Cordoba’s great mosque, the Mezquita, was built in 786 and personifies the power of Islam on the peninsula at that time. Many different architectural forms were embodied in the mosque over the centuries, with the most comprehensive and spectacular additions being made by Hakam II in the 10th century. He added the caliph’s enclosure and the fabulously OTT prayer niche.
When the Christian armies of the north under Ferdinand and Isabella completed the Reconquista in 1492 with the fall of Granada, the mosque underwent a fundamental restructuring which left nobody in doubt about who was now in charge, with a Catholic cathedral being built at its heart. Fortunately the mosque with its fantastic forest of arches and pillars was not demolished. Many of these were taken from Visigothic buildings in the neighbourhood.
Now, the fusion of mosque and cathedral creates a fascinatingly complex space, redolent of that seemingly endless (900 years) struggle between the two fundamentalist superpowers of the time.
I stayed in a gorgeous hotel when I visited last year, the Posada de Vallina which I can thoroughly recommend. It’s literally about six yards from the western wall of the mosque and is built in a Patio arrangement redolent of the Middle East, with the rooms arranged around a cool central courtyard with a small fountain.