Monday, August 20, 2012

#946 The Mezquita, Cordoba, Spain

The first time I heard about the Mezquita in Cordoba, I was studying Moorish and Islamic architecture in Morocco. Seeing slides of this beautiful construction made me long for many years to visit it. The first thing that stuck in my memory were the magnificent double arches in striking pink and white stripes. The arch itself is an amazing construction, but to have two so beautifully decorated, with the lower one free standing, and replicated over and over to make an Alice in Wonderland, icing-on-the-cake magic was original.

Originally built as a mosque by the Moors that controlled Southern Spain (Al-Andalusia), after the Spaniards pushed the Muslim empire back into North Africa, the building had a 16th Century cathedral built in the very center, which tended to make it much darker, and many other features were added. The technical complexity and unity of the original mosque are astounding and a wonder of the time (it was started in 785 by Abd ar-Rahman I). Ironically, it was not originally a Muslim site -- he purchased half from the Christian community in order to make the mosque.

Of the original 1300 columns, an astounding 850 remain, creating a forest-like interior, and some are uniquely bubbled, creating a more cloud-like image. The domes also display a complex geometry and beauty that has withstood the test of time to remain solid and as pretty as when they were created, although with the addition of Catholic imagery.

Source: Lonely Planet Spain, 4th Edition

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