BEAUTIFUL MOSQUES OF THE WORLD:
THE CORDOBA MOSQUE: SPAIN
After the Islamic conquest of the Visigothic Kingdom, the building was divided between the Muslims and Christians. When the exiled Umayyad prince Abd al-Rahman I escaped to Spain and defeated the governor of Al-Andalus, Yusuf al-Fihri, he found the Cordovese split up into various sects, such as the Gnostics, Priscillianists, Donatists, and Luciferians. His ambition was to erect a temple, which would rival in magnificence those of Baghdad, Jerusalem, and Damascus, and approach in sanctity the fame of Mecca. The Christian church in Cordoba stood upon the site of the former Roman religious edifice dedicated to Janus, and upon this site, Abd al-Rahman desired to raise his great mosque. He honourably offered to buy the church and the plot from the conquered people. The negotiations of purchase were placed in the hands of the Sultan's favourite secretary, Umeya Ibn Yezid. Under the terms of transference, the Cordovese were permitted to reconstruct the edifice formerly dedicated to St. Faustus, St. Januarius, and St. Marcellus, three martyrs whom they deeply revered.
He allowed the Christians to rebuild their ruined churches, and purchased the Christian half of the church of St. Vincent.
The Khalif was rich. Besides the treasure wrested from the Goths during the wars, he extracted a tithe upon the produce of the land and on manufactures. A tax was also laid upon every Christian and Jew in Andalusia. Beyond this, the Moorish kings were greatly enriched by the acquisition of the valuable mines of Spain, the quarries of marble, and other sources of wealth. From these revenues Abd-erRahman and his successors, Hisham, Abd-erRahman II., the greatest of the dynasty and the third of the line—and lastly, the extravagant Almanzor—lavished heavy sums upon the designing, construction, and costly adornment of the Mosque. Abd al-Rahman I and his descendants reworked it over two centuries to fashion it as a mosque, starting in 784. Additionally, Abd al-Rahman I used the mosque (originally called Aljama Mosque) as an adjunct to his palace and named it to honour his wife. Traditionally, the mihrab, or apse of a mosque faces in the direction of Mecca; by facing the mihrab, worshipers pray towards Mecca. Mecca is east-southeast of the mosque, but the mihrab points south.
The attitude of Abd-er-Rahman I towards the Christian population of Cordova was clement and conciliatory. The work of building the resplendent Mezquita employed thousands of artisans and labourers. This vast undertaking led to the development of all the resources of the district. Durable stone and beautifully veined marbles were quarried from the Sierra Morena and the surrounding regions of the city. Metals of various kinds were dug from the soil, and factories sprang up in Cordova amid the stir and bustle of an awakened industrial energy. A famous Syrian architect made the plans for the Mosque. Leaving his suburban dwelling, the Khalif came to reside in the city, so that he might personally superintend the operations, and offer proposals for the improvement of the designs. Abd-er-Rahman moved about among the workers, directing them during several hours of every day.
The mosque underwent numerous subsequent changes: Abd al-Rahman II ordered a new minaret, while Al-Hakam II, in 961, enlarged the building and enriched the Mihrab. The last of the reforms was carried out by Al-Mansur Ibn Abi Aamir in 987. It was connected to the Caliph's palace by a raised walk-way, mosques within the palaces being the tradition for previous Islamic rulers - with Christian Kings following suit and building their palaces adjacent to churches. The Mezquita reached its current dimensions in 987 with the completion of the outer naves and courtyard.