Jul 19, 2008

Cordoba Tourist Attractions

The Córdoba's outstanding monument is the Cathedral, formerly the principal mosque of western Islam and still known as the Mezquita, one of the largest mosques in the world and the finest achievement of Moorish architecture in Spain, comparable in beauty and size with the great mosques of Mecca and Damascus, the El-Azhar Mosque in Cairo and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. The site on which the mosque stands was originally occupied by a Visigothic church, which the Moors used after the conquest as a mosque, though at first leaving part of it to the Christians. This part was acquired by Abderrahman I, and the building of the present mosque began in 785, with eleven aisles open to what is now the Court of Orange-Trees and the mihrab (prayer niche indicating the direction of Mecca) at the end of the central aisle, which was larger than the others. Building material from Roman and Visigothic buildings was used in the construction. During the reign of Abderrahman II, between about 830 and 850, the aisles were increased in length; in 951 Abderrahman III built the minaret (which has been altered since his time); and Al- Hakam II enlarged the mosque still further to its present length of 179m/587ft. In the course of this extension the unique ''third mihrab'' and the maqsura (enclosure for the Caliph) were added. Finally Almansor increased the width of the mosque, bringing it to its present dimensions, by building on eight additional aisles along the whole length of the structure, so that the prayer hall now has no fewer than nineteen aisles.

Alcazar of the Christian Kings
Across the Puente Romano from the Torre de la Calahorra we turn left and come to the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos. Some parts of the massive walls and towers date from Moorish times, but most of them were built when Alfonso XI strengthened the fortress in the 14th century. It contains a number of very fine Roman mosaics. Around the Alcázar, within the walls, are beautiful gardens, with ornamental pools and fountains, which are illuminated on summer evenings. In front of the main building is a square called the Camposanto de los Mártires, said to have been the place of execution of Christian martyrs.


On the north side of the Camposanto lies the Judería, the old Jewish quarter of Córdoba. With its narrow lanes, its whitewashed houses and patios gay with flowers and its cozy little squares, it has a very distinctive atmosphere of its own.

Puente Romano

Beside the Triunfo rises the Puerta del Puente, a Doric triumphal arch (16th century) at the end of the 16-arched Puente Romano over the Río Guadalquivir in Córdoba. The bridge was originally built after Caesar's victory over Pompey, and a Moorish bridge, 223m/244yd long was later built on its foundations.

Medina Azahara

10km/6mi west of Córdoba, reached by way of C 431 and a secondary road which in 8km/5mi goes off on the right, stands Medina Azahara, a palace-town built by Abderrahman III from 936 onwards and named after his favorite wife Zahara which is said to have been large enough to house 30,000 people. In 1010 it was destroyed by the Almoravids and thereafter used as a quarry of building material; as a result it is now largely in ruins.

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