The Great Mosque of Cordoba is a unanimously known architectural creation of Medieval Times. With its use complimentary aesthetic elements, this hypostyle mosque amounts to much more than a mere variant of this sort. During the time of the Islamic invasion, all the different ethnic groups adopted their own individual artistic characteristics, which they tried to expand to all the geographic areas that were under their political or religious influence. All of this is evident in the medieval architecture of Spain where we can see how characteristics are present according to the level of influence that a certain group had in a specific geographical area. From the 8th to the 11th Century, the Spanish Islamic architecture suffered some series of changes, thanks to the presence of pre-invasion styles in all the Southern Central area of the Country. With a notable presence of Roman and Visigoth structures especially in Southern Spain, the Muslims decided to take advantage of structures that were already built and in that was the Cordobes, or Cordovan style was created. This style, names after the city of Cordoba became the capital of the caliphate.
In the year 711 AD, Muslims from North Africa historically known as the Moors, invaded the Iberian Peninsula taking control over more than sixty percent of the whole territory. This would not only shape the political map of Spain during the Middle Ages, but it would also shape the cultural and artistic profile of this section of Europe. Before and after the Moorish invaders had come to the Peninsula, Spain was an area where one could find a strong diversity of ethnical groups sharing a common ground. Visigoths, Sueves, Basques, Hispano Romans and Jews all lived together right after the fall of the Roman Empire. With the Islamic Invasion, a new element was added to the already ethnically diverse territory, only this time, the relationship among the different groups would be extremely delicate as a consequence of all the existing religious, cultural and ethnical differences.
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The Great Mosque of Cordoba was built in one year. Made from a variety of materials including stucco, marble and wood. Between the years of 784 and 786 it was built over a Visigoth church. The Great Mosque of Cordoba would receive a series of improvements that gave it a stronger resemblance to the ones built in the East around it’s time. The Mosques founder was Abd al-Rahman I (r.756-788) and in the early stages of the Great Mosque, its rectangular prayer hall consisted of eleven aisles of twelve bays, all of which were at a 90 degree angle to the qibla wall. Doors placed between thick T-shaped piers “countered the thrusts” of the double arcades comprised of horseshoe shaped arches. The horseshoe arch would become a staple characteristic found throughout most of the Visigothic churches in Spain. Adopted by the Muslims, the use of it and classical columns became a common response to the variety of Roman/Byzantine buildings that were found in the Southern part of the Peninsula. The arches alternate red and white colouring using red brick and white stone voussoirs supporting the flat wooden roofs of the aisles. The effects of this were prominent and add the appearance of greater height to the interior.
Expansions made were due to each successors individual desire to add to the mosque. Accompaniments to the prayer hall from the dates of 832 thru to 848 included 8 more bays in the direction of the qibla. Ordered by Abd al-Rahman II (r.833-52) this addition matched that of the older section for the exception that unlike the ones used by Abd er-Raham I were Visigoth and Roman salvaged and the new ones followed classic Roman models. This extensionis attributed to his firm faithfulness to Malikism and his denial of allowing more than one congregational Friday assembly in Cordoba.
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Abd er-Rahman III ordered the erection of a minaret in the Mosque’s courtyard that stood 111 feet tall. The enclosed courtyard is a traditional feature of Umayyad architecture. It consisted of three tiers of paired windows and access ramps. Southern expansions to the mosque by Halam III included eight bays, a double qibla wall, stone vaults, 3 of which were in a T-shaped pattern over the Maqsura. The most important expansion of the Mosque happened by the orders of Al Hakam. With the inherited funds, Al Hakam added a new dimension of detail to the structure by going beyond an intricate interior. The Interior expansion of 12 bays extends the mosques previous “architectural vocabulary”, but brings it to a new level of detail. Hakam shares the same reason for expansion as Abd al-Rahman.
The most prolific expansion of the mosque happened in the mid tenth century during the reign of al-Hakam II (r. 961-976).
It was during this time when the Umayyad caliphate was revitalized and was standing at the elevated to the height of it’s power. Expansions to the mosque included it’s 4 ribbed domes which rise “above the bays on either side and in front of the mihrab and in the middle of the mosque”. The most extravagant interior decoration is found in the maqsura. The maqsura is generously adorned with engraved marble, stucco, and mosaics. These frame the mihrab, the two doors that border it and also cover the interiors of the maqsura’s three domes. Over the Course of it’s first 200 years, the mosque embodies a fusion that peaked under his reign. Stemming from the circumstance of the freshly re-established Umayyad caliphate, the mosque’s dynastic distinctiveness was united with it’s “new caliphal one by rewriting the past from the vantage point of the present”. By showing various aspects of Umayyad history, it exceeded aasociations from any separate monuments. This expansion holds a historical position as it shows completion of the work done to enhance the image of the caliphate and to also “fulfill caliphate prerogative”.
The last of the reforms, including the completion of the outer naves were completed by Al-Mansur Ibn Abi Aamir in DATE?.The exterior of the Great Mosque of Cordoba contrasts greatly with that of it’s interior. Appearing rough and battered, it is obvious that time has taken it’s toll seen from this speedier decay to weathering. Links between exterior and interior decoration are rather apparent and the intricately carved details are still fairly visible.
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During the time of the Islamic invasion, all the different ethnic groups adopted their own individual artistic characteristics, which they tried to expand to all the geographic areas that were under their political or religious influence. We can say that the Islamic invasion to the Iberian Peninsula generated a culture clash with other existing cultures that inhabited Spain, and for that reason a cultural, political and religious competition was generated among these groups that had their merging as a consequence. The history of the Iberian Peninsula is comes to life through the Mosque from the Islamic invasion thru to the following Ummayad periods and beyond. When dealing with matters of architecture, there is an inevitable association between a structure’s size and its importance. The more grand the structure, the more attention is called to it and so forth. It’s gradual additions opened doors for larger religious congregations as well as re-establishing and re-iterating the historical importance of the Umayyads. We can see how Spain during the Middle Ages shared a variety of architecture and styles throughout the Iberian Peninsula.