History of Cordoba Mosque | San Vicente Basilica to The Great Mosque to Renaissance Cathedral

Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, also known as the Great Mosque of Cordoba or Mezquita de Cordoba, is an Islamic mosque that was converted into a Christian cathedral in the 13th century. It was originally built in 785 CE by Abd ar-Rahman and is regarded as an important monument of Islamic architecture. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Spain. 

Timeline: Mosque-Cathedral Of Cordoba

  • Mid 6th Century: In the mid-6th century, it was the site of the San Vicente Basilica with Lampadio, Agapio, and Eleuterio as the Bishops.
  • 786-788: A Muslim chapel was built in a traditional Basilica layout and structured into 11 naves.
  • 788: The first minaret in all of al-Andalus was built this year. 
  • 833-848: Due to the population growth, the mosque was expanded, with eight naves added to the south.
  • 951-952: A new minaret, reaching 47 meters in height, was built and served as an example for minarets that were built in Marrakesh, Rabat, and Seville. 
  • 962-966: The prayer hall was enlarged, and the Caliphate of Cordoba constructed a new Masqurah and Qibla. 
  • 991-994: The chapel was extended towards the east rather than the south since the mosque was too close to the river. 
  • 1146: Don Raimundo, the archbishop of Toledo, and King Alfonso VII celebrated Holy Mass for the first time in the mosque. 
  • 1236: This was the second dedication to a catholic church when the consecration to Catholic worship took place. 
  • 1371: The Royal Chapel was completed with a rectangular appearance by Enrique II and housed the tombs of Alfonso XI and Fernando IV.
  • 1489: The first Christian work on the building was a Gothic nave erected facing east and covered with a gabled wooden frame. 
  • 1523: Work was done on the transept by Herman Ruiz I under the orders of Bishop Alonso Manrique. 
  • 1593: Hernan Ruiz III started the first phase of the construction of the Bell Tower and enveloped the old minaret, which was poorly maintained in a thick wall.
  • 1597: Bishop Francisco de Reinoso ordered the construction of a courtyard garden arranged in 3 squares with paths in between them. 
  • 1599-1607: Juan de Ochoa, a master builder, covered the dome of the transept with an oval choir vault. 
  • 1618: Work on the Main Altarpiece started this year under Bishop Diego de Mardones, which was finally completed in 1713.
  • 1748: Work on one of the best choir stalls in all of Spain began under the master sculptor Pedro Duque Cornejo.
  • 1816: Particio Furriel restored the mosaics of the Mihrab, which were hidden under the altarpiece of the old San Pedro chapel. 
  • 1879-1923: Velazquez Bosco took on the task of recovering the Islamic legacy of the monument and dismantled the Baroque vault and altarpieces of the Villaviciosa chapel. 
  • 1882: Under the Royal Order of 1992, the Holy Church Cathedral of Cordoba was declared a National Monument, owing to its artistic and historical importance. 
  • 1931-1936: Archaeological excavations of the original mosque and the Patio de los Naranjos were conducted by Felix Gernandez.
  • 1984: UNESCO declared the Cordoba Mosque-Cathedral a World Heritage Site in 1984. 
  • 1991: Restoration work started on the tower of the Mezquita de Cordoba, which still held the remains of the old minaret. The work was finally completed in 2014 and was opened to tourists.
  • 2006-2009: Restoration work took place on the vault interiors, choir ceiling, vault arches, and walls. 
  • 2014: UNESCO ratified its World Heritage Site tag and awarded the Mezquita de Cordoba the ‘Site of Outstanding Universal Value.’ 

Mosque-Cathedral Of Cordoba History: Origins & Construction

Cordoba Mosque History

Calimed To Be Roman Temple Originally

The site of the Mezquita de Cordoba was originally home to a Roman Temple. Historians believe that it was a place of worship for the Roman god, Janus.

However, recently, these claims have been called speculation owing to a misunderstanding of Roman milestones found nearby. The claims were also dismissed by Robert Knapp, in his overview of Roman-era Cordoba.

Codoba Mosque History

Construction of Basilica of San Vicente

When the Visigoths invaded the area in the year 572, they seized Cordoba, and built a church here. When the Moors conquered Andaluisa in 711 from the Christians, the church was divided into two halves and was used as a place of worship by both Christians and Muslims. 

In 784, however, the church was destroyed under the orders of Emir Abd al-Rahman, and work began on a great mosque. 

Cordoba Mosque History

Destruction of Church and Building of the Great Mosque

Emr al-Rahman ordered the destruction of the church and began work on a great mosque. Construction took over 200 years, and it was finally completed in 987. An outer nave and courtyard were added, making it the second-largest mosque in the Islamic kingdom, after the Kaaba in Arabia. 

