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Cordoba: Layers of History

Updated on February 18, 2017

Cordoba: Lessons in the Passage of History

Tribal foundations with Roman walls. Moorish expansion with castellations and finally, stuck on top over 500 years of Spanish decoration and primping. This is my image of Cordoba. Like grandma, nothing was ever thrown out or wasted. If ties could be stitched into skirts, why not mosque to cathedral. Wonderful lessons in the passage of history and the resilience of great ideas.

Cordoba's Alcazar

The Alcazar de los Reyes Christianos in Cordoba
The Alcazar de los Reyes Christianos in Cordoba | Source

Cordoba and Western European Development

Cordoba holds the key to many layers of Western cultural, intellectual and spiritual development. This is best illustrated in a painting in the Calahorra Tower of a group of Christians from the East (Byzantine) visiting the Muslims of the West (Cordoba). Cordoba broke its ties with the Eastern Caliphate in Damascus and established itself as the first Western Caliphate. Nothing could compare with Cordoba as the centre of culture at that time. Some say it was Europe's largest city.

It was here in Cordoba that Columbus negotiated his voyage with the Catholic Majesties, Ferdinand and Isabella. This encounter is immortalized in the garden of the Alcazar de los Reyes Christianos where there is a life-size statue of Columbus and the two rulers.

Columbus and the Christian Monarchs

Columbus with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella
Columbus with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella | Source

Cordoba Attractions

show route and directions
A markerThe Cathedral-Mosque -
Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, Calle del Cardenal Herrero, 1, 14003 Córdoba, Córdoba, Spain
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B markerThe Calahorra Tower -
Calahorra Tower, Puente Romano, s/n, 14009 Córdoba, Córdoba, Spain
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C markerThe Roman Temple -
Roman Temple, Calle Capitulares, s/n, 14003 Córdoba, Córdoba, Spain
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D markerAlcazar de los Reyes Christianos -
Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs, Plaza Campo Santo de los Mártires, s/n, 14004 Córdoba, Córdoba, S
get directions

E markerJuderia Cordoba -
Calle Judería, 14003 Córdoba, Córdoba, Spain
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F markerMadinat Al Zahra -
Medina Azahara - Conjunto Arqueológico Madinat al-Zahra, Carretera Palma del Río, 55, 14005 Córdoba,
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G markerThe Roman Bridge -
Roman Bridge, 14003, Córdoba, Spain
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H markerPalacio Museo de Viana -
Palacio Museo de Viana, Plaza de Don Gome, 2, 14001 Córdoba, Córdoba, Spain
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I markerGaleria de la Inquicision -
Galería de la inquisición, Calle Manríquez, 1, 14003 Córdoba, Córdoba, Spain
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J markerCasa Museo Arte sobre Piel -
Casa Ramón García Romero (antes Casa Museo Arte sobre Piel), Plaza Agrupación de Cofradías, 2, 14003
get directions

The Mezquita in Cordoba

The Mezquita in Cordoba
The Mezquita in Cordoba | Source

Best Places to Visit in Cordoba

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The Cordoba Mezquita at Night

The Cordoba Mezquita at Night
The Cordoba Mezquita at Night | Source
Moorish Arches in the Cathedral-Mosque of Cordoba
Moorish Arches in the Cathedral-Mosque of Cordoba | Source

1. The Mezquita-Great Cathedral-Mosque

A space vast enough to hold Islam and Christianity comfortably in its stadium level greatness. It is said that for many years, one area was identified as a synagogue.

This was indeed a place where Moors, Christians and Jews could worship when it was first built by Abderraman I in 785 A.D. Later, however, when the Caliphate needed a bigger mosque, it made the place exclusive for the Moors. The endless horseshoe arches, said to have originated from Visigoth art, in their red and white stripes, make it different from any Cathedral you've ever seen.

Roman foundations occasionally intrude as Córdoba was a Roman colony and the capital of the Roman Province, Betica. Then, the Visigoths came and took the city from the Romans in the 3rd century. The Mosque was built on the remains of the Visigoth's St. Vincent Basilica. Look for the glassed in diggings of the St Vincent Basilica when you're in the Cathedral as the remains of the Mosaic representing this Greco-Roman heritage are well preserved and displayed.

