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Title: Cordova; A city of the Moors
Author: Calvert, Albert Frederick, Gallichan, Walter M. (Walter Matthew)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                          THE SPANISH SERIES


                          THE SPANISH SERIES

                     _EDITED BY ALBERT F. CALVERT_

                            THE PRADO
                            THE ESCORIAL
                            SPANISH ARMS AND ARMOUR

                          _In preparation--_

                            GRANADA AND ALHAMBRA
                            ROYAL PALACES OF SPAIN
                            LEON, BURGOS, AND SALAMANCA
                            VALLADOLID, OVIEDO, SEGOVIA,
                              ZAMORA, AVILA, AND ZARAGOZA


                        A CITY OF THE MOORS BY
                         ALBERT F. CALVERT AND
                          WALTER M. GALLICHAN
                        WITH 160 ILLUSTRATIONS


        Edinburgh: T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to His Majesty


                        _THE DUKE OF SOTOMAYOR_

        _Lord High Chamberlain to H.M. the King of Spain, etc._

_My dear Duke,_

_Some of the pleasantest of my many pleasant memories of Spain are
associated with, as indeed they were derived from, the sympathy you have
displayed in my work and the great kindness I ever received from the
Duchess of Sotomayor and yourself. For these, I hope, sufficient
reasons--not as one who seeks to liquidate a heavy debt of hospitality,
but rather rejoices in his obligations--I beg you to accept this
dedication and permit me to associate your illustrious name with this
modest volume._

                                _I am,

                             My dear Duke,

                    Your obliged and ever grateful,

                          ALBERT F. CALVERT._


It would be unnecessary to enlarge upon the reasons for including a
study of Cordova in this series of Spanish Handbooks: indeed a series of
this description would be incomplete without it. The beautiful,
powerful, and wise Cordova,--‘the City of Cities,’ ‘the Pearl of the
West,’ ‘the Bride of Andalus,’ as the Arabian poets have variously named
it,--the ancient capital of Mohammedan Spain, is still one of the most
curious and fascinating monuments of this singularly interesting

Much water has flowed under the sixteen arches of the bridge which spans
the Guadalquivir since ‘Cordova was to Andalus what the head is to the
body, or what the breast is to the loin’; the Moorish city of the thirty
suburbs and three thousand mosques, whose fame once obscured the glory
of ancient Damascus, is no longer the centre of European culture. ‘The
brightest splendour of the world’ has been lost in centuries of neglect
and decay, and the new light of a modern civilisation has not shone
upon the remains of its mediæval grandeur.

But the Cordova of the great Khalif is still the most African city in
Spain; its mosque remains to give us a clearer and fuller idea of the
power and magnificence of the Moors than anything else in the Peninsula,
not excepting even the Alhambra; and in its narrow, uneven streets and
mysterious, silent _patios_, in the gold and crimson of its fragrant
gardens, the student and the artist may find unending interest and

In selecting the illustrations for this book, the authors have
endeavoured to provide both for the antiquary and the lover of the
beautiful; for those whose acquaintance with Spain must be made through
the medium of the printed page, and for those more fortunate readers who
will, we hope, find this book a memento of their wanderings in

                                                     ALBERT F. CALVERT.
                                                   WALTER M. GALLICHAN.


CHAP.                                                               PAGE

   I. THE BRIDE OF ANDALUS                                             1

  II. THE MOORISH CAPTURE                                             13

 III. THE OMEYYAD DYNASTY                                             23

  IV. THE BUILDING OF THE MOSQUE                                      42

   V. IN THE COURT OF ORANGES                                         57

  VI. THE SPLENDOURS OF THE MOSQUE                                    65

 VII. THE CATHEDRAL AND CHURCHES                                      75


  IX. ILLUSTRIOUS NATIVES OF CORDOVA                                  83

APPENDIX I.--THE GREAT MOSQUE OF CORDOVA                              96

APPENDIX II.--CORDOVA                                                100


                                                                PLATE NO.