The Hypostyle Hall was a courtyard with a fountain at its center, an orange grove, and a minaret that is now present within a tapered bell tower. The first expansion was by Abd ar-Rahman II between 833 and 848. Abd ar-Rahman III went on to expand the north side between 951 and 952. Al-Hakam II expanded the south side in 961, and finally, Al-Mansur expanded the eastern side between 987 and 988.  He extended the hall about 45 meters to the south and added 12 more arches or bay, repeating the double-tiered arches of the original design, maintaining uniformity.

The last expansion work under the Muslim rule was under Al-Mansur who extended the mosque laterally towards the east, extending both the courtyard and the prayer hall.

Cordoba Mosque History

Conversion To Cathedral (1236)

Cordoba was recaptured by the Christians in 1236. Immediately, King Ferdinand III ordered the lanterns of the mosque to be returned to Santiago de Compostela, which was converted back to the original bells. 

The mosque was again converted into a church, although the mosque was never demolished. More alterations were made over the years, which resulted in a hybrid structure.

With the passage of time, several chapels were created around the internal structure of the building over, with most of the funerary chapels being built through private patronage. The Chapel of San Felipe and Santiago, in 1258 is the first precisely-recorded chapel known to be built along the west wall of the compound.

The Villaviciosa and Royal Chapels were some additions in the 13th century and a Renaissance nave in the 16th century by Charles V.  A more significant modification was carried out to the Villaviciosa Chapel in the late 15th century by replacing the mosque arches with Gothic arches.

Alterations & Restorations

The most significant alteration of the structure was the construction of a Renaissance transept and nave in 1523. Charles V gave permission for the project to proceed, following opposition from the city council of Cordoba. 

In 1589, a strong earthquake or storm caused damage to the minaret, which then served as a bell tower. The old minaret was then reinforced by building a Renaissance-style bell tower around it.  

Numerous modern restoration work was done, starting from 1816, with the restoration of the original mihrab. Restoration of the bell tower was started in 1991 and completed in 2014. The Renaissance choir and transept of the cathedral were restored between 2006 and 2009. 

Cordoba Mosque Tickets & Tours

Córdoba Cathedral-Mosque Skip-the-Line Tickets
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Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba E-tickets with Audio Guide and City Audio Tour
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Skip-the-Line Guided Tour of Córdoba Cathedral-Mosque
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Córdoba Mosque & Jewish Quarter Guided Tour
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Skip-the-Line Guided Tour of Córdoba Cathedral-Mosque, Alcázar & Jewish Quarter
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Know More About The Mosque-Cathedral Of Cordoba History

Q. When was the Mosque-Cathedral Of Cordoba built?

A. The Mosque-Cathedral Of Cordoba was built in 785 CE by Abd ar-Rahman. Find out more information about the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba on our history page.

Q. What are the other names of the Mosque-Cathedral Of Cordoba?

A. According to history, the other names of the Mosque-Cathedral Of Cordoba are Mezquita de Cordoba, the Great Mosque Of Cordoba, and the Cathedral of our Lady of the Assumption. 

Q. When was the Mosque-Cathedral Of Cordoba converted into a cathedral?

A. According to history, the Mosque-Cathedral Of Cordoba was first converted into a cathedral in 1236.

Q. What led to the conversion of the Mosque-Cathedral Of Cordoba?

A. Following the conquest of Cordoba by the Christians in 1236, the mosque went on to be slowly converted into a cathedral. 

Q. What are the claims regarding a Roman temple in the Mosque-Cathedral Of Cordoba?

A. It is believed that a Roman Temple dedicated to Janus was present on the site of the Mosque-Cathedral Of Cordoba. 

Q. What major alterations were made to the Mosque-Cathedral Of Cordoba after conversion?

A. After conversion to a church, a Renaissance transept and nave were added in 1523 to the Mosque-Cathedral Of Cordoba.

Q. Is there any remains of the old mosque at the site of the Great Mosque Of Cordoba?

A. Yes, remains of the original Great Mosque of Cordoba are still present at the site. 

Q. When was the Mosque-Cathedral Of Cordoba declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO?

A. The Mosque-Cathedral Of Cordoba was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984.

Q. Is the Mosque-Cathedral Of Cordoba worth visiting?

A. Yes, the Mosque-Cathedral Of Cordoba is worth visiting. It is considered one of the greatest examples of Islamic architecture in the world. 

Q. Are the Mosque-Cathedral Of Cordoba tickets available online?

A. Yes, Mosque-Cathedral Of Cordoba tickets can be purchased online.