Córdoba lies in the geographical centre of Andalusia. The passage of the Guadalquivir, in the north of which lies the rugged sierra and in its south the rich, cultivated lands, explains the variety of the scenery which is mirrored by its people and customs.
In the course of its history, Códoba has been a meeting place of people , races, cultures and religions of different kinds, which have left behind an important legacy of popular architecture and historical sites.
Códoba and its Historical Sites
The bridge over the Guadalquivir and the mosaics exhibited in the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos (ie, Fortress of the Christian Monarchs) are the most outstanding remains of Roman culture.
The main exponent of Muslim culture is the Mosque, considered to be the best Islamic church in the world. The building was begun by Abd al-Rahman I (756-785) on the site of the Christian Basilica of San Vicente, the material of which was used to a large extent. This early part consisted of eleven transverse and twelve longitudinal aisles and had a great variety of capitals and marvelous columns. for greater heights and the light to reach the whole church, the arches were open towards the inner court of Patio de las Abluciones (today Patio de los Naranjos). Abd al-Rahman II (821-852) built another eight transverse aisles to enlarge the building and used Visigothic columns whiteout bases. Al-Hakam II (961- 976) added another 12 aisles since the population of the city had grown considerably. The columns alternate as regards colour and capitals: Corinthian ones with blue shafts and Composite or Roman ones with pink marble shafts. Al-Hakam II is responsible for the imposing mihrab with its dome and portal covered by a mosaic, which was a present of the Byzantine, emperor Constantine VII. The inside of the mihrab was convered by a hugh plaster shell, from where praying was led and heard everywhere in the Mosque and even outside. Almanzor (987-990, Hisham's Prime Minister) enlarged the building for the third time.
In 936, Abd al-Rahman II began the construction f the most important, Latin-looking city of the world in the IOC on a surface area of 112ha. The new city rose in the west of Códoba and made the best use of the existing geographical features. The top area-which is the one that has been excavated so farbelongs to the Alcázar Real, ie, the Royal Fortress (the Royal Household, the bureaucratic and administrative service, etc), in the middle there were gardens and orchards and in the low part stood the Mosque and the city as such.
Every day over 10,000 workers came to take part in building this marvelous city, many of which had been brought from different part of the Mediterranean.
In the Spanish Middle Ages, Córdoba was an important centre of Jewish culture, especially as from the 11c. The interesting Jewish quarter is still preserved and is full of narrow streets and hidden corners. In Judios (ie, Jews) Street lies the synagogue. Its walls show the laborious plaster work which is characteristic of Mudéjar art.
Christian art begins to flourish in Córdoba after the Reconquest. In 1236, Fernando II gave the order to build fourteen churches, which are Romanesque and Gothic with Mudéjar overtones. Some of these churches are Santa Marina, San Lorenzo, San Miguel, San Nicolás, etc.
The Cathedral, which lies in the centre of the Mosque, was built between 1525 and 1766. It consists of a mixture of styles, with Hispano-Flemish arches and vaults, a Renaissance dome, an early Baroque choir vault and main altar, and 18C mahogany choir stalls.
The Cathedral treasure has many priceless objects from between the 15C and 20C, which largely come from Córdoba workshops. The most spectacular work of art is Enrique de Arfe's monstrance (which was taken out for the first time in a procession on Corpus Christi in 1518).
Another witness of medieval times is the Alcázar de los Reyes Católicos, which was begun as a royal residence for Alfonso XI and is an impressive building with strong walls and four towers. Inside, worthy of special attention are the rooms with their magnificent ogee cross vaults, a splendid collection of Roman mosaics and a number of very well preserved caliphal baths.
Also especially outstanding are the patios (ie, inner courts) and gardens of the Alcázar. One is called the Patio Morisco in the Mudéjar style and the other has many pools and fountains spouting water.
Other Places of Interest
El patio Square, officially protected as a site of interest to history and art. It has a foundation with a colt on top, holding the Córdoba coat of arms (by Michel de Verdiguier, 1557) between its raised forefeet. In the same square stands the "posada" (ie, guest-house) dating from the 14C, which is mentioned by Miguel de Cervantes on several occasions.
The Julio Romero Museum and the Fine Art Museum, which occupy the building of the former La Caridad Hospital. The Museum dedicated to Julio Romero, a painter of Córdoba females, consists of six galleries, where among other the following paintings are shown: "La Chiquita Piconera" (Little Girl selling charcoal), "Narajas y Limones (Oranges and Lemons) and "Ofrenda al Arte de un Torero (A Bullfighter's Offering to Art). The Fine Arts Museum has many works of art from religious buildings and the Córdoba School .
In the north, there is the Sierra full of unrivalled scenery, large estates and hunting grounds for large game ("monterias", ie, a kind of battue), as well as beautiful villages, such as Hornachuelos, Villaviciosa, etc. The city lies between the Sierra and the cultivated land of the Guadalquivir Valley, with its picturesque villages, such as Montoro, which has a 15C Church called San Bartolom another of the 12C, called Santa María de la Mota with Roman and visigothic traces. Almodóvar has an imposing castle of Gothic-Mudéjar desing, which stands on top of a rock formation. Palma de Río: San Francisco Convent, dating from 1518, which is occupied by a hotel. In the south of the valley lies the land with its winegrowing villages, such as Montilla and Moriles, steeped in tradition and history. Baena and its spectacular Holy Week celebrations. Aguilar and its octagonal square. Espejo and its 14C castle.
Even further south, in lower Andalusia, the villages form a community of interest to tourists and are outstanding sites, such as Cabra and Priego de Córdoba, the centre of Córdoba Baroque, with its Parish Church of La Asunción, the Hermitage of Nuestra Señora de las Angustias, the La Villa area of medieval Arab origin, and the 16C El Rey Fountain with 139 pipes.
Other picturesque villages are Zuheros (with Los Murciélagos Cave) and Rute.
Córdoba cooking maintains the tradition of dishes from the different cultures which settled in Córdoba. Recipes from old Arab and Jewish. manuscripts have been saved. Consequently, there is a great variety of dishes, such as 'salmorejo' ( a kind of 'gazpacho', ie, a cold vegetable, especially tomato, soup), lamp with honey, 'flamenquín', 'rabo de toro' (bull's tail), served with regional wines, ie, the Montilla-Moriles varieties, and followed by different sorts of pastries: 'pastel cordobés', 'suspiros de Almanzor', etc.
Cooking based on game is also very varied: boar, rabbit, duck and partridge.
Fiestas, Fairs and Celebrations
The celebrations of Córdoba have a tradition of long standing, beginning by Holy Week, which is officially considered of interest to tourists and during which 32 processions and about 60 platforms with the figures of saints as well as thousands of penitents, called 'nazarenos', fill the city with mysticism and beauty.
May in Córdoba. Many are the squares which are decorated during the celebration of the crosses ( made of flowers) at the beginning of May.
Córdoba 'Paitos' (ie, inner courts) in the first twelve days of May; another celebration officially declared of interest to tourists. In the most traditional areas -ie, El Alcázar Viejo, San Lorenzo, San Austín -the private inner courts of the houses are decorated all over with flower pots and flowers and are open to the public.
The Fair of Nuestra Señora de la Salud (at the end of May), with many attractions, stands full of girls dressed in gypsy or typical Córdoba costumes, men on horseback, etc. The stands are flooded with joy, while wine and dancing play a leading role at the Fair.