View of the City and the Bridge south of the Guadalquivir,             1

The Bridge,                                                            2

View of Mosque and Bridge,                                             3

The Iron Mill on the Guadalquivir,                                     4

Promenade of ‘Grand Capitaine,’                                        5

Market Street, or Calle de la Feria,                                   6

Plaza del Triunfo and exterior of the Mosque,                          7

Entrance Gate of the City, the Column of Triumph, and
the Mosque from the Bridge,                                            8

The Column of Triumph,                                                 9

Ancient Arab Tower, now the Church of St. Nicholas de
la Villa,                                                             10

The Tower of San Nicolas,                                             11

Tower of the Cathedral and Patio de Los Naranjos,                     12

View of the Patio de Los Naranjos,                                    13

The Tower of the Cathedral,                                           14

Entrance to the City from the Bridge,                                 15

Public Fountain in the Patio de Los Naranjos,                         16

Women at the Spring,                                                  17

Well in the Patio de Los Naranjos,                                    18

Peasant with his Donkey,                                              19

A Water-Carrier,                                                      20

The Poor Man’s Meal,                                                  21

Muleteers,                                                            22

A Gardener,                                                           23

Girl with a Guitar,                                                   24

A Room in the Provincial Museum: View of the Roman
and Visigoth Section,                                                 25

A Room in the Provincial Museum: View of the Arab
Section,                                                              26

Door of the House of the Innocents,                                   27

The Door of Don Jerónimo Páez,                                        28

The Door of the Foundling Hospital,                                   29

The Tower of Carrahoe,                                                30

Porch of St. Paul,                                                    31

Ancient Arab Walls,                                                   32

Mosaics of the Four Seasons in the House of S.S. Lugue,
Plaza de la Compania,                                                 33

Architectural Parts of the Catholic Basilicas,                        34

Capitals and Fragments of Ornamentation in the Mosque,                35

Architectural Parts of the Catholic Basilicas and other
constructions,                                                        36

Capitals of the Catholic Basilicas preserved in the Mosque,
now the Cathedral,                                                    37

Fragments of the Catholic Basilicas preserved in the
Mosque, now the Cathedral,                                            38

General View of the Choir and High Altar,                             39

Pulpit and Steps of the High Altar,                                   40

Choir Stalls in the Mosque or Cathedral,                              41

Left Side of the Choir Stalls,                                        42

General View of the Choir in the Mosque, or Cathedral,                43

The Bishop’s Stall in the Choir of the Mosque, or Cathedral,          44

Central Nave in the Cathedral,                                        45

Central Nave in the Cathedral,                                        46

Central Nave in the Cathedral,                                        47

Plan of the Mosque in the time of the Arabs,                          48

Plan of the Mosque at the present time,                               49

The Bishop’s Gate,                                                    50

Entrance to the Mosque, called the Gate of Camónigos,                 51

The Tower of La Mala Muerte,                                          52

The Cathedral: View of the Transverse Nave,                           53

North Angle of the Chapel of Villaviciosa,                            54

The Central Nave of the Mosque,                                       55

The Gate of Pardon,                                                   56

The Gate of Pardon,                                                   57

The Gate of Pardon,                                                   58

The Gate of Pardon,                                                   59

Knocker on the Gate of Pardon,                                        60

Principal Nave and Mih-rab of the Mosque,                             61

Entrance to the Chapel of the Mih-rab,                                62

Interior View of the Mosque (from a drawing),                         63

General View of the Interior of the Mosque,                           64

Interior of the Mosque,                                               65

Interior of the Cathedral,                                            66

Interior of the Mosque,                                               67

Interior of the Cathedral,                                            68

General View of the Chapel of Villaviciosa,                           69

Interior of the Mosque,                                               70

Interior of the Mosque,                                               71

Lateral Door of the Mosque,                                           72

The Chapel of Villaviciosa in the Mosque,                             73

Exterior of the Mosque,                                               74

The Mosque--Moorish Portal on the North Side, built
under Hakem III., 988-1001,                                           75

Chapel of Trastamara, south side,                                     76

General View of the Chapel of the Mih-rab,                            77

Façade and Gate of Almanzor,                                          78

The Mosque--Elevation of the Gate of the Sanctuary of
the Koran,                                                            79

Gate corresponding to the Buildings of Al-Hakem II.,                  80

Portal of the Mih-rab,                                                81

Arcade of the Entrance to the Vestibule of the Mih-rab,               82

The Maksurrah (now the Villaviciosa Chapel), left side,               83

Right Lateral Portal, within the Precinct of the Maksurrah,           84

Detail of the Hall of Chocolate,                                      85

Exterior of the Chapel of the Mih-rab,                                86

Detail, Arches of the Mih-rab,                                        87

Detail in the Chapel of the Maksurrah,                                88

Mosaic Decoration of the Sanctuary,                                   89

General View of the Interior of the Chapel of the Maksurrah
and St. Ferdinand,                                                    90

