CÓRDOBA

Posted by Pat on October 23, 2017 in Travel |

19 October 2017

Roman columns dating to the time of Hadrian

A 90-minute train from Madrid’s Atocha station takes me to the beautiful, historical city of Córdoba. Our hotel, La Boutique Puerta Osario, sits in a narrow, quiet street a few minutes from the train station. Most sights of interest lie within easy walking distance. Hotels still push paper maps; I have come to rely on Google Maps. Before leaving home, I plan what I want to see and the best route. Saves me wasting time, I see what I want, and I save trees. I load up my Google route and start my walk.

There is a lot to see in Córdoba (birthplace of Trajan, Hadrian and Seneca), including Roman Temples, Alcazar, the ubiquitous churches, synagogue, narrow streets, beautiful plazas and a pleasant water front along the Guadalquivir River. The Bullfighting Museum deserves some time. Spanish language only but the displays and photos explain it well. How do matadors get into those suits? They have the figure and hips of a 12-year-old boy! Yet they manipulate and conquer, most of the time, a 1,500 pound angry bull with really long and sharp horns.

Córdoba is a fantastic city to explore but surely, its pièce de résistance, is the stunning Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba.

Abd al-Rahman I built the original Mosque in 786 and his heirs and later Caliphates just kept expanding for over 200 years. It wasn’t until the Reconquista of Córdoba in 1236 by King Ferdinand III of Castile that the mosque was redesigned, installing the main altar in the former caliphate’s skylight and consecrating the Catholic church. For the next 250 years the church was adapted and embellished to reflect the new religion. The old minaret was integrated into the existing bell tower, the ornate transept was completed in 1607 and the stunning main altarpiece after 1618. Entering the Mosque-Cathedral will be your “AHA!” moment of Córdoba.

The prayer hall is expansive with timber ceilings supported by arches of horseshoe-like appearance. The space is configured with 856 columns of onyx, marble, porphyry and granite with repeating triumphal double arches consisting of a lower horseshoe arch and an upper semi-circular arch of red and white. The visual effect is stunning.

The interior is divided into 19 north-to-south and 29 east-to-west aisles. The Mihrab, indicating the direction of prayer, is a small octagonal room covered by a white marble scalloped shell dome and ornamented with gold and exquisite mosaics in the Byzantine style.

The prayer hall is expansive with timber ceilings supported by arches of horseshoe-like appearance. The space is configured with 856 columns of onyx, marble, porphyry and granite with repeating triumphal double arches consisting of a lower horseshoe arch and an upper semi-circular arch of red and white. The visual effect is stunning.

The interior is divided into 19 north-to-south and 29 east-to-west aisles. The Mihrab, indicating the direction of prayer, is a small octagonal room covered by a white marble scalloped shell dome and ornamented with gold and exquisite mosaics in the Byzantine style.

Thankfully, the Catholic church did not destroy this magnificent architecture but instead enhanced and expanded sections of the interior. The choir stalls, Parish of the Tabernacle, and the Gothic-Renaissance transept are dazzling. The abundance of light from the skylights of the transept creates a marked contrast to the darker, more somber areas of the original prayer hall of the mosque.

A Free Tour Córdoba meets each morning at the Plaza de las Tendillas, our guide Lidia brought the history and city alive as only a local can. Just look for the blue umbrella and ask to join. You won’t be turned away. Tours are in English and on a tip only basis. I might also add that in each of the cities visited, there are many Hop on Hop Off buses and tour vehicles and carriages in the streets. But like most of these wonderful heritage cities, they are best seen on foot.

Tips: Córdoba lacks a metro system but is an easy walking city so not a problem. If you are a shopper, there are what seems to be miles of pedestrian shopping streets and plazas. Dining should include the oxtail and a Rioja wine. Most hotels in Spain do not include breakfast and what they offer is expensive; many cafes and bakeries are available for much less, and include a view.

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