After the fall of the Roman Empire, a basilica was built in the 5th century near the Rio Guadalquivir by Visigoth conquerors. When the Moors conquered Spain in the 8th century, they shared the facility with the Visigoth Christians for some 70 years until the Moors purchased the Christian portion from their neighbors. That basilica was replaced by the expansion of the mosque. The use of this facility has been less inclusive ever since but the initial cooperative spirit seems still to be present in Córdoba today.
During the height of Moorish rule, Córdoba boasted 1,000,000 citizens. As many as 6,000 worshipers of Islam could pray together in the mosque. It was immense and Córdoba was a cultural and intellectual anomaly during the, otherwise, Dark Ages.
After Queen Isabel’s Reconquesta advanced through Córdoba in the 13th century, a Cathedral was built within the confines of the mosque. Muslims, along with Jews were banished or converted. The cathedral is still in operation daily but Islam is no longer practiced in this building. Islam is, however, present and a celebrated part of the history of this building.
Our young, gentle, and proud muslim neighbor explained to us that the oldest precepts of Islam are rooted in the inclusion of all believers of The One God – be they faithful Christians, Jews, or Muslims. As the photograph below illustrates, the old masque, portions of which were totally destroyed, stands in contrast to the Christian cathedral built within its walls.
The Moorish horseshoe arches juxtaposed against the Cathedral domes is a reflection of an inclusionary attitude that we heard reiterated at the Al-Andalus Living Museum. This little gem of a museum highlights the heyday of Córdoba by setting the Christian kings, Jewish theologians and Islamic philosophers in local historical context. While there is certainly a long history of a variety of religious persecution and oppression in Spain, it seems minimized in Córdoba.
We wondered how the Mezquita–Catedral de Córdoba might look and sound if mass and prayers could once again be allowed here. It gives hope.