The Great Mosque of Cordoba

The Great Mosque of Cordoba

The mosque of Cordoba, a great wonder of Moorish architecture can be found in the historic center, Andalusia in Spain. It also has clerical recognition as Cathedral of  Our Lady of the Assumption in which “Our Lady of the Assumption” is referring to the Virgin Mary’s assumptions.

The Great Mosque of Cordoba

Fig.1 Mosque of Cordoba

History of Mosque of Cordoba:

The traditional studies clear the ambiguity about its dual name. It enjoyed the following status:


 In the Roman Empire, people of different religions were creating a cult of different divinities.  First, there was a temple of Roman god, Janus. It was converted to the church through the invasion of Visigoths in 572.

After that, When Abdu-ur- Rehman was exiled. He conquered Al- Andalus by defeating governor of Al-Andalus. At that time, Cordovese was the collection of different sects as Donatists, Luciferians, Gnostics, and Priscillianists. He stood to fabricate a temple that would compete for the contemporaries of Jerusalem, Damascus, and Baghdad.

Abdu-ur- Rehman 1 purchased the Christian side of basilic to construct a mosque for Muslims. Umeya ibn Yazid gave the land under the conditions that the church is permitted to construct. Abdu-ur- Rehman 1 allowed the Christians to rebuild their church which leads to the construction of Catholic Basilica with the help of a monk Saint Vincent of Lerins. The conquest of the Visigothic kingdom made this place a shared property of Muslims and Christians for some time. The Muslims income for services was collected through Jizya and Zakat, it helped in the survival of Muslims tribe populated by Christians in Al- Andalus. After some time, Abd-al Rahman I, Hisham and Abd-al Rahman II worked for mosque construction, adornment and embellishment. Abd al-Rahman I constructed Mihrab in the direction of Mecca for the religious association. Abd al Rehman modified its minaret, Abu Al hakam 2 widen the mosque and embellished the Mihrab. The Mezquita enlarged its outer naves and courtyard.

Still, there is a controversy that either Catholic Basilica was completely destroyed of it was reformed, An evidence suggested that the remainders of Visigothic buildings have been displayed by archaeological studies. According to Susana Calvo Capilla, no evidence has been got to prove that either the existing structure is of a first mosque or Cathedral church.

Mosque of Cordoba in Reconquista:

King Ferdinand III (the Saint) of Castile conquered Cordoba in 1236. He converted the central region of the mosque into the Catholic church. In the 14th century, certain constructional developments were made by King Henry II. He also converted the minaret into bell tower of the chapel. After a climatic disaster in 1589, the remaining minarets were encased within the new form.

The Great Mosque of Cordoba

Fig.2 Cathedral of Cordoba

During the Elizabethan period, king of Castile, Aragon the and Charles V permitted the insertion of most significant change that was the construction of church nave in the center. These reformations lead to disgrace and loss of heritage as commented by Charles V on his visit to church “You have destroyed something unique to build something commonplace.” But unfortunately, these alterations continued until the ending of the 18th century.

Mosque of Cordoba in 20s:

When Muslims in Spain stood for their part in a mosque in the early 2000s, they demanded permission to offer their prayers in a mosque. The Islamic council of Spain highlighted this in the Roman Catholic Church. They were defied by the Pope of Rome and Spanish Christians authorities. This dispute over holy places is one of the parts of battles occurring in different parts of the world including Istanbul and Jerusalem.

In April 2010, when the Cathedral was full of tourists in their holy week. A group of 118 European Muslims and six Austrian Muslims were there to offer prayer. When Muslims were knelling, the security guard disrupted them and said them to leave the building. The two Muslims tourists smacked the guards. A serious fight took place resulting in guards in the hospital and two Muslims in jail.

Recently, a new encouraging statement is made by bishops of Cordoba as “We call on politicians and institutions to show responsibility and not to feed this false controversy which merely fuels division” which showed he is not in favor of dispute over territory. In 2019 Jose Maria Bellido (the mayor of Cordoba) gave a statement about mosque as the territory of Christians. He expressed his opinion as “There are no administrative tasks arising from this commission and I’ve no intention of reactivating it.”

So, after certain reforms in Renaissance and Reconquista, Muslims and Christians have shifted the authority. In 2002, Spain and Vatican authorities declared this mosque as a Catholic place of worship for Christians.

