The construction of the Cathedral Mosque in Cordoba was conceived as a revival of the famous Umayyad mosque in Damascus (705-715 according to the Gregorian calendar). Having built his residence in 785-788 in the vicinity of Cordoba, Abd ar-Rahman I named it ar-Rusafa in memory of the residence of his grandfather, Caliph Hisham, in the Palmyra Desert. He planted a new ar-Rusafa with palm trees. The poems “TO the palm tree” are known, in which the fate of the exile is identified with the fate of a palm tree transplanted to a foreign land.
Construction was complicated by the uneven terrain, the slope of the soil to the river. Surrounded by a wall, a huge rectangle (200 × 144 m) has four facades. The western facade suffered the least from alterations. Flat buttresses protrude from the wall array, between which there are similar, although created at different times, decorated entrance portals. None of them is highlighted as the main one.
Masonry technique – dry-folded blocks. A huge role is played by the color of the stone, sometimes with a thick warm honey shade — this is the color of the Egyptian pyramids, the Athenian Acropolis, the ensembles of Palmyra and Baalbek.
The history of the creation of the Cordoba mosque knew several stages. Once in its place stood the Visigothic basilica – the Church of San Vicente. The Basilica – and this is typical for Umayyad Andalusia and for the era of early Islam – was divided between Christians and Muslims; the words of the Koran and the Gospel sounded here under one roof. Then Abd ar-Rahman I, after long negotiations, bought the church of San Vicente from the Christians of Cordoba, demolished it and founded a mosque in 785.
Roman columns of the Corinthian order made of multicolored marble, porphyry, granite and jasper were brought here from North Africa, France and Spain itself, some were taken from local Visigothic churches, and first of all from the demolished church of San Vicente.
The columns supporting the arches turned out to be of different heights, so in the part built by Abd ar-Rahman II, the columns were placed without bases, as if directly growing out of the floor. Since the columns were small, and such an extensive structure required a height (it reached eleven and a half meters), the arches were given an elevated horseshoe shape, and quadrangular pillars were placed on the capitals of the columns, from the top to the top of which, in turn, the second semicircular arches were thrown.
A new stone minaret was erected on the site of an earlier one in 945-946 by order of Abd ar-Rahman III and destroyed in the XVI century.
The majestic structure rose a hundred cubits (37.5 m), its four sides, dissected by two rows of arches on marble columns, were covered with stone carvings. At the top there was a room for the muezzin, crowned with a dome with three balls, two gilded and one silver.
Another feature of the mosque in Cordoba is the huge number of columns. But this brilliant, extraordinarily integral and without analogies composition was already violated under the last Umayyads.
Like his Damascus ancestors, Caliph al-Hakam II wanted to decorate the Cathedral Mosque of Cordoba with a work of Byzantine art. He appealed to the Byzantine Emperor Nikephoros Phokas with a request to send an experienced mosaicist. The master brought with him to Cordoba a glass paste – a gift from the emperor. The mosaic style, lively and regally luxurious, at the same time possessing almost calligraphic clarity, is in tune with the image of the mosque itself, where the spirit of antiquity and the East reigns.
Calligraphy plays a special role in the figurative system of the Cordoba mosque. The largest rectangular frame, which includes a mihrab niche, is filled with an inscription in Kufic handwriting. Golden letters are solemnly drawn on a thick blue mosaic background.
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