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The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba is the greatest representation of the splendour of the Umayyad dynasty, and is considered by many experts to be the best example of Muslim influence in Spain. Since 1984, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This architectural masterpiece is still standing, after 1,000 years, thanks to the construction of the cathedral. This all makes it an icon of Cordoba, once the most important city in all of Western Europe.

History of the Mosque of Cordoba

In 756, Abd al-Rahman I (the last living descendant of the Umayyad dynasty) founded the independent Emirate of Córdoba, proclaiming himself Emir and founding a political entity independent of the Abbasid caliphate of Baghdad. After that, he practically unified the entire peninsula under his rule and made Córdoba the most important capital in the known world.

At that time, the city of Córdoba had all the resources and infrastructures of a booming city, in addition to being in a very fertile basin on the banks of the Guadalquivir river. By the year 929, when the Caliphate of Córdoba was proclaimed, the city reached its peak with half a million inhabitants.

According to the records of the time, the construction of the Mosque of Córdoba began in the year 784. It was built on what had previously been the Basilica of San Vicente Mártir. Apparently, Abd al-Rahman I reached an agreement with the Christians of the city to share the space under a system of schedules. Until the conquest of the Christian kingdoms, the Mosque underwent different transformations and extensions until it became the second largest mosque in the world, only behind that of Mecca. In 1238, after the conquest, it was consecrated as a Christian cathedral

Parts of the Mosque of Cordoba

The Mosque originally had a smaller size than what we can appreciate today. The Mosque of Córdoba consisted of two distinct areas that can be seen today. On the one hand, the current patio of the orange trees (former caliphal or shan ablution courtyard), in which the minaret was located (currently under the Renaissance bell tower). On the other hand, the prayer room or haram (interior), which stands out for being a true “forest” of columns and colorful arches.

One of the great peculiarities of this mosque is that it faces south, while Mecca (the place where Muslims should direct their prayers) is to the southeast. This particularity has been appreciated in other mosques in Morocco.


The old Minaret and the Bell Tower

During the rule of Emir Hisham I a first minaret was built, which was demolished and rebuilt by Abd al-Rahman III. At that time, this construction, whose function was to call the Muslim population to prayer, reached 47 meters in height.

With the Christian conquest and the conversion of the mosque into a Christian cathedral, the minaret became the Bell Tower. The remains of the Muslim construction are believed to have been embedded in the Christian tower, although different drawings of the time are preserved that recreate how the imposing minaret of Abd al-Rahman III was.

The Naranjos Courtyard

The Naranjos Courtyard (the Orange Tree Courtyard)  was originally what is known as the ablution courtyard, a space in which the faithful washed or washed (ablution) before entering the interior of the mosque to pray. Also, it was a place of great social importance, where the Koran was taught or trials were held. In turn, the patio or shan is a space that represents “paradise” on earth.

With the conquest this place loses its original purpose and becomes a main garden. The most representative element today, the orange trees, would be planted around the 16th century.

The "Forest" of Columns

Probably one of the issues that most attracts the attention of the Mosque of Córdoba is the so-called “forest of columns” inside. As soon as we enter the vision that is presented to us is that of a continuous succession of columns and colorful arches one behind the other. In total, this “forest of columns” is made up of 1,300 marble, granite and jasper columns on which 365 colorful horseshoe arches rest.

As a curiosity, a good part of these columns were not built specifically for the Mosque. They do not even date from the Andalusian period, as they were actually extracted from some of the points with Roman remains in Córdoba or even from buildings from the Visigoth period.


Most of the interior of the Mosque of Córdoba was and is occupied by what was the haram, the great room where the faithful gathered to pray. The haram of the mosque of Córdoba was modified between the 8th and 10th centuries, expanding continuously due to the growth of the population of Córdoba, which demanded more space to pray. Abd al-Rahman I, Abd al-Rahman II and al-Hakam carried out the main extensions of the enclosure.

After the Castilian conquest of Córdoba, a period of transformations began in the Mosque that would end the haram and its usefulness. In 1236, Ferdinand III of Castile converted the mosque into a Cathedral and consecrated it to the Virgin Mary. Although the uses changed, the architecture did not undergo a major transformation.

The arches of the Mosque of Córdoba

Without a doubt, the arches of the Mosque of Córdoba are the great icons of this monument. Both semicircular and horseshoe, these architectural elements, together with the columns, allow the Mosque of Córdoba to occupy such dimensions.

The arches of the interior are superimposed, being the horseshoe the one that is located under the semicircular. In both cases the materials used for its construction were limestone and red brick. In total, there are 365 arches that make up the Mosque of Córdoba, these being one of its symbols.

