Madinat az-Zahra's Creation was the Pinnacle of the Cordovan Caliphate.
Madinat az-Zahra was a palatial city built "to rival" with the Abbasidian royal city of Samarra, in Baghdad. Medina Azahara is its more popular name. Its design replicated a Damascene Umayyadian palace - a symbolic commemoration to the Umayyad family-connection.
Madinat az-Zahra has become a significant Moorish Spain archaeological site which innovatively combined Islamic Art and Architecture with local artisanship.
Abd-ar-Rahaman 111 declared himself Caliph in 929 AD. A palatial city was needed to display his power to his subjects and to "impress" visiting Ambassadors. Construction commenced 936 AD.
Location of the Royal City
Medina Azahara is situated on the foothills of Sierra Morena, on the hill of al-Arus, west of Cordoba, Andalucia Spain
8 kilometers from the old city. Buried for over a thousand years, it was often believed, a legend. The locals referred to it as Cordoba La Vieja:
Madinat az-Zahra took 40 years to complete and then it existed for a mere 34 years. The city was destroyed in a fierce civil war. Madinat's ruins lay buried beneath a thick layer of mud until in 1910 a Spanish archaeologist finally discovered some archaeological remains.
Madinat al-Zahra is being recreated in a life-size idea of what the original city looked like. A museum exhibition-idea was not a practical idea. Millions of scattered pieces are slowly being placed onto 1.1 scale models of the original structures.
Impelling Reasons for His Action
A Sweeping Approach for Unity
Umayyad Rule Consolidated
Internal and Foreign Affairs
The Metropolis with the Shortest Lifespan
The City's Concept
The Palatial city was focused on impressing the world
Madinat az-Zahra Court Life in the Salon Rico
This picture by Dionisio Baixeras, is exhibited in Torre de la
Abd-ar-Rahman 111 initiated the royal city's project in 936 AD, not long after he declared himself Caliph in 929 AD. As Caliph he assumed the titles of 'Commander of the Believers' and 'Defender of the Religion of God,' actively demonstrating his support for the Malikite religious stance. The Malikite system was the principal theological format identified by al-Andalusian believers.
During this period, the al-Andalus was uneasy about the slow expansion of an alarming Shiite movement, affecting not only the al-Andalus but also the al-Magreb.
The Fatimid Shiites were a dangerous threat to the whole
"Click Here for an Interactive Map of Islamic Spain"
Unity or Disunity in the Umayyad Emirate
Abd-ar-Rahman 111 inherited the throne at the age of twenty-two, in an unquestionable inheritance situation.
Rival-inheritors: his father, uncle and father's uncle, were killed in order to suppress continuous insurgent uprisings which had begun to occur throughout the al-Andalus realm, splitting it into ever smaller Taifas: self-declared independent states:
(During previous decades, both Arab aristocrats and Berber military, accumulated vast acres of land, joining them together, these became freehold properties - otherwise known as Taifas.)
Central Government was losing all its power because of the 'splitting-away Taifas'. Unceasing internal riots and revolts reigned, provoked by some Arab aristocrats who maintained dangerous alliances with Muslims of native Iberian parentage and with Christians.
The Umayyad al-Andalus Emirate was utterly drained by a generation of non-stop riots. The al-Andalus Emirate was on the brink of total disaster.
There was only two choices for the non-conformists: Either by the power of the sword
Or, by sworn fidelity
Abd-ar-Rahman 111 sent emissaries bearing his message in order to avoid direct confrontations (errors previously committed by his ancestors).
It was the Arab aristocracy who posed the most serious threat as state enemies. Abd-ar-Rahman 111 contracted a Slavic Christian army. Combined with the al-Andalus slaves it was these troops that defended the Caliphate, crushing the Arab nobles' intentions.
All but two Taifa states acquiesced to his leadership. Ibn-Hafsun and al-Hajjaj. The Bobastro state fell. The master of Sevilla, al-Hajjaj was executed within his own ranks.
In the space of a year, Abd-ar-Rahman 111, finally consolidated Ummayad rule, after ninety years of bitter in-fighting; he spent the next twenty years strengthening this policy of unification.
Long years of close observation of Central Government's failures gave him perspicacity. He became an excellent politician, diplomat and was a totalitarian ruler. A young prince, wise, brave and daring was perfectly suited to rule. Abd-ar-Rahman 111 took the remnants of a fast-dying Emirate to dazzling heights in the Umayyad al-Andalus caliphate.
Political stability and military power gave birth to incredible al-Andalus monuments. Society on every level was educated, affluent and highly advanced.
Parallel to this time, while the prince set to restoring a stable economy and to re-organizing the Government, the Abassid caliphate was disintegrating
Simultaneously, the North African Shiite Fatimids declared themselves another Caliphate, breaching the original tacit canon-structure, of one Caliphate for Islam, ruled by one supreme ruler, a descendant of the Quraysh tribe.
