Spain: Andalusia – Córdoba; a city with a chequered history
A classic Spanish city with stunning architecture that has a Moorish twist and a very colourful history.
The City of Córdoba is the capital of the province of Córdoba and has a colourful history. It also has the highest temperatures in Spain and Europe, with average high temperatures around 37 °C (99 °F) in July and August. When we were there it was indeed hot, not quite to those levels, but still toasty.
The first recorded settlement on the location of Córdoba was established by the Carthaginians, who were overrun by the Romans in 206 BC, who then controlled it for another 500 years, making it a regional capital. It quickly passed hands to the Byzantine Empire followed by the Visigoths, before being captured by the Moors in 711.
It stayed under the control of the Moors until 1236 when it was captured by the armies of King Ferdinand III of Castile. After that time the city went into a decline, its population falling to 20,000 and it was not until the 20th Century when it started to rebound. Today the city has a population of 320,000. In December 1984 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Córdoba has the second-largest old town in Europe, but it is very compact nonetheless. Although we were only there for a day and a half, everything was easily accessible by foot. We discovered the night before during our ramble through the old town that the Mezquita, or the Mosque-Cathedral was open to the public for free in the early morning before the daily service. Karen and I (Emily preferred to remain sleeping) set-out to explore. The Mezquita is unique, originally a small Christian temple stood on the grounds, but it was later consumed by an extensive mosque when Córdoba was under the rule of the Moors. When the city returned to Christian rule in 1236 the building was converted into a Catholic church, culminating in the insertion of a Renaissance cathedral nave in the 16th century. Today, the building retains many of the features of a mosque with classic Arab design, such as arched roof supports and doorways, interspersed with elements of Renaissance architecture. An interesting and somewhat conflicting duality! We need to be thankful that the original mosque was not ripped down and replaced. We much prefer the Arabic designs to the European style! Having completed the tour, it was time for a quick bit of breakfast.
Another distinctive landmark is the Roman bridge of Córdoba which crosses the Guadalquivir river. Originally built in the early 1st century BC it has been reconstructed at various times since. Most of the present structure dates from the Moorish reconstruction in the 8th century. Although its primary use is crossing the river it does provide a fantastic backdrop for photos.
This was a great way to end our tour of Spain.