The Mezquita-Cathedral in Córdoba, a must see in 2023

by Lorraine Williamson

Deep in the heart of the historic city of Cordoba, in southern Spain, lies one of the most awe-inspiring structures in the world – the Mezquita-Cathedral, a monument that embodies the cultural and architectural fusion that defines Andalucia.

The Mezquita-Cathedral is also known as the Mosque-Cathedral. It was constructed over a period of 200 years, from the 8th to the 10th century, on the site of an ancient Visigothic church. Originally built as a mosque during the Islamic reign of Spain, its construction was overseen by Abd al-Rahman I, the first Emir of Cordoba. 

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The mosque in Cordoba was expanded several times over the centuries, with new sections added by Abd al-Rahman II and his successors. The result is a massive, sprawling structure that covers an area of almost 24,000 square metres. Moreover, it features more than 850 columns, each with a unique design and history. 

In 1236, Cordoba was reconquered by Christian forces, and the mosque was converted into a cathedral. Then, over the next few centuries, various chapels, sacristies, and other Christian elements were added to the structure. This has therefore created an unusual hybrid of Islamic and Christian architecture. 

The Mezquita-Cathedral forest of arches

Forest of arches 

One of the most striking features of the Mezquita-Cathedral is the forest of horseshoe arches that spans the vast interior. Made from alternating bands of brick and stone, these arches, create a mesmerising visual effect, with the light filtering through them and casting intricate patterns on the mosque’s floor. 

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World Heritage 

Today, the Mezquita-Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most visited attractions in Spain. It remains an important place of worship for both Muslims and Christians. Furthermore, its history and architectural beauty continue to captivate visitors from around the world. In 2022 the site welcomed 1.5 million visitors. 

Whether you are an architecture enthusiast, a history buff, or simply a traveller in search of inspiration, a visit to the Mezquita-Cathedral in Córdoba is an experience that will stay with you forever. The fusion of Islamic and Christian cultures embodied in this magnificent structure is a testament to the enduring legacy of Andalucia, a region that has always been at the crossroads of civilizations.  

Five things you probably did not know about the Mezquita 

The mosque’s original mihrab, or prayer niche, is still intact and can be seen in the cathedral’s choir. This stunning piece of Islamic art is made of marble, gold, and precious stones. Moreover, it is considered to be one of the finest examples of Islamic decoration in the world. 

The Mezquita-Cathedral Mihrab

In the 16th century, the Spanish architect Hernán Ruiz added a Renaissance-style nave to the cathedral  This section, known as the Capilla Mayor, features a stunning altarpiece that depicts scenes from the life of Jesus Christ. 

The cathedral’s bell tower, which dates back to the 12th century, was built on the site of a minaret that was part of the original mosque. Furthermore, the tower is one of the tallest structures in Cordoba, standing at over 54 metres tall. 

Filming companies have used the Mezquita-Catedral as a filming location for several movies, including Lawrence of Arabia and the Kingdom of Heaven. Because of its unique architecture and historic atmosphere, it is a popular destination for filmmakers and photographers. 

The Mosque in Cordoba ceiling

Despite its long and complex history, the Mezquita-Catedral has survived numerous earthquakes, wars, and other disasters over the centuries. Its durability and resilience are therefore a testament to the skill and ingenuity of the architects and builders who created this magnificent monument. 

Practical information 

Apart from weekdays out of season, it is advisable to book a ticket in advance. You don’t want to run the risk of not being able to enter. The quietest hours are the first of the day and during Spanish lunchtime, roughly from 2.00 pm to 4.30 pm. 

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A general ticket costs €13. People over 65 pay €10, children aged 10 to 14 years €5. Children under 10 can enter for free. Please note that you can’t enter the Torre de Campanario with the general thicket. On the patio, you can buy a ticket for the ascent for only €3. The Mezquita-Cathedral is open from 10.00 am to 7.00 pm. 

The Mosque-Cathedral from Roman Bridge

Parking in the historic centre of Cordoba is difficult. Luckily, there are several public parking areas for which you have to pay. However, if you prefer to look for free parking in the streets of Cordoba, try the area close to the Calahorra-tower. This tower you will find on the other end of the river. A walk across the Roman bridge towards the Mosque can be a beautiful start to your visit. 

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