Great Mosque of Córdoba
Calle Cardenal Herrero, 1, Córdoba, Spain
Hegira 169–377 / AD 786–988
Umayyad of al-Andalus, Emirate and Caliphate periods
‘Abd al-Rahman I (r. AH 139–72 / AD 756–88); Hisham I (r. AH 171–9 / AD 788–96); ‘Abd al-Rahman II (r. AH 207–38 / AD 822–52); Muhammad I (r. AH 237–72 / AD 852–86); al-Mundir (r. AH 272–4 / AD 886–8); ‘Abdallah (r. AH 274–99 / AD 888–912); ‘Abd al-Rahman III (r. AH 299–350 / AD 912–61); al-Hakam II (r. AH 350–66 / AD 961–76); Abi Amir al-Mansur (r. AH 367–92 / AD 978–1002).
On 29 June 1236 (19 Shawwal 633), the city of Córdoba was conquered by Ferdinand III the Holy. In the same year the Great Mosque was purified and consecrated as a Christian church. In the 10th / 16th century, construction began within the mosque on the Cathedral of Santa Maria, which currently stands in the middle of the prayer room.
The mosque at Córdoba is the result of a series of extensions and modifications that have been carried out since its construction, during the time of the amirs until the fall of the Caliphate.
Although early references are confused, work must have begun around AH 169 / AD 785–6 during the Emirate of 'Abd al-Rahman I and almost all of the Umayyad amirs and caliphs subsequently worked on the capital's great mosque.
The original building, which was placed on the site of an old Visigothic church, was a square enclosure that included a courtyard and a roofed prayer room. This room had ten arcades that divided it into 11 naves perpendicular to the qibla wall, where there was a simple mihrab (prayer niche). The most characteristic element of this first temple was the decision to place a second arcade above the first to increase the height of the room. The voussoirs of the arches alternate between white stone and red brick. Although the material used was salvaged from Roman and Visigothic buildings and not sourced locally, the work lasted several years and the building was completed by Hisham I.
The mosque was first expanded during the time of 'Abd al-Rahman II, when the prayer room was enlarged to the south and the qibla wall was moved 26 metres, without, however, altering the elevation of the original building. For the first time, specially produced capitals were used along with salvaged ones. The works were completed by Muhammad I, who finished the maqsura (sanctuary for imam or caliph) and restored St Stephen's Gate (puerta de San Esteban). His sons al-Mundhir and 'Abdallah built the treasure room and the sabat (covered passageway) respectively.
In the AH 4th / AD 10th century, 'Abd al-Rahman III, the first caliph of the dynasty, began the reconstruction of the wall of the entrance to the prayer room and the expansion of the courtyard, beside which he built a new minaret, the lower part of which is preserved as part of the existing bell tower of the cathedral.
The largest expansion was started soon after al-Hakam II succeeded 'Abd al-Rahman III to the Caliphate. Again the arcades in the prayer room were extended southwards, terminating in a monumental maqsura, and the existing qibla wall was erected with the mihrab and doors to the treasury and sabat. The rich mosaic decoration, pieces of sculpted marble and intertwined arches, as well as the delicate sculpting of the architectural supports, make this the most spectacular and emblematic part of the mosque. The cupolas, of which five have survived, were also added at this time. The mosaics in the cupola in front of the mihrab make it particularly beautiful.
Towards the end of the AH 4th / AD 10th century, during the time of Hisham II and under the governance of the powerful hajib of Córdoba, al-Mansur, the last and greatest expansion of the building was started. As the mosque could not be enlarged any further to the south, it was decided to enlarge it to the east with eight new naves. The existing elevation of the room and the courtyard, which had also been expanded, was left unchanged, as were the mihrab and the maqsura of al-Hakam II, although they were no longer at the centre of the qibla wall.