Detail near the Mih-rab,                                              91

Detail of the Interior of the Mih-rab,                                92

Vertical Section of the Dome and Cupola of the Mih-rab,               93

Detail of the Trastamara Chapel,                                      94

Detail of the Higher Part and Roof of the Chapel of St.
Ferdinand,                                                            95

Sections of the Mosque,                                               96

Sections of the Mosque and Cathedral,                                 97

Detail in the Chapel of Trastamara, south side,                       98

Detail in the Angle of the Arch of the Mih-rab, left side,            99

Detail in the Angle of the Arch of the Mih-rab, right side,          100

Detail of the Gate of the Mosque,                                    101

Kufic Inscription of the time of the Khalifate, found in an
Excavation,                                                          102

The Mosque. Kufic Inscription in the Palace,                         103

Arabian Inscriptions,                                                104

Arabian Inscriptions,                                                105

Basement Panel of the Façade of the Mih-rab,                         106

Marble Socle in the Mih-rab,                                         107

Exterior of the Chapel of San Pedro, north side, in the
Mosque,                                                              108

A Gate on one of the lateral sides,                                  109

A Kufic Inscription on the additions made to the Mosque
by order of the Khalif Al-Hakem,                                     110

A Kufic Inscription on the additions made to the Mosque
by order of the Khalif Al-Hakem,                                     111

Capitals. Entrance Arch,                                             112

Detail of a Frieze,                                                  113

Detail of a Cornice,                                                 114

Detail of a Cornice,                                                 115

Eastern Side of the Exterior of the Mosque and Detail,               116

Plan of the Arch and Cupola of the Mih-rab,                          117

Detail of the Portals of the Maksurrah,                              118

Section and Details of the Mih-rab of the Mosque,                    119

Details of the Cupola of the Vestibule of the Mih-rab,               120

The Gate of Pardon                                                   121

The Bishop’s Gate                                                    121

The Mosque.    Detail of the Trastamara Chapel,                      122

The Mosque. The Gate of the Sultan,                                  122

The Mosque. Interior of the Mih-rab,                                 123

The Mosque. Arab Arcade above the First Mih-rab,                     123

Interior of the Mosque,                                              124

Interior of the Chapel of San Fernando,                              125

Gate of the Cathedral,                                               126

Principal Entrance to the Mosque,                                    127

The Mosque. Trastamara Chapel, south side,                           128

Eastern Façade of the Mosque,                                        129

Patio de los Naranjos,                                               130

Calle del Cardinal Herrero,                                          131

Tower of the Cathedral,                                              132

The Mosque. Pulpit of the Angel,                                     133

The Mosque. Pulpit of the Bull,                                      134

Cathedral. Choir Stalls,                                             135

Cathedral. Principal Nave,                                           136

Gate of St. Catharine,                                               137

Altar of San Rafael,                                                 138

The House of Páez,                                                   139

General View of the Roman Bridge and Calahorra over the
Guadalquivir, taken from the Arab Mill,                              140

Calahorra Castle,                                                    141

General View of the Roman Castle of the Calahorra,                   142

Entrance Gate to the Roman Bridge,                                   143

Almodóvar Gate,                                                      144

The Mills,                                                           145

General View and Roman Bridge over the Guadalquivir,                 146

Grating and Court of a Private House,                                147

Avenue of the Grand Captain,                                         148

District and Church of San Lorenzo,                                  149

General View of the Bank and the Roman Bridge over the
Guadalquivir,                                                        150

Interior of the Plaza de Toros,                                      151

Horticultural Gardens,                                               152

The Bank of the Guadalquivir from the Bridge,                        153

General View of Cordova,                                             154

Courtyard of an Inn,                                                 155

A Street and Country Types,                                          156

A Street and Country Types,                                          157

Ancient Receptacle for Water of Medina Az-Zahira,
Tenth Century,                                                       158

Plan of Cordova,                                                     159

Many of the photographs included in this volume, other than those taken
by myself, were supplied by Messrs. Rafael Garzon of Granada, Senan and
Gonzalez of Granada, Hauser and Menet of Madrid, Ernst Wasmuth of
Berlin, publisher of Uhde’s _Baudenkmaeler in Spanien und Portugal_, and
Eugen Twietmeyer of Leipzig, publisher of Junghändel’s _Die Baukunst
Spaniens_, and I take this opportunity of acknowledging their kind
permission to reproduce them in this volume.

