The Mezquita (Cathedral-Mosque) of Cordoba
The attraction: What originally began as a pagan temple, then became a Visgothic Christian church, then a mosque, and then a church once again, the Mezquita is one of the most visited and well known attractions in the region of Andalusia. Its origins date back to 600 when the building was errected as a Christian Visgothic church. After the Islamic conquest of the Visgothic kingdom, the Muslim workers gradually redesigned the building as a mosque with work beginning in 784. The mosque would see many changes but the building reached its current dimensions and sizes in 987 with the completion of the outer naves and courtyard. Of course with the Reconquest of Spain from the Moorish rulers, the mosque was turned back into a Christian church, with many of its Islamic religious symbols and features being reacquistioned as well (the minaret of the mosque was converted into the bell tower for the cathedral).
Pros to visiting: Prior to studying in Spain for the semester I looked forward the most to visiting the Alhambra in Granada. I was anxious to tour the Mezquita but not nearly to the degree I was for the famed Moorish palace in the Sierra Nevada foothills. However, after having visiting both, I enjoyed the Mezquita more than the Alhambra. I felt that the Alhambra was such a talked up destination and that it simply didn’t live up to my expectations for it, whereas with the Mezquita it was the complete opposite. I would think it would be that way for a lot of first time visitors to Spain. The architecture is beyond stunning, especially its giant arches, with 856 columns of jasper, onyx, marble, and granite.
Cons to visiting: The Mezquita is incredible, though the old quarter in Cordoba is not nearly as charming as that of Seville’s. However, it’s still worth a trip from Seville (if you happen to be based there as my dad and I were) as the train on the high speed line AVE gets you there in roughly 70 minutes.
Summary: I haven’t been back to Spain since I studied there in 2006 but when I return, I definitely want my visit to include Cordoba’s Mezquita. It is such an incredible structure, not just in regards to its architecture but also its history. Spain’s Moorish history is found throughout the country but for me it was most striking at the Mezquita.