Córdoba Monumental

Haunting Andalusian music…. spectacular models…Muslim philosophers such as Averroes, Jewish scholars such as Maimónides, Christian monarchs such as Alfonso X of Castile usher us into the Al-Andalus Museum – a chronological tribute to all three cultures. Situated in the well-known Calahorra Tower, this place serves as an introduction to learn a little more about the voices of knowledge linked to three very different religions and societies whose legacy shapes the personality of present day Cordoba. The fragrance given off by the Patio of Oranges leads us to one of Andalusía’s most striking images. The mezquita or Mosque opens its doors to leave those who enter open-mouthed. Work began on the structure in 785 but the building itself has been transformed over the course of the centuries. It features 856 columns in Roman, Greek and Visigoth styles. In a space that occupies some 24,000 m2. Another marvel to behold are the inscriptions in gold from the Koran and the beautiful Byzantine mosaics. It took a total of four years to painstakingly place each element piece by piece in each one of these masterpieces. Today, the mosque has been converted into a cathedral. This building was admired by many - including Alfonso X of Castile. When he saw the mosque in 1260, he requested that his corpse should be laid to rest at this place of truly outstanding beauty. Just a few metres away are the gardens of the Palace of the Christian Kings, ancient allotments where vegetables were grown to feed the soldiers who lived nearby. Here stood an ancient fortress, the headquarters of the Holy Inquisition, the royal residence of the Catholic Kings and even at one point, a prison. Today we can still make out a few inscriptions of the prisoners who were once locked up here. Part of the Alcázar, are the Califales Baths, proof of the grand wealth of the Umayyad Caliphate, of which Cordoba was the capital of Al Andalus. This was a meeting place and an area to relax and unwind reserved exclusively for the caliph and his high level guests. The rest of the mortals were able to attend one of the 600 public baths dotted around the city.

Five kilometres from central Córdoba on the slopes of the Sierra Morena we find the Medina Azahara – an authentic palace city founded by Abd ar-Rahman III in the year 940 as a demonstration of his power. This housed the sovereign residence, his court and administrative department. The Salon Rico reception hall is particularly breathtaking – we can imagine how it looked back at the time with its marble arches, jasper veined marbled, gold and precious stones. This unmissable visit would not be complete without a stop off at the museum. Here we can see how the silver coins were numerically divided – the smallest coin would have been used to purchase the daily shopping. Constructed in mudéjar style, Córdoba’s Synagogue, is evidence of the Hebrew presence in the city. Just a few metres away was the souk and here we can see how the craftsmen of the day went about their labours. Art which centuries later, still remains intact. Small and cosy is how you could describe the Saint Bartólome Chapel, one of the finest examples of mudéjar architecture you could wish to see. Our journey ends with one of the favourite experiences of inhabitants of the city over the centuries. A soothing soak in the hammam steam baths. A place to completely relax and recall all the marvels of this city and its rich and diverse cultures.