Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The Mezquita of Cordoba

We arrived after dark, so my first impression of Cordoba was of a long narrow street lined with orange trees (more orange trees).

Our apartment was on the second floor overlooking an old convent where thankfully the bells did not chime every hour on the hour. We had only budgeted for two days in Cordoba as Tegan and Andy had limited holidays they could take and we did not want to be travelling on Christmas Day.

With Tegan and Andy sleeping in, then arranging to meet their friend Pau at 11:00, Mum Dad and I headed off early having better things to do than sit around the apartment doing nothing.
At the end of our street is the river, the same one that it seems runs through Seville and Ronda. Spanning it was a beautiful old bridge lit by the dawn sun.

And directly opposite it, a triumphal arch. While it was photo worthy, our steps were ultimately directed towards the Mezquita.

The outside of this building is like a smaller version of the Palais des Papes in Avignon – a massive wall of solid stone with the occasional (door or window) set into it. These doorways were decorated in the Mudejar style with some beautiful patterns and knots.

My Aunt and Uncle had told us that it was free to enter before 10:00. Seemed this is true when we’re not in the days leading up to Christmas and the Catholics want to celebrate mass at all hours of the day and night. Mum, being exceedingly embarrassing indicated that she was Catholic (lapsed, might I add) and snuck in to the service. We followed, only for her to walk out 5 minutes later with all of the security guards tutting at us. It seems she was not up for a sung mass having suffered through enough in her youth.

Deciding to wait until Tegan, Andy and Pau arrived we climbed the Torre del Alminar instead snapping away on each level (once we had got our breath back) before being ushered onwards and upwards by the bored guide/guard. The views were beautiful though, particularly as the sun was peeking over the top of the Mesquita at us.

With time to kill, we decided to wander around the Alcazar, a walk that turned out to be longer than anticipated but took in views of the old city walls and the mill that still sits in the river.

Finally, after the arrival of the others we headed indoors. I had high expectations of this building as my Aunt and Uncle seemed to love it, and a friend had mentioned that it was a cathedral built within a mosque, a circumstance that in itself is intriguing.

It seems what had happened was that early Christians had built a church to St Vincent (a fact we were constantly reminded of). When the Moors had invaded they had completely demolished this church and used parts of it (like the columns) in their own mosque, erected on the same stop. I'm not sure if the location itself had any religious or political significance or whether the conquerors were just being vindictive. When Cordoba was ‘Reclaimed for Christ’ a cathedral was erected in the middle of this mosque.

While the building is beautiful (if cold) this vindictive nature of past conquerors ruins it in my eyes, Yes, it is a one-of-a-kind, but the elements that would normally give you that first 'wow' are lost. Unlike that first view as you step through the solid wooden doors of a cathedral, this cathedral peeps through the columns at you, tantalising you but giving you a taster before you see it in it's full glory. And the repetition of a Mosque's columns as a grid, all interconnected with red and white arches, disappearing off into the distance is lost as the long lines are broken by the whopping great cathedral. It was still beautiful and worth seeing, but somehow I don't feel it lived up to my expectations.

After a wander across town to the Victoria food market for a lunch of Tapas, we split, Tegan, Andy and Pau heading into town, Mum, Dad and I heading back in the direction of the Alcaar, via Calle Cairuan a sunny walkway meandering along the outside of the old city walls.

At the Alcazar where there were supposed to be gardens and a 'museum' of Roman Mosaics.

The museum was one room and I must admit to having serious issues with their identification of the characters within the few mosaics displayed. For starters, Medusa is identified by her snake hair, something their Medusa was most definitely missing. In addition, Cyclops is a one-eyed monster, not three eyed.

The gardens were better. They were more French style than English with fountains, rows of Orange trees (which Mum discovered bordered on the inedible) hedges confining rose bushes, more Oleanders and an unexpected scattering of artichokes. Also included were a few cats who did not respond well to the usual signs and sounds to get them to approach for a pat.

While the orange trees were in full fruit, I think the remainder of the garden would have looked slightly more enticing at another time of year when the plants weren't becoming dormant for winter, and existing flowers rotting on the stem from the moisture.

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