Those with ADD will be delighted. I visited the Mezquita de Cordoba, that jaw dropping Moorish marvel of a cathedral-former-mosque in southern Spain and I’ve compressed four centuries worth of history. You’ll be going for your second cappuccino in mere moments.
First there was an ancient Roman temple. Then the Christians built a church over it. Then around 784 the Moors tore down the church and built a mosque over it. From there it took two centuries to finish the Mezquita (Spanish for “mosque”), which is a swoon of a medieval Islamic site.
Well, more war and in the 11th century, Spain vanquished the Moors. (Don’t you wish all history classes were this concise?) To the victor go the spoils. The Roman Catholic Church was going to tear down the Mezquita and build a cathedral over it, but wait!
In a rare turn, love of architectural genius trumped tear-it-down testosterone. Someone said, “Whoa, dude! Leave it be. Man, it’s epic!”
The Mezquita is awesome, and not as in “what an awesome hamburger” but as in eye-popping, spirit tingling, I-need-someone-to-say-wow-with-awesome. White and wine colored marble arches, a sense of the infinite, geometric designs and intricate stone inlay and woodwork.
Because the Mezquita was allowed to stand, you, too, can someday ooh and ahh at the interior of the ancient mosque, a place where non-Muslims would never be allowed to visit if it were still in use.
Kudos to the Catholics for not sending in the demolition team, however, they still marked their territory. Inside the mosque they built a huge Gothic cathedral with soaring ceilings, elaborate altars, over-the-top cardinals’ tombs, and special chambers. The Mezquita de Cordoba officially is known as the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption.
In wandering through the Cathedral’s vast spaces, one of the rooms housed a large collection of reliquaries. “What the heck is that?” you may ask. A reliquary is a box or a vessel that contains the holy remains of a Catholic saint, like a swatch of hair, or a finger here or there. Some attribute miracles to such remains. Now you’re saying, “What the heck is that all about?” Please. I was in Andalusia sightseeing and eating tapas. Take it up with the Vatican.
As I was saying, there I was, staring at filigreed urns full of little bits and pieces of St. Ursula and about a dozen other saints. I half expected all that accumulated star power to create a passageway of miracles for visitors filing through – but no.
Perhaps their fizz was lost when they attained sainthood. It’s the old story. Reach the top and you don’t want to work that hard anymore.
Nonetheless, there was plenty of razzle dazzle to go around at The Mezquita. A. MAZ. ING.
What site or piece of architecture has moved you in the past?