Name of Monument:
Ctra. de Palma del Río, km 8, Córdoba, Spain
Date of Monument:
Hegira 324–65 / AD 936–76
Architect(s) / master-builder(s):
Masons: Berd, Nasr, Fatah, Aflah and Tariq; architect and geometrist: Maslama ibn Abd Allah.
Period / Dynasty:
Umayyad of al-Andalus, Caliphate period
Abd al-Rahman III (r. AH 299–350 / AD 912–61); al-Hakam II (r. AH 350–66 / AD 961–76).
The city lasted 74 years, after which it was systematically destroyed and many individuals took advantage of its subsequent abandonment, taking numerous architectural fragments, capitals, bases, etc., some of which are still available on the market today.
Civil architecture in Umayyad Spain is known to us through some public works and in particular Madinat al-Zahra, a large palace complex that Abd al-Rahman III turned into a city. Located at the foot of the mountains below Yebel al-Arus and beside Córdoba, it had a mosque from AH 329 / AD 941 and a mint from AH 336 / AD 947. Construction of the palaces started in AH 324 / AD 936 and lasted until AH 365 / AD 976, 15 years into the reign of al-Hakam II. Chroniclers and geographers provided copious reports of the splendour of the works, more concerned with astounding than with describing their organisation or artistic details. Nonetheless, references to the magnitude of the palaces, the thousands of columns, doors, etc. provide us with objective data on the complex.
View Short Description
Since it was built, Madinat al-Zahra has been a legend whose marvels have been recounted in chronicles and sung by poets. Erected near to Córdoba by ‘Abd al-Rahman III, this palatine city was the residence of the caliph and his court and included administrative buildings. It was built using a hierarchical scheme over three terraces, with the citadel at the top, the medina at the bottom and the gardens in the middle. In the centre, the Rich Hall hosted courtly celebrations and ambassadorial receptions later described by writers. It was soon sacked and destroyed after the fall of the caliphate.
How Monument was dated:
From inscriptions and successive archaeological digs: the first in 1910–23, the second in 1923–75, the third in 1975–82 and the fourth since 1984.
Almagro, A., “Análisis Tipológico de la Arquitectura Residencial de Madinat al-Zahra”, in Al-Andalus und Europa: Zwischen Orient und Okzident, (dir. M. Müller-Wiener, Ch. Kothe, K.-H. Golzio and J. Gierlichs), Petersberg, 2004, pp.117–24.
Citation of this web page:
Ángela Franco "Madinat al-Zahra" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. 2019. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;es;Mon01;2;en