The most important in the Muslim West, the mosque that we know today is the result of successive extensions financed by Umayyad amirs and caliphs to consolidate their power and create capacity for a growing population. The space inside the majestic prayer room (totalling 12,000m2) is made possible through the repeated use of an ingenious system of double arches on columns organised into naves that run perpendicular to the qibla wall, creating the effect of a forest of palm trees. The room also has a maqsura (sanctuary for imam) and a mihrab (prayer niche), both sumptuously decorated.
Documentary sources and inscriptions provide the following dates, among others: 169 / 786, work starts; 234 / 848, ‘Abd al-Rahman II's extension inaugurated; 241 / 856, restoration of St Stephen's Gate; 340 / 952, construction of ‘Abd al-Rahman III's minaret; 346 / 958, reconstruction of the prayer room wall; 351–7 / 962–8, extension work by al-Hakam II; 354 / 965, mihrab inscription; 377 / 988, extension work by al-Mansur.
Creswell, K. A. C., “The Great Mosque of Cordova”, in Early Muslim Architecture, Vol. 2: Early Abbasids, Umayyads of Cordova, Aghlabids, Tulunids and Samanids, A.D. 751–905, Oxford, 1940, pp.138–61.
Dodds, J. D., “La Gran Mezquita de Córdoba”, in Al-Andalus: Las Artes Islámicas en España, Madrid, 1992, pp.11–25.
Ewert, C., “La Mezquita de Córdoba: Santuario Modelo del Occidente Islámico”, in La Arquitectura Islámica del Islam Occidental, Madrid, 1995, pp.55–68.
Gómez Moreno, M., El Arte árabe Español Hasta los Almohades. Arte Mozárabe,Ars Hispaniae, Vol. III, Madrid, 1951, pp.24–162.
Ocaña Jiménez, M., “Documentos Epigráficos de la Mezquita”, La Mezquita de Córdoba: Siglos VIII al XV, Córdoba, 1986, pp.16–27.
Margarita Sánchez Llorente "Great Mosque of Córdoba" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. 2021. https://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;es;Mon01;1;en
Prepared by: Margarita Sánchez LlorenteMargarita Sánchez Llorente
Margarita Sánchez Llorente cursó estudios de Historia del Arte y Psicología en la facultad de Filosofía y Letras de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid, obteniendo la licenciatura en 1974.Tras realizar numerosos cursos de posgrado en museología y documentación del patrimonio histórico-artístico y arqueológico, le fueron concedidas varias becas de investigación en museística. De 1989 a 2000 trabajó en el Museo Arqueológico Nacional, en la gestión y documentación de los proyectos de la Unión Europea: EMN (European Museum Network), RAMA (Remote Access to Museum Archives) y –como colaboradora del departamento de Antigüedades Egipcias y del Próximo Oriente– Champollion. Ha participado en numerosos coloquios y encuentros internacionales y publicado varios artículos sobre las nuevas tecnologías aplicadas a la documentación en los museos.
Copyedited by: Rosalía AllerRosalía Aller
Rosalía Aller Maisonnave, licenciada en Letras (Universidad Católica del Uruguay), y en Filología Hispánica y magíster en Gestión Cultural de Música, Teatro y Danza (Universidad Complutense de Madrid), ha obtenido becas de la Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional y la Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia de Madrid, así como el Diplôme de Langue Française (Alliance Française), el Certificate of Proficiency in English (University of Cambridge) y el Certificado Superior en inglés y francés (Escuela Oficial de Idiomas de Madrid). Profesora de Estética de la Poesía y Teoría Literaria en la Universidad Católica del Uruguay, actualmente es docente de Lengua Castellana y Literatura en institutos de Enseñanza Secundaria y formación del profesorado en Madrid. Desde 1983, ha realizado traducción y edición de textos en Automated Training Systems, Applied Learning International, Videobanco Formación y El Derecho Editores. Integra el equipo de Museo Sin Fronteras desde 1999 y ha colaborado en la revisión de los catálogos de “El Arte Islámico en el Mediterráneo”. Así mismo, ha realizado publicaciones sobre temas literarios y didácticos, ha dictado conferencias y ha participado en recitales poéticos.
Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: SP 01
Islamic Dynasties / Period
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