Monthly Archives: October 2010

Cordoba, Spain

The Grand Mosque/Cathedral of Cordoba

Trip Report – Cordoba, Spain

18 October 2010

I’m riding the train from Madrid to Valencia… I spent last night in Madrid and saw my artist friend David de Ubaldis… he has my Buddha painting MOSTLY finished and I got to see it… wonderful!  I am really happy with how David has painted him.  I knew he would do a great job! 

I had dinner at San Miguel market last night…  it is rather like Pike Place Market in Seattle, but with an emphasis on food and drink… mostly great wines and tapas (little bite-sized snacks).  I ended up having Spanish Cava (champagne) and talking to a very interesting man from Cartagenas, Colombia, South America.  I’m telling you… I meet the most interesting people!   At the moment I am sitting across the aisle from Steve.  He is traveling with his wife and another couple… they are all from Kansas City, MO.  We exchanged “business” cards… mine doesn’t profess to a “profession” but lists my web blog sites…. HIS lists his “profession” as “grandfather” and shows pictures of his four grandkids!  How sweet!

Okay… so that’s where I am right now… let’s get back to Cordoba!   MARVELOUS!  I stayed at a pensione two blocks from the Grand Mosque / Cathedral and within the historical Jewish section ( I was tempted to say “quarter”… I spent too much time in Jerusalem, I think! LOL!).  The pensione was a wonderful old traditional southern Spanish house gerrymandered up into little rooms, with a beautiful atrium in the center.  The city follows the Greek/Roman/Arabic/ Spanish tradition of having a non-descript outside with the house built around a lovely private atrium, which becomes the focal point of family life.  Atrium life is wonderful!  You have a beautiful garden in which to relax and enjoy the tranquility of outdoors in the middle of a bustling city.  A private oasis! 

The Grand Mosque/ Cathedral is amazing!  The Mosque itself has SUCH an amazing history… it starts as a Visigothic  CHRISTIAN  Cathedral, which is SHARED with the Muslim population.  As the Muslim population grew… the Cathedral is BOUGHT from the Christians and converted to a Mosque.  The Muslim population continues to grow and with it the Mosque is expanded in five different building projects to become the largest enclosed space of its time.  Somewhere along in there relations between Muslim and Christians fall apart.  Then the “reconquest” happens and the Mosque is transferred to Christian control.  It is actually left nearly intact for 200 years… a testament to its lasting grace… but eventually some pious bishop decided to make it a Cathedral of great importance… and carved out the center and plopped a Christian church in the middle. 

You know… a lot of people have criticized this conversion, but I’m not one to belly-ache.  Conquests and re-conquests and re-re-conquests happen and it is part of what makes the architecture in a land with a 2000 year history REALLY interesting.  The Muslims “recycled” columns and capitals from abandoned Roman and Visigoth monuments… and because they did, we have an AMAZING study in the evolution of the Corinthian column.  I spent hours admiring them… such variety on essentially the SAME subject!  Most of the columns are classic Corinthian, but some are a transitionary position between Ionic and Corinthian.   And I saw one or two modified Doric capitals.  VERY interesting!  And these Muslim constructions are ONLY left in place because of the Catholic Cathedral plopped in the center.  Without the cathedral, it is likely the Mosque would have fallen into disuse and disrepair.

Now… I will avoid comment on the POLITICS of conquest and re-conquest… and the innocent lives lost in such conflicts.  That is a whole ‘nother subject!

There was also a very interesting Jewish synagogue left from pre-inquisition  days.  As you will recall… when Isabel and Fernande married in 1469…. they brought together the kingdoms of Castille and Lyon AND Aragon…. making Spain a super power… and (most importantly) CATHOLIC.   The couple set about to re-conquer all of what is now Spain from the Muslims that have been in power for hundreds of years.  Those years were (for the most part) a model of civility.  Muslims, Jews and Christians got along in unprecedented harmony.  That came to an end in 1492 when the forces of Fernande and Isabella managed to conquer the last strong hold of Muslim rule.  The Catholic monarchs took control of the Alhambra in Granada… and promptly decreed that Jews must leave the country or convert to Catholicism.  Muslims were actually allowed to stay in Spain for a few decades longer.  Many Jews left the country.   Many converted to Catholicism… some only for “show”.  They practiced Christianity in public and retained their Jewish customs and practices in private.  THAT brought about the famous “Spanish Inquisition” which set out to separate REAL Christians from those only “faking it”.  I won’t comment on the absurdity and cruelty of all of this… it is just all too stupid!  I try to remember that ultimately it was all about POWER… religion was just a convenient excuse. 

Anyway… once the Jews were converted or expelled from Spain… much of their property (like synagogues) were seized and destroyed.  One lone (tiny) little synagogue remains (mostly) intact from pre-1492 days.  Surprisingly, it is decorated in the “Mudejar” or Islamic style… and is beautiful!  Just around the corner is a small house that was owned by Jews.  It has been restored to its former Jewish style and holds a small museum on the history of the Sephardic Jew in Spain… very interesting!  And one small room in the museum serves as the present day synagogue for the 25 current Jewish residents in Cordoba. 

It should be mentioned that the very famous Jewish Rabbi, author, physician and philosopher Maimonides (aka Rambam… I lived on Rambam Street in Jerusalem!) was born in Cordoba.   He wrote many commentaries on Jewish scripture that are still very much THE authoritative word today.  He wrote the wonderfully titled book “Guide for the Perplexed”… which one of these days I intend to read!  Maimonides was actually expelled from Cordoba in 1148 with his family in a event of Muslim intolerance.  Again… I try to remember it is about power and greed, not religious doctrine!  I DO try! 

As, always…. Life’s a trip!


See pictures of Cordoba at

Sorry… as usual this blog is a little late going out… having fun in Valencia now!