Its Structure:

While constructing the great Mosque of Cordoba, the architects utilized the structure of the Great Mosque of Damascus as a model. They blended the of choice capitals and Roman columns. Some of these columns were sent as gifts from governors of Iberia and some were already the parts of the gothic structure.  Marvelous and amazing azulejos and mosaics were constructed. For its ornament, various precious stones as silver, copper, jasper, ivory, porphyry, brass and gold were used. All artistic patterns of Morisco architecture were utilized along with red marble columns. However, it experienced modification under four different stages.

Its hall was constructed in rectangular shape for prayer to draw parallelism to the initial mosques of Islam.  It is a wide and flat hall with horseshoe arches on the timber wood ceiling. Its hall has an alley in perpendicular to qibla to make an association. A staircase was added after 1.5 hundred years along with other modifications. its court has purification systems of pious in east, west and north sides in the form of fountains. There is a bridge to connect the Caliph palace to the prayer hall. Its great courtyard is in the southern side with various palm and citrus trees but today courtyard has been stoned. Abd- al Rehman contributed to its minaret having ascent and descent staircases of the tower. The minaret is four edged, having fourteen windows with arches. Its peak contained one silver and two gold apples over six petals of Lili.

The Great Mosque of Cordoba

Fig.3 The minaret was modified into the chapel bell

Its halls and building had been used for Muslim religious practices and devotions. During the Abd- al Rehman period, it had also been used for teachings of Islam and Sharia cases. For two centuries the great Mosque was considered as the heart and center of the city.

In 1931–32, the great South Asian philosopher and poet, Allama Muhammad Iqbal took permission from Adhan authorities to visit the Great Mosque of Cordoba. He was inspired with its beauty and art and expressed his emotions and feelings in his poem under the title of “The Mosque of Cordoba”. In which, he admired it as a great landmark and masterpiece of Islamic art and architecture. He wrote:

“Sacred for lovers of art, you are the glory of faith,

You have made Andalusia pure as a holy land!”

Allama Muhammad Iqbal described its hypostyle beauty as “countless pillars like rows of palm trees in the oases of Syria” For the community of AL-Andalus “the beauty of the mosque was so dazzling that it defied any description.”

Louis L Amour the writer of The Walking Drums depicted and portrayed The Court of Oranges in the 12th century.



The most notable feature is its magnificent hypostyle hall, having 856 columns of onyx, marble, porphyry, granite, and jasper.  The dual arches of the lower horseshoe case and upper semicircular added to its beauty. Inspiration was taken from the dome of the rock to design voussoirs of red and white color. The Iberian Peninsula served as the antiquity of horseshoe arches for its construction.

Fig.4 The hypostyle of Cordoba

The central Honeycombed dome adorned with stars and blue tiles marked a difference. A fountain in the middle encircled a great courtyard, a minaret, and an orange grove. Symmetrical arches made of red brick and stones made the ancient Roman columns to serve as constructing material.


Its beauty didn’t stop here but flourished through the addition of magnificent and glided mihrab also called a prayer niche. Gold tesserae and the exquisitely decorated arch were used to construct an average size. It was designed through a blend of geometry, shapes of plants, a dazzling blend of dark blues, reddish-brown and gold to construct intricate vegetal motifs and calligraphic bands to mark it as a masterpiece.

Fig.5    Mihrab of Cordoba


An open area to explore the beauty of nature was added to it. It marked boundary by arcades, bright mosaics, glass colorful windows, minarets and screens of wood.

Fig.6 The courtyard of Cordoba


The boundary of the mosque had inscriptions and calligraphies taken from the holy book of Muslims (Al-Quran).

Horseshoe Arch:

It was designed to depict the Western Islamic architecture style. It spread in North Africa from Morocco to Egypt as an Islamic symbol.

 Fig. Mihrab of Cordoba

The Dome:

Ribs of cris cross structure were utilized by architecture to create dazzling dome above the mihrab. It was in a radial pattern to highlight the rib vaulting of goths.

Fig.7  The dome and Mihrab of Cordoba


As it was a mixed basilic, so it contained decoration of the cathedral through tiles’ work rather than pictorial and sculptural representation. The naves of the mosque were decorated with red marble, having calligraphy and art depictions.

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