Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Córdoba, Spain

My second major day trip was to Córdoba, another city in Andalusia about two hours from Sevilla. This city is famous for the Mezquita (mosque) which was transformed into a Catholic cathedral on the inside. As in many of the southern Spanish towns, the outside of the building has a tall bell tower which was originally used for calling prayers but has since been given a more Renaissance-style top and bells during the change to Catholicism.

The inside of the building is what is truly shocking. Rows and rows of arches stretch the whole length of the building with columns like trees in a forest. The moors were very intelligent architects, having built the arches with alternating sections of brick (red) and limestone (white) as seen in the photo here. The difference in stability/malleability of these two types of building materials allowed the arches to compress and decompress under stress from earthquakes which can sometimes be very common in Spain. In a newer section of the mosque, some arches were built very quickly using only one kind of stone, and it is clear that this method does not stand the test of time as effectively. There were cracks everywhere from earthquakes.

The most interesting thing about this building, however, is that the Catholic cathedral section was built directly in the CENTER of the original mosque. Instead of just leveling the whole structure and building one grand cathedral, the Catholics stuck their new architecture right in the middle. It was really disorienting to see the brightly colored arches of the Moorish-style mosque melding with the bright white Renaissance-style vaulted ceilings of a grand cathedral (see the photo.) The abrupt change in style was like walking from southern Spain into Renaissance Italy in a matter of seconds.  

The streets of Córdoba had the familiar and comforting narrowness and white-painted buildings I had seen throughout southern Spain. One of the more famous streets, called Calleja de las Flores (Alley of the Flowers) had a beautiful view of the cathedral's bell tower at the end.
Calleja de las Flores (Alley of the Flowers)


In the spring, Córdoba is known for having patio contests where all of the courtyards of houses sport overflowing flower pots of spring blooms. When I visited, these pots were just starting to put out colorful flowers. I can only imagine how beautiful everything would have looked a few weeks after I visited.

the beginning of flower growth for the spring Patio Contests

 The Guadalquivir river also extends through Córdoba (the same river which has a canal running through the heart of Sevilla) and there is an impressive stone bridge which stretches across it just behind the cathedral/mosque.
Bridge crossing the Guadalquivir River with a view of the cathedral/mosque in the background

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