Religious places are a space for adulation, crowded by beaucoup beings, to pay commendations and administer their beliefs in an advanced power. They’re representative of beliefs and ornate elements that echo with the characteristics of the Religion, and its tenets which lay the foundation for a belief, which is bound to be followed for eternity. Religious Places have a high big and emotional value; the most big-name structures have people visiting them in large arithmetic from all over the world. From Mecca-Medina to St. Peter’s Basilica, religious structures breed a high value for heritage and advertise big significance for generations. Architecturally speaking, spaces of Religious Practice are devices of Time travel, reverberating with the architectural style and upholding the heritage of the history. Irrespective of the future generations to come, a sense of duty exists within heritage aficionados and conservationists to safeguard these big architectural wonders, from the sands of time. 

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Mosque in Córdoba, Spain: Architectural Boldness - Sheet1
2 Beliefs, 1 Place; A centuries-old locus of deification for Islam and Christianity_© Alpineguide / Alamy Stock Photo / https://theculturetrip.com/europe/spain/articles/everything-you-need-to-know-about-cordobas-mosque-cathedral/

Although top religious structures only represent and worship a single belief; there have been representatives of certain Architectural religious structures that have been a place of idolization for more than 2 beliefs. Hagia Sophia is the most well-known instance. Once a symbol of Christianity and thereafter, a haven for Islam; it’s now a museum that’s historically significant and representative of the beliefs it safeguarded or stood for. 

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Exterior View of the Mosque-Cathedral _© M. Bell / https://www.flickr.com/photos/mbell1975/15611795165

Notwithstanding, if there’s one religious structure that’s a place of adulation for 2 beliefs and that too in the same time period, it’s the MosqueCathedral of Córdoba (Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba in Spanish). Designed as a Mosque in its inception during the 8th Century, the structure now stands as a hybridized religious structure wherein the exponents of both faiths; Islam and Christianity can conduct their activities of worshipping. 

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The original religious structure of the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba was erected in the 8th century, with extensions in the 9th and 10th centuries that doubled its size, making it one of the largest sacred edifices in the Islamic world. The ground plan of the completed structure is a block with dimensions of 590 by 425 feet (180 by 130 meters), a little lower than St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. One-third of its area is absorbed by a Court of the Oranges ( Known as Patio de Los Naranjos in Spanish) and the abbeys that circle it on the north, west, and east side. 

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The Palm Door (Puerta de las Palmas in Spanish)_© Luis Rogelio HM (Cordoba Capital) / https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosque%E2%80%93Cathedral_of_C%C3%B3rdoba#/media/File:Cordoba_Capital_-_225_(30710317785).jpg

Originally constructed as a mosque, the structure was converted into a place of Catholic worship/ converted into a Christian cathedral in the 13th century when King Ferdinand III defeated the Moors in Córdoba. Chromatic additions were made over the centuries, thereafter in the 13th century by Alfonso X and in the 14th century by Enrique II; However, the most radical and disputed suggestion for reform came in the early 16th century when the cathedral’s bishops suggested demolishing the medieval mosque and assembling a brand new cathedral in its place. 

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Courtyard of Greens_© Paul VanDerWerf- Flickr / https://www.flickr.com/photos/12357841@N02/49034752118/ / https://www.spottinghistory.com/view/9586/mosque-cathedral-of-cordoba/

This reform entered opposition from the citizens of Córdoba; leading the Holy Roman Emperor and king of Castile and Aragon Charles V to come up with a novel and historic solution – to make a palace directly in the prayer hall. The resulting structure let down the emperor according to numerous historic accounts; notwithstanding, in the contemporary– day, the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba is considered to be as unique as it’s controversial; being a religious structure that fuses the intricacy of Islam’s Moorish aesthetics with the heavy grandeur of Christianity’s Gothic-Renaissance nave. 

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What impact does this structure have on the urban fabric? 

The property of the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba maintains conditions of authenticity expressed via its presence on the national fabric of Cordoba and the momentous structures environing it. There have hardly been any national amplifications, and its layout, form, and physical characteristics have been maintained. Córdoba’s growth has been organic; measuring over two millennia and as a result of which, multiple of its breathing buildings are proof to the sequential changes in taste, style, and reconstruction following destruction along with changes in use. 