                                                               A. F. C.




An impression of colour, heat, and somnolence grows upon the stranger as
he rambles through the bright alleys and sunlit plazas of Cordova. He
may be neither painter, poet, nor antiquary; yet the opulence of vivid,
almost garish tones, the romance that lingers about the Moorish
courtyards and the perfumed gardens, and the surviving, pervasive
suggestion of age, will stimulate his senses and imagination. For one
who is capable of deeper and more subtle impressions, the old city will
seem as a consummation of desire and a realisation of fanciful dreams.
The spell of Orientalism will hold him; the splendours of _The Arabian
Nights_ will be brought before his vision; and he will conjure shapes of
sultan, wizard, genii, and sage, and see the lovely retinue of fair
women within the palaces of the swarthy potentates.

Music of reed and string will delight his ears; and loitering by the
walls, on the banks of the swirling Guadalquivir, he will hear the
selfsame song of the bulbul which brought joy and sadness to dark,
inscrutable eyes in olden days. He will watch the blue shadows of mosque
and tower, and see the sun lavish gold on roof and turret, while his eye
will be dazzled by the hues of balconies, by the hot geranium, the gay
dabs of drying garments, hanging like flags against the ardent sapphire
of the Andalusian sky.

Framed in the arch of a city gateway, he will see a lovely vista of
vineyard, olive-crowned hillock, and meditative, grey sierra, rising to
the blue.

He will pace the silent square at night, and discourse with Seneca. His
ears will drink in the stoic counsels of Lucan, and his brain will
grapple with the problems laid down by the sagacious Averroes. He will
hear the Moslem call to prayer, and stand to gaze upon the band of the
devout filing into the Mezquita.

Clamours of battle will assail him, the clash of sword and shield will
startle his slumber, and the night will tremble with the triumphant roar
of the fierce, invading Goths. And in hours, fragrant with the scent of
flowers--placid in contemplation of the simple happiness of Cordova’s
youths and maidens in the Court of Oranges--he will weave romances of
the ancient life, when the town was the seat of the cultured, the home
of the arts, and the sanctuary of the pious.

Doubtless the Cordova of to-day subsists like other towns upon the
industry and the commercial energy of its inhabitants. There are shops
and hotels in the streets; there are signs of handicrafts and of common
daily employments. But there is no bustle, no indication of a strenuous
existence for the people, and the siesta is long and undisturbed. There
is a market, but its produce and merchandise do not suggest the wealth
and commerce of earlier days. The _consumo_, or customs officer, levies
his tax upon almost everything which the hard-faring peasants bring into
the town, and we have seen a conflict between one of these officials and
a countryman over a single live pigeon. The peasant questioned the tax,
and the officer explained the case with the flat of his sword-blade.
This incident is characteristic of Andalusia, and perhaps it may throw a
light upon the discontent which is apt, at times, to manifest itself
violently among the agricultural population of Spain.

Certainly there are days of markets and ferias when Cordova arouses
itself, and trains of mules and asses creep into the place, and flocks
may be seen in the streets. Wine, oil, and fruit are produced in the
environs, and grain-crops flourish on the plain. In mediæval times
Cordova was famed for its mart, where silk and grain were sold. The
district still bears repute for its horse-breeding, but the stock has
suffered deterioration through injudicious selection. An anonymous
American writer, who was here in 1831, speaks of the horses of Cordova
as the finest in Spain, and asserts that they are the descendants of the
pure Arabian breed. One still notes many good horses. It is said that
the water from the Guadalquivir is as nourishing for horses as is the
barley of certain districts of Spain.

The banishment of the Moors hastened the decay of Cordova. For a period
the region was almost stripped of its population, and grass grew in the
plazas and patios of the town. To-day the inhabitants number about fifty
thousand, and though Cordova wears an air of lethargy, the grass does
not spring up in the streets. There seems to be just enough human
activity to keep the town alive, and it is not wholly, as Henry O’Shea
described it, ‘a city of the dead.’ A certain measure of prosperity is
assured for Cordova by the attraction of its antiquity, which brings
strangers from many lands to visit the magnificent Mezquita.