View of Cordoba from the Ruins of Madinat az-Zahra
Building fragments at Madinat az-Zahra
There are over 1 1/2 million fragments scattered around the Madinat az-Zahra site. Archaeologists strive to re-create the original Umayyad patterns.
The Sierra Morena directly behind the Top
Portico Area at Madinat az-Zahra
Abd-ar-Rahman 111 was an ambitious ruler and celebrated his triumphs with architectural monuments. The economy had suffered duing the rioting.
Soon the whole country became involved in two important projects.
The renovations to the Cordova Mezquita
The construction of the Palatine city
Details of the Structure and its Decor
The skills of: Architects, engineers, blacksmiths, carpenters, specialized artisans: jewel workers, goldsmiths, silversmiths, iconographers, stone and glass workers; wood, plaster and marble carvers.
Their work was delicately woven into the spectacular new royal city with its sumptuous decor, bejeweling laced marble walls and sheathing roofs with incredible gold and silver roof tiles of the Salon Rico: the Hall of Abd-ar-Rahman 111.
Historical logistics reported over 10,000 laborers worked in its creation. Over 6,000 stone blocks were cut daily and its spectacular columns were sought from throughout the al-Andalusi realm.
Hall of Abd-ar-Rahman 111
Specialized craftsmen were brought from every part of the world to train local Spanish artisans for the decor required for the palace.
The Great Dome, The Great Mosque of Damascus and Santa Sophia's ornamentation were deeply admired by the Cordovan Emirs and Caliphs. Santa Sophia's decor techniques were closely observed, emulated improved and applied to Medina Azahara and to The Great Mosque of Cordoba.
Many of these elements were thereafter repeated in Spanish Caliphal Architecture.
Busy Hands were NOT involved in Revolts
al-Andalusi society evolved and prospered. Manufacture of beautiful silks, wools, musical instruments and many luxury articles became commonplace. Simultaneously, The 'Green Revolution' blossomed as al-Andalus science and hydrology techniques combined to create a lush and highly productive land.
The building of Madinat az-Zahra received one third of the state revenue and the construction proceeded, uninterrupted.
Construction of the Medina Azahara took over forty years to complete. The city then only survived a further thirty-four years.
Bridges and Roads
Access was important for the supply of building materials. Bridges, roads and aqueducts were schemed and established . Their remains are still visible. The route from Cordoba transported the building materials on camels, horse and donkey drawn carriages. Madinat-az-Zahra functioned independently from Cordoba's sources.
al-Hakim 11 became the City's Construction Supervisor
The city was placed on three levels, entrenched on Sierra Morena's slopes. The city's exterior walls measured over 1,518 metres with 745 metres in a south-north direction. The city was enclosed within a rectangular shape.
The excavated remains reflect an amalgamation of Byzantium and Damascene artisan-ship and the craftsmanship of the local workers.
Its orientation: was in the direction of the Mecca. The city's expanse was situated on over 112 hectares. Ninety percent of the ruins remain to be excavated.
A City on Three Levels
The upper terrace: the Caliph's Palace.
The middle terrace: Vizier's Administration and Governmental offices.
The lower terrace: the soldiers quarters and artisans.
The city's Mosque was situated nearest to Cordoba. Its name too was Aljama Mezquita. The Medina Azhara's Mosque was built in a record forty days.
On the same level were the Public Baths and the city's markets. The city housed over 12,000 inhabitants.
How Did the City Function?
Military Power was Extremely Important to the Caliphate
Two natural enemies of the Caliphate were: the Abassidians and the Shiites. However, there were Christians in Northern Spain and some Aristocratic Nobles who should not be forgotten.
All were enemies.
Madinat az-Zahra's purpose was built to impress visiting dignitaries. Especially, for exhibiting its massive military power.
The Madinat al-Zahra Museum and the Bus Service to the Ruins
A magnificent museum is situated on the archaeological complex. Two architects: Nieto Sobejano and Fuensanta Nieto designed this museum. Two of its three floors are underground, merging the museum's location into the surrounding landscape, avoiding interruption of the views from the upper archaeological complex.
The Madinat az-Zahra museum won the Aga Khan Architecture award in 2010.
Its location is within the 7,700m2's parking area. The museum/archaeological complex has an excellent bus service from the parking lot, escorting visitors up-and-down every five minutes to the ruins of Madinat az-Zahra.
Something extremely interesting within this museum, is a computer-created film which is a "must-see" to comprehend the importance and stunning beauty of this legendary palatine city.
The most important symbol of the Cordovan Caliphate was the creation of the palatine city of Madinat az-Zahra.
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