The Inside of the Mezquita in Cordoba

The Mezquita in Cordoba
The Mezquita in Cordoba | Source

Mezquita: Mix of Moorish, Roman, Visigoth and Christian Influences

The mix of Moorish, Roman, Visigoth influences and, of course, the wealth and majesty of the Christian church makes for a stunning display. The different altars of various Saints are in themselves major works of art. The Cathedral is still being used and there was a service going on when we were there.

The Choir is the grandest I have ever seen and the arches and columns inside are spectacular. In all our travels we have never seen anything like this. You can stay there for the day and not finish admiring all the carefully displayed history.

The stained glass windows are magnificent, representation of the best of Spain or the Church. The Cathedral is huge horizontally whereas St. Peter's in Rome is massive vertically and horizontally but this surpasses St. Peter's for its historical significance in terms of the various religions on display here.

The Castle of the Christian Monarchs

The Castle of the Christian Monarchs at Night
The Castle of the Christian Monarchs at Night | Source

2. The Castle of the Christian Monarchs

A Fortress and a Palace made more magnificent by its gardens with water fountains, flowers, mature trees and sculptures. It's four corner towers, the tower of the Lions, the Main tower, the tower of the Doves and the tower of the Inquisition, stand magnificent when viewed from the gardens.

The centre piece of the Castle of the Christian Monarchs is the statue of Ferdinand and Isabela with Christopher Columbus negotiating his share of the take if he hit China. The gardens are stunning, built around the glorification of running water that only a desert nation could understand. The legacy of the Arab world is everywhere and is integrated into what we see, at least, as the soul of Spain.

A must see of the displays is the 3rd century Roman sarcophagus with its front sculptured with the journey to the underworld. Some Roman mosaics with designs of Medusa, the Angels and geometric designs are also on display in the small baroque chapel and are very good representations of the early Greco-Roman heritage of the city.

The Garden in the Castle of the Christian Monarchs

The Garden in the Castle of the Christian Monarchs
The Garden in the Castle of the Christian Monarchs | Source

3. The Juderia Cordoba

Built in 1315 in the Jewish Quarter of Córdoba, the place underwent several reincarnations after the expulsion of the Jews in 1492. You can see here a good example of the Mudejar style of architecture. The center piece is the statue of the famous Jewish philosopher Maimonides. As well, on display are well curated Sephardic remnants.

Casa Andalusi in Cordoba
Casa Andalusi in Cordoba | Source

4. Casa Andalusi

Visiting this 12th century house, a typical Hispano-Islamic abode, one is introduced into how families lived in the 14th century: rooms for men, rooms for women, kitchen with all the tools used and the Arabic coins used then.

Remnants of the Romans

The Roman Temple in Cordoba
The Roman Temple in Cordoba | Source

5. The Roman Temple

Dated from the 1st century, this temple dedicated to the cult of the Emperor has 6 columns rising from a high podium. We just happened to see it in one of our walks and immediately recognized it.

Roman Water Wheel probably used to grind grain

Roman Water Wheel
Roman Water Wheel | Source

6. The Roman Bridge

When you enter Córdoba, you'll immediately see the throng on the bridge. People are drawn to the structure as a living remnant of the age before Christ and although much has been conserved and reinforced, one can almost see Caesar and his Legions. The old water wheel and the aqueduct underneath still represent the Roman supremacy in technology at that time.

The Roman Bridge in Cordoba

The Roman Bridge and the Calahorra Tower in Cordoba
The Roman Bridge and the Calahorra Tower in Cordoba | Source

7. Torre de la Calahorra

There are still so many attractions in the city that writing about more would take more pages. Córdoba, being the most important city in the Western Muslim world at its height, has so many other monuments to brag about. However, the one that summarized for me my experience of Córdoba and my impression of its role in history is the Torre de la Calahorra.

As one enters the first room in the tower, the four stalwarts of Córdoba welcome you to what Andalus was at that time. Starting in the 10th century when the city became the most important in the Western world and the most advanced in thinking as exemplified by its 4 enlightened leaders, Maimonides, Averroes, Ibn Arabi and Alphonse X, the Wise.

That was the time when the three Abrahamic religions lived in harmony in the city. May that time live again.

