Things to Know about Córdoba, Spain
Córdoba is a city in southern Spain and the capital of Córdoba province. The city lies at the foot of the Sierra de Morena, on the north bank of the Guadalquivir River. It has a population of 328,488 (2009). In addition to marketing much of the surrounding province's agricultural products, Córdoba has factories producing electrical fittings, bronze, copper, and aluminum products, cement, chemicals, preserved fruits, and paper.
In the past the craftsmanship of Córdoba's artisans in leather, and in gold and silver filigree was highly esteemed. In the fields of science and letters Córdoba prides itself on such names as Seneca, Maimonides, Averroës, Juan de Mena, Luis de Góngora, and the Duke de Rivas.
Córdoba, a Phoenician and later a Carthaginian town, became part of the wealthy Roman colony of Baetica in the 2d century B.C. The Visigoths invaded it in the 6th century A.D. and destroyed much that Rome had built. When the city was captured by the Muslims in 711, a new chapter began. In 756 Abdar-Rahman I proclaimed Córdoba independent of the authority of the caliphate of Damascus. While by no means peaceful, the following two centuries saw a flowering of commerce and culture in Moorish Spain. Abdar-Rahman III (reigned 912-961) assumed the title of caliph; during his reign the city was one of the world's most prestigious intellectual centers, with outstanding scholars in the fields of medicine, mathematics, botany, and other sciences. The luxurious palace of Medina-Zahra was built nearby.
The Muslim wars of the 11th century saw the destruction of Medina-Zahra and a weakening of the government of Moorish Spain. At the same time the Christian kingdoms in the north were beginning to gather momentum in the Reconquest of Spain. Ferdinand III of Castile took Córdoba in 1236 and imposed a new culture and language on the city, without, however, eradicating the glory of its Moorish past.
The city's architecture reflects a variety of styles. The best-known building is the cathedral (Mezquita). Built as a mosque in the 8th century, it was enlarged during the caliphate. Modifications by the Christians in the Middle Ages included the construction of a series of small chapels along the walls, and, in the 16th century, the erection of an altar and choir in the center of the nave. Practically intact are the Patio de los Naranjos and the extensive nave, an area of unique beauty. The interior contains over 800 graceful columns, and in the subdued light the forest of columns appears to extend as far as the eye can see.
Near the cathedral, on the site of a Visigothic palace, is the Alcázar, the residence of the caliphs, enlarged by Alfonso XI in the 14th century. Near this spot is a Roman bridge, rebuilt by the Moors, which is guarded across the river by the Calahorra fortress. Portions of Roman and Arabic walls still stand. There is an archaeological museum and, in the fine arts museum, as in many churches and other buildings, there are a number of valuable paintings. In the hills near the city are a 15th century monastery with its outlying hermitages, and the ruins of Medina-Zahra.
The Sierra Morena mountains mark the northern frontier of Córdoba province; to the south, rolling hills rise to the slopes of the Sierra Nevada. The Guadalquivir River enters from the east and meanders across the province in a west southwest direction toward Seville and the Atlantic Ocean. From the north flow the Cuzma, the Guadiato, and the Bembezar, tributaries to the main river, and from the south the Guadajoz and the Genil, the latter forming part of the boundary between Córdoba and Seville to the south. Southwest winds are funneled into the province by the Guadalquivir valley, bringing more heat and moisture than the Mediterranean climate would normally afford.
The soil of the province is generally very fertile and rainfall, carefully distributed by small irrigation systems, is sufficient to place Córdoba among Spain's leading producers of wheat, barley, oats, corn, cotton, and olives. Flax grows well under irrigation and grapes are widely cultivated. The region around Montilla, in the south, produces a very good dry wine. Mineral and metal deposits have not been extensively exploited, but in the north, where lead and zinc are mined, Peñarroya has a zinc smelter with energy supplied by local coal deposits. Some copper is mined in Córdoba province, and traces of uranium have been found there.