Mezquita de Cordoba

The Mezquita (Spanish for "Mosque") of Cordoba is a beautiful and fascinating building that symbolizes the many religious changes Cordoba has undergone over the centuries. Today, the Mezquita is the cathedral of Cordoba (officially the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption), but the vast majority of its art and architecture is the work of Islamic architects, who built it as a mosque in the 8th century.


History of the Mezquita de Cordoba

The site on which the Mezquita stands has long been a sacred space – it was host to a Roman temple dedicated to Janus and a Visigothic cathedral dedicated to St Vincent of Saragossa before the mosque was constructed in the 8th century. Finally, a cathedral was added inside the mosque by the Christian conquerors in the early 13th century.

The construction of the Mezquita lasted for over two centuries, starting in 784 AD under the supervision of the emir of Cordoba, Abd ar-Rahman I. Under Abd ar-Rahman II (822-52), the Mezquita held an original copy of the Koran and an arm bone of the prophet Mohammed, making it a major Muslim pilgrimage site.

The Mosque underwent numerous subsequent changes: Abd ar-Rahman III ordered a new minaret (9th century), while Al-Hakam II enlarged the plan of the building and enriched the mihrab (961). The last of the reforms, including the completion of the outer aisles and orange tree courtyard, were completed by Al-Mansur Ibn Abi Aamir in 987.

When finished, the Mezquita was the most magnificent of the more than 1,000mosques in Cordoba. But Cordoba was subject to frequent invasion and each conquering wave added their own mark to the architecture.

In 1236, Cordoba was captured from the Moors by King Ferdinand III of Castile and rejoined Christendom. The Christians initially left the architecture Mezquita largely undisturbed - they simply consecrated it, dedicated it to the Virgin Mary, and used it as a place of Christian worship.

King Alfonso X oversaw the construction of the Villaviciosa Chapel and the Royal Chapel within the structure of the mosque. The kings who followed added further Christian features: Enrique II rebuilt the chapel in the 14th century; a nave was constructed with the patronage of Carlos V, king of a united Spain.

The heavy, incongruous Baroque choir was sanctioned in the very heart of the mosque by Charles V in the 1520s. Artists and architects continued to add to the existing structure until the late 18th century, making the Mezquita an intriguing architectural oddity.

In 1931, Dr. Allama Muhammad Iqbal was the first Muslim to pray in the Mezquita since it was closed to Islam. In 1984, the historic center of Cordoba, including the Mezquita, was made a UNESCO World Heritage site.

What to See at the Mezquita de Cordoba

The Mezquita de Cordoba is most notable for its giant arches and its forest of over 856 (of an original 1,293) columns of jasper, onyx, marble, and granite. These were taken from the Roman temple which had previously occupied the site and other destroyed Roman buildings.

The Mezquita also features richly gilded prayer niches. But the Mezquita's most interesting feature is certainly the mihrab, a domed shrine of Byzantine mosaics built by Al Hakam II (961-76). It once housed the Koran and relics of Muhammad. In front of the Mihrab is the Maksoureh, a kind of anteroom for the caliph and his court; its mosaics and plasterwork make it a masterpiece of Islamic art.

Although it does not fit in with the rest of the mosque, the 16th-century Baroque choir is an impressive sight, with an intricate ceiling and richly carved 18th-century choir stalls.

Outside the Mezquita is the Courtyard of the Orange Trees (Patio de los Naranjos), which in springtime is perfumed with orange blossoms and has a beautiful fountain.

The Torre del Alminar, the minaret once used to summon the faithful to prayer, has a Baroque belfry. Hardy travelers can climb to the top to catch a panoramic view of Córdoba and its surroundings.

Quick Facts on the Mezquita de Cordoba

Site Information
Names:Mezquita de Cordoba · Mezquita-Catedral de Cordoba
Categories:cathedrals; mosques; change of religion; World Heritage Sites
Status: active
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:37.878927° N, 4.779557° W
Address:Calles Torrijos and Cardenal Herrero s/n
Cordoba, Spain
Hours:Apr-Jun: daily 10am-7:30pm
Mar, Jul-Oct: Mon-Sat 10am-7pm, Sun 9-10:45am and 1:30-6:30pm
Nov, Feb: daily 10am-6pm
Dec-Jan daily 10am-5:30pm
Lodging:View hotels near the Mezquita de Cordoba
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.


  1. Personal visit (April 4, 2007)
  2. The Great Mosque of Cordoba - Islamic Architecture
  3. Why the Mezquita of Cordoba is Special - Hillman Wonders of the World
  4. Ernst J. Grube, Architecture of the Islamic World
  5. Dominique Clevenot, Splendors of Islam
  6. Darwin Porter, Frommer's Spain 2005
  7. Historic Centre of Cordoba – UNESCO World Heritage
  8. The Mezquita - Mary Ann Sullivan (six pages of photos w/ explanations of its art)
  9. Mezquita - Lonely Planet

More Information

Aerial view of the Mezquita de Cordoba. © Google
View of the Mezquita de Cordoba from across the river. © Holly Hayes
View of the minaret-turned-belfry of the Mezquita from the streets of old Cordoba. © Holly Hayes
Horse and carriage outside the long west facade of the Mezquita, its plain walls punctuated by beautifully... © Holly Hayes
Beautifully decorated portal in the west facade of the Mezquita. This part of the mosque was added in the late... © Holly Hayes
Interior of the Mezquita, with its forest of over 856 (originally 1,293) columns topped with piers and two... © Holly Hayes
Interior of the Mezquita, with its forest of over 856 (originally 1,293) columns topped with piers and two... © Holly Hayes
Interior of the Mezquita, with its forest of over 856 (originally 1,293) columns topped with piers and two... © Holly Hayes
The exquisitely decorated mihrab, commissioned by Al Hakam II in 961. In front of the mihrab is the Maksoureh,... © Holly Hayes
Beautiful gilded dome over the Maksoureh, an anteroom for the caliph and his court in front of the mihrab... © Holly Hayes
A Renaissance cathedral was built in the heart of the mosque by King Charles V in 1523. The richly carved... © Holly Hayes

Map of the Mezquita de Cordoba

Below is a location map and aerial view of the Mezquita de Cordoba. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.