The Mezquita, Córdoba, Spain

striped arches mosque cordoba unesco world heritage spain
The iconic red and white striped arches are still there, although the original nearly infinite sight lines were destroyed by the addition of Christian tableaux in many of them and a huge Christian Cathedral in the middle of the mosque.

The Mezquita, or Mosque of Córdoba, is one of the real wonders of Spain. Along with the Alhambra of Granada and the Alcazar of Sevilla, it makes up the trifecta of Moorish architecture left over from when the Muslims controlled the Iberian peninsula.

christian cathedral mosque cordoba unesco world heritage spain
I can't think of any style that is more apparently undistinguished than mediocre baroque. And here we have a cathedral that is spectacularly mediocre.

Regrettably, after the Reconquest of Córdoba by the Christian forces, the Christians eventually decided to repurpose the huge elegant mosque into a Christian cathedral, including filling in nearly all the niches around its interior walls with chapels and adding many sculptured scenes from the Christian stories as reliefs in the arches.

descent from cross mosque cordoba unesco world heritage spain
The elegant simplicity of the striped arches destroyed by the addition of an industrially busy descent from the cross and an inexplicable grotesque border along the top.

But, luckily all was not lost. The original effect of the geometry of the pillars and arches is still apparent in many vistas. Although those vistas are always cut short by the Christian intrusions, you can still get the idea of what the huge space must have looked like when the view down the rows of arches was uninterrupted and seemed to go on forever.

inlaid wood mosque ceiling cordoba unesco world heritage spain
Luckily some of the original Moorish decorative elements were preserved, such as this small section of inlaid wood ceiling.

But the lost long view is redeemed somewhat by the preservation of a few of the original elements. There's a bit of inlaid wood ceiling here, and the Mihrab, or prayer niche in one side of the mosque was left alone to provide a spectacular counterpoint to the intrusion of the Christian church.

mosque ceiling cordoba
And most fortunate of all, one The Mihrab, or prayer niche, of the original mosque was left alone, for what reason, we can only guess. Compare the elegance of this to the clumsy Christian dome of the photo above.

The Mezquita of Córdoba and the old center of the city is a Unesco World Heritage site. Here's a list of all the Unesco sites in Spain.

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