Everything You Need To Know About The Great Mosque Of Cordoba

Did you know that Cordoba Mosque, officially known as the Mezquita Cathedral, was originally built in the 8th century during the height of Moorish rule in Spain? This architectural marvel blends Islamic...

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The Cordoba Mosque was initiated in the 8th century by Emir Abd ar-Rahman I on the site of a Christian Visigothic Church, Basilica of San Vicente Mártir, as part of his vision to elevate Cordoba as a center of science, culture, and arts.

In 1236, Ferdinand III of Castile conquered Cordoba, leading to the reconversion of the Mosque-Cathedral into a Christian church. Rather than demolishing it, Christian rulers opted to preserve and enhance its beauty with new spaces and monuments.

The focal point of the Mosque-Cathedral is its shell-shaped prayer niche, built in the 10th century. Unlike traditional mihrabs facing Mecca, Cordoba's mihrab faces south, resembling the orientation of the Damascus Mosque.

Why visit the Great Mosque of Cordoba?

About Córdoba Mosque What to see
  • Architectural Marvel: It's a masterpiece of Islamic architecture, featuring stunning horseshoe arches, intricate mosaics, and a mesmerizing forest of columns.
  • Historical Significance: As the former heart of the Umayyad Caliphate in Spain, it represents a golden age of Islamic civilization in Al-Andalus.
  • Cultural Fusion: The mosque reflects a unique blend of Islamic, Christian, and Jewish influences, symbolizing centuries of peaceful coexistence and cultural exchange.
  • Symbol of Tolerance: Its conversion into a cathedral after the Reconquista highlights its role as a symbol of religious tolerance and multiculturalism.
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site: Recognized for its outstanding universal value, the mosque is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, attracting visitors from around the globe.

History of Great Mosque of Cordoba in a nutshell

To truly appreciate the Cordoba Mezquita, one must delve into its rich history, which traces back to the Umayyad dynasty in Damascus, Syria.The mosque was built in 785 AD during the reign of Abd ar-Rahman I, the first Umayyad Caliph of Cordoba, in the late 8th century.

The mosque was expanded by several rulers, including Abd al-Rahman II, Al-Hakam II, and Al-Mansur till the late 10th century until King Ferdinand III of Castile captured Córdoba. This change in political situation was followed by the conversion of the mosque to a cathedral in 1236.

Remarkably, the mosque, originally built during Islamic rule, avoided destruction during the transition to Christian hands. Instead, under Ferdinand III, it was transformed into a Christian cathedral. Initially, chapels were integrated into the mosque's walls, eventually leading to the construction of a grand Gothic cathedral at its heart.

Architecture & design of Great Mosque of Cordoba

The architecture of the Great Mosque of Córdoba, also known as Mezquita de Córdoba, is characterized by its square-shaped construction, covered prayer hall, and outer courtyard. Featuring over 500 columns sourced from Roman and Visigoth ruins, the mosque has two tiers of arches connecting at the ceiling. The columns have horseshoe-shaped designs at the bottom and semi-round structures at the top.

Despite its massive size, the mosque's design provides a feeling of endless space, a departure from the enclosed nature of medieval cathedrals. However, the addition of a cathedral nave during the 16th-century conversion disrupted the uniformity of the original architectural vision. Although the mosque's orientation does not face Mecca, it still holds architectural significance, particularly with features like the double arch, considered a technical and aesthetic breakthrough in Islamic architecture.

Over the centuries, restoration projects have uncovered and preserved various elements of the Mosque-Cathedral's original structure, including the mihrab's Islamic mosaics. These efforts have spanned from the 19th century to the present day, ensuring the preservation of this iconic architectural masterpiece.

What to see at the Great Mosque of Cordoba?

The Hypostyle Hall

The Hypostyle Hall stands out as the centerpiece of the mosque, characterized by a vast expanse of columns that once served as the main prayer hall. Its high timber ceilings are supported by intricate double arches adorned with elaborate patterns.


It was one of the first mihrabs to be designed as an actual room rather than a simple wall. The Mihrab, the spiritual heart of the Cordoba mosque contains a secluded room where the caliph would commune with God. Its horseshoe-shaped entrance portal features exquisite Byzantine-style mosaics, complemented by a similarly intricate dome ceiling.

Patio de los Naranjos

The Patio de los Naranjos, enclosed by the towering walls of the Mezquita, is one of the oldest walled gardens in the Islamic world. Adorned with orange, palm, and cypress trees, it offers a serene atmosphere with ornate water features and shaded porticos. Original ceiling panels from the Mezquita adorn one of the portico walls, a reminder of its rich history.

Horseshoe Arch

The Horseshoe Arch, a distinctive feature of the Cordoba Mosque, holds historical significance. Initially common among Visigoths, its incorporation into the mosque's design marked a significant departure from traditional Islamic architecture. This innovative use of the Horseshoe Arch at the Cordoba Mosque set a precedent that influenced architectural styles across North Africa, from Morocco to Egypt, leaving a lasting legacy in the region's architectural history.

UNESCO world heritage site 

The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984. This recognition underscores its outstanding universal value as a cultural and architectural masterpiece. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Cordoba Mosque is recognized for its significant contributions to human history, architecture, and art. Its status highlights its importance not only to the people of Cordoba and Spain but also to the world as a whole. 

The inscription of the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba on the UNESCO World Heritage List acknowledges its role as a symbol of cultural exchange and religious tolerance. It serves as a reminder of the rich and diverse history of Al-Andalus, where Islamic, Christian, and Jewish cultures coexisted and flourished, leaving a mark on the region.

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba also benefits from international recognition and support for conservation and restoration efforts. UNESCO's designation helps to raise awareness of the mosque-cathedral's significance.

Frequently asked questions about the Great Mosque of Cordoba

What is the Great Mosque of Cordoba?

The Great Mosque of Cordoba, also known as the Mezquita-Catedral de Cordoba, is a historic mosque-turned-cathedral located in Cordoba, Spain. It is renowned for its unique blend of Islamic and Christian architectural elements.

How did the Great Mosque of Cordoba become a cathedral?

After the Christian Reconquista of Spain, the Great Mosque of Cordoba was converted into a cathedral in the 16th century. A Renaissance-style cathedral nave was constructed within the mosque's structure, blending Islamic and Christian architectural elements.

What is the significance of the Mihrab in the Great Mosque of Cordoba?

The Mihrab is a niche in the mosque's wall that indicates the direction of Mecca for prayer. It is adorned with intricate Islamic geometric patterns and calligraphy, symbolizing the spiritual focus of the mosque.

Can visitors climb the Bell Tower of the Great Mosque of Cordoba?

Yes, visitors can climb the Bell Tower, also known as the Torre del Campanario, to enjoy panoramic views of Cordoba's old town and the mosque-cathedral itself. The tower offers a unique vantage point to appreciate the architectural beauty of the city.

Is the Great Mosque of Cordoba open to visitors?

Yes, the Great Mosque of Cordoba is open to visitors for guided tours and individual exploration. Visitors can admire its stunning architecture, explore its historic courtyards and halls, and learn about its rich cultural heritage.

How long does it take to tour the Great Mosque of Cordoba?

The duration of a visit to the Great Mosque of Cordoba can vary depending on individual preferences and interests. On average, visitors typically spend around 1 to 2 hours exploring the mosque-cathedral and its surroundings.

Is photography allowed inside the Great Mosque of Cordoba?

Photography is permitted inside the Great Mosque of Cordoba for personal use. However, visitors are advised to respect any restrictions on photography in certain areas and be mindful of other visitors and worshippers.