Cordoba is a beautiful town in the Andalusia region of Southern Spain. It’s two hours south of Madrid and an hour north of Seville by train. Steeped in history that spans occupation by several different cultural groups (Jews, Muslims, Christians and Romans), Cordoba was the capital of Islamic Spain from the 8th century to the 13th century. Throughout the town, you’ll notice both Islamic and Christian influences in the architecture of buildings, bridges and streets. It’s no surprise that the historic centre of Cordoba, including the Mezquita, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here’s why you should visit the Mezquita of Cordoba.
What is the Mezquita-Cathedral of Cordoba?
The Mezquita-Cathedral (“mosque-cathedral” in Spanish) is one of the most famous symbols of the confluence of Islamic and Christian influences. It is also the primary reason for Cordoba’s popularity amongst tourists, and perhaps the most important monument in Western Islamic history. While it is officially a cathedral today, most people still refer to it as the Mezquita of Cordoba.
Is it a mosque or a church?
With the Islamic conquest of Spain in the 8th century, the Grand Mosque or “Mezquita” was built in Cordoba. Its construction took over two centuries, finally reaching completion in 987 AD. With the Christian conquest of Cordoba in the 13th century, the Mezquita was converted to a church. However, the Christians left the architecture largely intact. They simply added a chapel right in the middle, and used it as a place of Christian worship. For the next five centuries, Christian artists continued adding architectural elements to the Mezquita, making it one of the most unique combinations of Islamic and Christian work, and the reason the monument is often referred to as the Mezquita-Cathedral.
What do I do at the Mezquita of Cordoba?
The architecture is enough to keep you busy for at least an hour. The contrast between the Islamic and Christian portions is stark and stunning! You can also climb up the Torre del Alminar (the bell tower) that offers splendid panoramic views of Cordoba. Outside the Mezquita is a courtyard of orange trees and fountains, that forms the entrance to the site.
When should I visit Cordoba?
If you can, try and visit in April or May, when Cordoba hosts a series of festivals. These include wine-tastings, gorgeous flower festivals, courtyard competitions and flamenco concerts. The most famous of these is the flower festival, during which Cordoba is a canvas of color!
One of my favorite bloggers, Young Adventuress, shares some great photographs from this time in Cordoba.
- Entrance tickets cost 10 euros for the Mezquita of Cordoba, and an additional 2 euros to go up the bell tower. Tickets can be purchased on the spot.
- The Mezquita is open from 10am-7pm (March to October), and 10am-6pm (November to February). Timings differ slightly on Sunday.
- If you’re flying in internationally, you can land either in Madrid or Barcelona. Take a train from either city to Cordoba (2h from Madrid, 4.5h from Barcelona).
Convinced you want to visit the Mezquita yet?