Postcard from Cordoba, Spain: White-washed walls make colors pop

Many of the buildings of Cordoba are white, but the city’s monochromatic walls make the splashes of colorful tiles, or azulejos; the red brick and white stone arches echoing the architecture of La Mezquita; and cascading bright geraniums that much more striking.

 

Postcard from Cordoba, Spain: Strolling through 80 years of photographs on the way to lunch

images from “50 Fotografias con Historia,” XVI Bienal de Fotografia de Cordoba

Fifty images providing a glimpse of the past 80 years of the history of photography in Spain stretched out along Paseo de la Victoria earlier this year, flavorful tapas for us on the way to Mercado Victoria.

The large photographs were assembled for the XVI Bienal de Fotografia de Cordoba. Rather than try to show you snapshots of photographers’ famous works, I grabbed a few details caught in passing between panels. There are a few whole images on the website, including my favorite of the flying seminarian playing soccer taken by Ramon Masats in Madrid in 1959.

We wandered among the photographs twice as we made our way to pick out lunch from among the 30 stalls housed in Mercado Victoria. Cordobese delicacies and international dishes are found in the culinary market that opened in 2013 in a wrought-iron and glass zinc-roofed pavilion dating from 1877.

Normally we tend to find food halls of this type too touristy, but Mercado Victoria has the advantage of being removed from the main tourist zone around La Mezquita. Most customers were locals on their lunch hours, and tables were abundant. And with real plates and wine glasses, lunch there was pretty civilized.

Apologies for scrambling up culinary and photographic art, but for us they were a shared experience.

Postcard from Cordoba, Spain: Mezquita Catedral

The Cathedral of Cordoba is dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption, yet even the city’s Catholics tend to refer to it simply as La Mezquita, the Mosque.

A Roman temple once stood on this site, but it was torn down with its building materials recycled for construction of a Visigoth church. The Moorish conquest in the 8th century resulted in another teardown and recycling of materials, particularly columns.

Cordoba became the headquarters of the independent Caliphate in Spain, and a golden age of construction burst forth to create a capital to rival the splendor of Damascus and Constantinople. This meant the mosque must be enormous.

The interior boasts approximately 850 granite jasper and marble columns. As the handsome columns were too short to attain the desired height, the arches they supported were topped with a second tier of arches, all in a striking pattern alternating red brick and white stone. A shell-shaped ceiling carved from one block of marble crowns the gilded Mihrab, the original center for prayer, at the heart of the Mezquita.

King Ferdinand III (1199-1252) reclaimed Cordoba from the Moorish rulers in 1236, and the mosque immediately was consecrated as a Christian place of worship. The original Gothic altar inserted in the middle of the former mosque was expanded and modified to reflect later and Renaissance and Baroque styles. The architectural encasement of the original minaret masks its origins. A full Renaissance nave popped up above the existing roofline during the reign of King Charles V (1500-1558). Some say the king was displeased with the resulting intrusive architectural assault upon the stunning structure.

Lawrence Boheme offers a tale involving a 1,000-mile round trip for the bells of Santiago de Compostela to symbolize the historical rivalry between the Spain’s Christians and Muslims at this site:

At the height of Muslim power, during the Omega Caliphate at the end of the 10th century, the fearsome warlord Al-Mansur led a bloody raid through northern Spain, going as far into Christian territory as Santiago de Compostela. On the loose in the great pilgrims’ city, the Moor had the audacity of riding his horse into the cathedral and letting it drink from the font of holy water, outraging the Christian townsfolk; then, even more insultingly, he had the church’s bells carried 500 miles south to Cordoba, where they were melted down to make lamps to illuminate the Great Mosque.

When, two and a half centuries later, in 1236, the Castillian King Ferdinand the Third (“The Saint”) reconquered Cordoba, his first action, to avenge the humiliation caused by Al-Mansur, was to have the lamps carried back to the shrine of Saint James, where they were melted down to make a new set of bells.