The quibla wall and the mihrab

The quibla wall is one of the most interesting elements of the Mosque of Córdoba. It is the place where the faithful look while they pray, the point that marks the orientation and where the mihrab is located, a space in the form of a semicircular niche that must be oriented towards Mecca.

One of the most interesting curiosities of the quibla is that “it is not oriented towards Mecca.” The orientation was supposedly inspired by the original plans of the city, so the architects decided to stick with the same orientation.

For its part, the mihrab is the most sacred place in the mosque, it has a heptagonal shape and is covered by an octagonal vault. The façade is adorned by a banked horseshoe arch with a spectacular decoration of mosaics with geometric shapes and plants that quote some verses from the Koran.

The transformation to Cathedral

With the Castilian conquest of Córdoba, the Mosque is no longer used for Muslim worship. Fernando III of Castile converted the site into a Cathedral and consecrated it to the Virgin Mary. At first, no transformations were made in the architecture of the monument, the great alterations took place between the 16th and 18th centuries.

The greatest transformation took place throughout the 16th century, when a large Christian nave was erected in the middle of the Mosque, forming a new Main Chapel under Renaissance parameters. For this construction to be carried out, Emperor Carlos V had to intercede with the rejection of the Córdoba municipal council, which did not accept the intention of Bishop Alonso Manrique. In this same century, in addition to various chapels, the Mannerist altarpiece of the main chapel designed by Alonso Matías would be built.


Buy tickets for the Mosque of Córdoba

To be able to visit this spectacular jewel, you need to buy your Cordoba Mosque Tickets some days in advance, since it is one of the most emblematic venues in the Andalusian city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Do not miss this impressive unique place in the world, take a walk through the first mosque built by the first emir of Al-Andalus and travel back to centuries and centuries of history.

Cordoba Mosque Opening Hours

The Mosque-Cathedral is open every day from 10am to 6pm (7pm in the months of March to October). On Sundays and holidays, the opening hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Please note that if you purchase the Cordoba Mosque Tickets that grant access to the Bell Tower, you will be subject to the special schedule of the Bell Tower. Access there is allowed every 30 minutes between 9:30h to 13:30h and 16h to 17:30h.

If you want to attend mass, the hours are from Monday to Saturday at 9:30 a.m., and on Sundays at 12 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Do you know Córdoba´s Mezquita is not oriented to La Meca as most?

We all know mosques are oriented toward La Meca. However in this case, The Córdoba´s  Mezquita- Catedral, is oriented to Guadalquivir river. The reason is unknown, but perhaps it is due for the orography of the area, the city is inclined towards the southeast and towards the river, it impeded the orientation.

Do you know Córdoba´s Mezquita was the biggest in the world?

Actually the biggest mosque is the Masjid al-Haram in La Meca, but at the time was Córdoba´s Mezquita, with more than 23.000 square metres, 1.300 columns and with capacity for 22.000 people.

Do you know that Naranjos´s Courtyard does not even give oranges?

This place is one of most known and it is located inside the mosque.The name is for the amount of orange trees planted, but in the 18th century there were olive and cypress trees.

Do you know that Córdoba´s Cathedral is inside The Mezquita?

This characteristic makes the monument unique in the world. The decision created controversy to Carlos I ¨ You have destroyed what was unique in the world and put in his place what can be seen everywhere¨ he said.


However, in present,  this makes the visit to Mezquita impress you because you can see several architectonic styles and some history centuries at the same place.

Do you know that there is a secret tunnel?

A legend tells there is a secret tunnel that leads to Medina Zahara town. It is not known if it is true, but there are several tunnels that do not have access.

Did you take seeds from the orange trees to Hiroshima?

Later the Hiroshima’s bombing, they took the seeds to make a peace garden in memory of the diseased. Actually, the garden exists.

Did you know that until 2015 wasn´t decided who was the Mezquita´s owner?

Actually Mezquita belongs to the church, but in the13th century the owner was the State.

Do you know that there are illustrious characters buried in the Córdoba´s Mezquita?

Garcilaso de la Vega y Luis de Góngora are two actually buried inside the Córdoba´s Mezquita.

Do you know that there is a wish star in Mezquita?

It is a star carved in the stone that makes up the mosque. It is located outside, next to Torrijos´s street. The people touch and make a wish.

Do you know that inside the Mezquita there is a golden string?

Long time ago inside the  Mezquita there was a golden string hung from the ceiling to the floor. Actually you can see, but it is a bit  shorter. Reportedly  because the bishops cut it every time they had to make a purchase or a payment.

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