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Microcosmic Representation _© Toni Castillo Quero; Flickr / https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C%C3%B3rdoba,_Spain#/media/File:Mezquita_de_C%C3%B3rdoba_desde_el_aire_(C%C3%B3rdoba,_Espa%C3%B1a).jpg

Nevertheless, the townscape has maintained an authenticity of its own. A high standing of piercing traditions and systems responsive to its situation and surroundings are reflected in the presence of the public areas, historic structures, the image, and the treatment of the public spaces. Other monuments in the area belong to different ethos and timelines and hold a high sense of originality in terms of shape, design, materials, and programs, which can be added to the great number of architectural types.

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The Mosque-Cathedral has preserved its authenticity in terms of its form, plan, materials, use, and function. The juxtaposition of styles has given it an authenticity that adds originality. A case of material integration and witness of originality of the monument is the way in which old Roman and Visigoth columns were reused in Islamic structure. 

What particular style was it built in and how is it relevant to the era it was constructed in?

The most notable trait present in Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba is the prayer hall, the ceiling of which is supported by 856 columns dividing the interior into 19 north-to-south and 29 east-to-west aisles; and consisting of materials like as jasper, onyx, marble, granite, and porphyry, shoveled from the Roman temple that was present before the Mosque was constructed. Double arches rest on the columns, with a red-and-white-streaked design, also modelled on those of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem

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Prayer Hall_©Waqqas Akhtar / https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/313/

The other most noteworthy decoration in the whole complex is found in the third mihrab, or prayer niche, wherein an octagonal recessed roof with a single block of white marble is sculptured in the form of a shell, with walls inlaid with Byzantine-style mosaics and gold. 

The structure in a way alludes to a flux of adaptive reuse which has given it the architectural lexical identity that it showcases now. During the Islamic Influence period in Andalusia, the structure’s arches, embellishing style and programmatic design were vibrant with the Moorish Islamic style; nevertheless, when the Gothic influence cast itself on the structure, the structure was vibrant with the Roman Catholic style.  

What historical importance does it hold?

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The mosque structure is considered to be an important monument in the history of Islamic architecture and numerous scholars consider it to have been considerably influential on the later “Moorish” infrastructure, that was present in the western Mediterranean regions of the Muslim world. It’s also thought of as one of Spain’s major significant monuments and tourist magnets, making it a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984. 

Gothic Influences_© Kallerna / https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosque%E2%80%93Cathedral_of_C%C3%B3rdoba#/media/File:Mezquita-catedral_de_C%C3%B3rdoba_interior_20.jpg

The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba has a veritably deep-seated history about it, which makes it one of the most unique and important religious structures with a rich heritage. The structure encompasses two different ornamental and architectural styles and can subsist in a harmonious visual language, that gives the rearing a unique identity of itself. 

The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba is by far one of the most iconic Religious Architecture specimens; it upholds the coexistence of two different monotheistic creeds. It’s possibly synonymous with the identity of the City of Cordoba. Given that the structure lies at the junction of different areas of influence; each being at a different point in time in the City’s history; efforts have been borne to maintain the structure’s physical form and spread its momentousness in the minds of historians, architects, and individuals specializing in religious studies. Like the city of Cordoba and the varied influences which have laid the foundation for the urban fabric and its architectural language; the structure possibly is a microcosmic representation of the town itself; giving it a paradoxical identity, one which resonates with all its influences, yet the amalgamation has created a language of its own; and that’s what makes it stand out from the rest. 

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References

UNESCO (2014). Historic Centre of Cordoba. [online]. (Last updated 2014). Available at: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/313/ [Accessed 20 July 2021].

Khan Academy (2015). The Great Mosque of Cordoba. [online]. (Last updated 2015). Available at: https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ap-art-history/early-europe-and-colonial-americas/ap-art-islamic-world-medieval/a/the-great-mosque-of-cordoba [Accessed 21 July 2021].

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The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica (2016). Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba. [online]. (Last updated Oct 19, 2016). Available at: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Mosque-Cathedral-of-Cordoba [Accessed 22 July 2021].

Mark Nayler; culture trip (2020). Everything You Need to Know About Córdoba’s Mosque-Cathedral. [online]. (Last updated 29 July 2020). Available at: https://theculturetrip.com/europe/spain/articles/everything-you-need-to-know-about-cordobas-mosque-cathedral/ [Accessed 24 July 2021].

Author

A final year architecture student, currently studying in SVKM-NMIMS Balwant Sheth School of Architecture, Mumbai, he has allied interests towards architectural photography and writing. Having a penchant for films and philosophy as well, he is of the belief that architecture and design have the ability to capture the most pivotal moments in life itself.

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