Spain Destinations: The Great Mosque Of Cordoba


Cordoba, in the region of Andalusia, is famous around the world for its Great Mosque, a universal symbol of Muslim legacy in Spain. Built in 785,  the mosque underwent several extensions over later centuries. The great Mosque is made up of two distinct areas, the courtyard, with its porticos and orange trees and the prayer hall. The focal point in the prayer hall is the horseshoe arched mihrab or prayer niche, built to identify the wall that faces Mecca.

Prayer niche.
Photo: Tom Marvolo/Flicker

When the Spanish Christians drove the Islamic people back out of the Iberian Peninsula in 1236, rather than demolishing the beautiful mosque, they decided to build a Catholic church right in the center of the mosque. The construction of the cathedral began in 1523 and lasted until the beginning of the 17th century.

Moorish Arches. Photo: David A. Porter
16th century Renaissance cathedral nave. Photo: David A. Porter
Photo: Toni Castillo Quero
Best Time To Visit
Located at: Calle Cardenal Herrero, 1. You can either take a taxi if you are not downtown for around €6-7 or you can take City bus lines: 4, 5, 6 y 7. The best time to visit is early morning or late afternoon when it’s not that crowded. Entrance fee is €11, but there are several official tours that I recommend with prices ranging between €27 for a regular morning tour and €153 for a private tour. I highly suggest visiting Cordoba in May when they host the  Festival de los Patios, a contest where more than 50 courtyards exceptionally open to the public. It’s an amazing explosion of flowers, colors and fragrances.
What To Expect
You Enter through the Orange Tree Courtyard and walk along the cloisters that surround it. Then you access the interior through the Blessing Arch. Nothing will prepare you for the first impression, as a deep calm invades you when you see row after row of of beautiful arches made of jasper and marble. At the end, you find the Prayer Niche which is the most richly decorated section of the mosque. The striking contrast comes when you get to the center of the building and find a massive cathedral structure with a Baroque dome and Christian sculptures and paintings strangely looking into the Muslim prayer hall. You may find the Christian and Muslim art mixture not quite harmonious, but I can assure you it will leave you with a spiritual, mystical and inspiring feeling that will last for years to come.
Photo: José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro

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