combined with local artisanship which evolved into Hispano-Moorish Art and architecture.
What Identifies the Mezquita de Cordoba
- Hypostyle halls
- Harum: Praying Hall
- Axial Naves
- Domed Spaces
- Double-Tiered Arcades
- The characteristic superimposed horseshoe arches of alternating stone and brick, red and beige voussoirs
- The Riwaq (roofed galleries) surrounding the Sahn Patio de los Naranjos Courtyard with its Ablution Pool
- The Minaret "The Place of Light".
Truely Umayyad: The Transcept, the rectangular Minaret
- The Maqsura Enclosure, area reserved for Cordovan Caliphs or Emirs for private prayer
- The Quibla, wall orientated toward the Mecca
- The Central Dome's Shell-covered Mihrab representing the Source of Life
- The symbol of Uthman's murder in Medina. Treasury of Uthman's four bloodied leaves from his mushaf Reliquary: Asserting Umayyad Rights and Authority from the Prophet
Hundreds of the horseshoe arches repeat endlessly. Never-ending infinity expressing a harmonious mystical expanse. The effect is mesmerizing and overwhelming.
Islam forbade decoration using human figures considering it idolatery.
Arabesque adornment was of a curvilinear nature.
al-Andalus Caliphal Architecture Pure Arabesque Decor
Geometric design incorporated intensely worked themes of nature (i.e.: The exquisite topic of "The Tree of Life" originated from Syria and Persia). Mathematics and Mysticism amalgamated to create a dazzling maxim of endless Architectural ornamentation.
Exquisite Caligraphy was Blended into the Decor
Usually, phrases from the Koran were used. Above the spandrel's cornice's or the (arch-frame) of Cordoba's Mihrab you can see gold caligraphic phrases, entwined on delicate Byzantinium mosaics.
Classical Kufic or lightly foliated Kufic was the Umayyad-style of Caligraphy incorporated in design-work.
Essential Umayyad Dynasty Embellishments Incorporate:
Leaves, palm fronds, rose-shaped patterns, clover, grapes and pineapples.
Oriental-originated ribbon-work and ataurique design are the additional-style, 'identifying' Spanish Caliphal Architecture.
Detail of Umayyad Honeycomb Capital
Intricate Ribbon-work, interwoven Ataurique and honeycombed capitals represent authentic tributes of the Umayyad brand of Caliphal Architecture.
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