Cordoba's Hammam

The Hammam al Andalus
The Hammam al Andalus | Source

8. Hammam al Andalus Córdoba

From the Castle of the Christian Monarchs, it is an easy walk to the Caliphate baths. You'll find illustrated the various steps of the process of bathing at the time with all its steps really as a socializing activity and the splendour of life in the Andalusia kingdom. These are the largest Moorish baths in Europe.

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Try preparing Rabo del Torro

Cordoba Food Specialties

There are two dishes that we enjoyed in Cordoba:

1. Rabo del Toro (Braised Oxtail)

2. Eggplant with Honey

Key Tip to Cordoba Travel:

Parking is difficult to find so get a hotel where there is parking. This will make your travel stress free.

Your Guide to Planning your Visit to Cordoba

Best City in our Visit of Southern Spain and Portugal

We spent six weeks in Southern Spain and Portugal and Cordoba by far was our best experience. Seville was second and Sintra came third. Try to visit them all.

Get this guidebook for more tips on visiting this beautiful Spanish city as well as other cities close by. Make more use ofyour trip by combining your visit to these places.

As a footnote, visit tiny, perfect Obidos or you'll live forever in regret.

Your Top Spanish City

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Any experience of Cordoba you want to share?

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    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      I am sure one day you'll get a chance.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 6 months ago from South Africa

      Awesome and extremely interesting! Wish I could see Cordoba with my own eyes.

      Thank you, aesta!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 16 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      it is really a must visit place especially because of what is stands for.

    • gerimcclym profile image

      Geri McClymont 16 months ago

      Well, I have not been there but would definitely like to after reading this article :)

    • sujaya venkatesh profile image

      sujaya venkatesh 17 months ago

      itching to visit

    • Les Trois Chenes profile image

      Les Trois Chenes 17 months ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

      Fabulous photos of this great city. I did go there a long time ago but clearly I need to go back again for another visit. I missed so much. Thank you for a super article.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 18 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks Tess. Am happy to add you to my circle. Your articles were exactly what we need to talk about.

    • TessSchlesinger profile image

      Tessa Schlesinger 18 months ago from South Africa

      Couldn't do the poll because I loved them all. :) Loved Cordoba. And Granada. And Seville. And Malaga. And Barcelona. And Madrid. And more than I can name and remember. :) Just shared on Google Plus.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 18 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      I also love Barcelona and Madrid as well as Mallorca but for history, Cordoba and Granada are tops.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 18 months ago from Houston, Texas

      What a great introduction to Cordoba for those of us who have never been there. I voted Barcelona simply because we spent more time there during the summer Olympics many years ago. We also stayed in Madrid for a few days and saw the walled city of Toledo. The Island of Mallorca was also a beautiful part of Spain which we enjoyed. Would love to see more of Spain someday.

      I echo your feelings about people with different religions living in peace. More than ever appropriate for the current times in which we live.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 19 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      There are so many places to visit and history to learn in Spain. Weather is great as well as the food. Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, Sevilla, Cadiz, Avila, Bilbao, Rhonda, Burgos, and, of course, the coast. You could easily enjoy 3 months there. Portugal is close by so there are more options.

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 19 months ago from Arizona

      I have not been to Spain. I have friends and a client there, so I really need to visit. Your informative Hub about Cordoba has me ready to book my flight! I would actually love to spend my entire 3 month tourist visa traveling around the country.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Mary, this was a great hub about Cordoba Spain. So visual with the photos and the travelogue depictions. Voted up for useful!

    • monia saad profile image

      monia ben saad 2 years ago from In my Dream

      I am now more longing to visit this wonderful place. From what I read I feel during my stay there.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you so much Favored. I try.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 2 years ago from USA

      Every time I read one of your history/travel articles it makes me feel like I'm already there. Your photos make it even more intriguing.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      This visit to Cordoba is one I truly enjoyed. I learned so much there.

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 2 years ago from Minnesota

      What ans interesting place Cordoba must be to visit, Mary. Once again your description and photos are awesome. Up votes!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Because they built in stone, these remain for us to enjoy.

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 2 years ago

      I find it fascinating that you can still see Roman influence centuries later.

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