The Spaniard is not a passionate enthusiast of modernity. He is
conservative, and zealous and proud of his ancient towns, and it is
quite probable that the bulk of the natives of Cordova prefer that the
atmosphere of the place shall remain mediæval. And we who resort to
Cordova to reflect upon its past grandeur, and to imbue ourselves with
the spirit of the Moorish days, are assuredly satisfied that it has not
been modernised and marred during the years that have intervened between
the great vandalism after the expulsion of the Arabs and the present
time. We are glad to think that all which remains of majesty and beauty
is now carefully cherished and respected.

Toledo and Avila, both Moorish towns, display an austerity fascinating
by reason of its very grimness. Cordova is beautiful by comparison,
partly on account of its situation in a fertile district, and partly
because its houses are white flower-decked, and cheerful in aspect. It
is more voluptuous than these fortified towns of Castile. The climate is
southern, the air softer, and the buildings are less stern in colouring
and less menacing in appearance. In Cordova, flowery courts invite you
with a smile; in Toledo, frowning gates and barred doors forbid your
entrance. Toledo reminds us that the Moors were warriors and conquerors,
bent upon aggression and the extension of territory; in Cordova one
thinks of the race as sages, artists, worshippers, poets, and lovers.
The palm-trees planted by Abd-er-Rahman, ‘The Servant of the Merciful
God,’ the tropical flowers and fruits, the mosque, and the fountains,
give impress of the milder, pacific, quietly joyous life of the Moors.
We recall the words of the wise ruler: ‘Beautiful palm-tree! thou art,
like me, a stranger in this land; but thy roots find a friendly and a
fertile soil, thy head rises into a genial atmosphere, and the balmy
west breathes kindly among thy branches.’

By these signs we learn to love Cordova as the sanctuary of learning and
devotion rather than as the citadel of the valiant. It is essentially
Oriental. Look at the streets--narrow, crooked, and shady, for, having
no horse vehicles, the Arabs had no need for wider thoroughfares. The
roofs of the houses project and screen the alleys from the sun. Cordova
is clean and bright in contrast to Toledo. The streets are free from
garbage; the interiors of the houses are frequently cleansed, and
flowers are grown by rich and poor. Fruits are cultivated in and around
the town, and one may pluck the fig, orange, lemon, date, peach, plum,
pomegranate, strawberry, and almond.

Standing on the massive bridge which spans the Guadalquivir, one looks
upon the mosque, the city walls, and towers of churches. The Campo de la
Verdad forms a broad promontory washed by the river, and we see quaint
Morisco water-mills, and the lever nets of fishermen. There are
seventeen arches to the bridge, which is of Moorish design, standing
upon piles constructed by the Romans. In the distance rises the range of
the Sierra Morena, a savage wilderness of rock, ravine, and crag,
haunted by the boar, deer, and lynx. Winding through rich meadowland,
the Guadalquivir flows, now in swift shallows, and then in slow deeps,
which from certain points of view resemble landlocked pools. The river
is wide, but not of great depth. Its flood is stained brown from the
soil through which it flows, and at times, when the mountains pay their
tribute of swollen streams, the Guadalquivir speeds in a turbid current,
filling its banks to the brim.

There is a lonely majesty about this tawny river which for many leagues
of its course flows through a desolate, deserted plain. It has but few
trees upon its banks; but here and there are stretches of brushwood
tenanted by nightingales. The stork visits the silent reaches to fish
for eels. Upon its brown banks grows the cold grey cactus. The river
breeds barbel, tench, and big eels, and in the summer shad ascend from
the sea.

In Roman times the Guadalquivir was navigable as far as Cordova, but
to-day the channels have silted up. A few salt pools in the plains show
that the sea once covered large tracts of this part of Andalusia. The
river is now tidal for some miles above Seville, and ships of heavy
tonnage can reach that port. In the middle and upper reaches the river
is unfrequented; it waters grassy wastes and fertile vegas, and murmurs
by groves of olives in its course by Andujar and Cordova.

Antillon, a Spanish writer, accuses the Cordovese of ignorance and
coarse manners. We encountered neither of these qualities during our
stay in the old town. Cordova has its mendicants, whose eyes are keen
for the advent of visitors, and the boys are somewhat troublesome in
their voluntary capacity as guides to the sights of the place. But the
natives of Cordova are sedate, picturesque folk, showing no discourtesy
to the stranger, but rather a disposition to assist him.

There are three principal hostelries--the Suiza and the Oriente are the
visitors’ houses; but those who desire a purely Spanish environment may
find quarters at the little Victoria, which has a very charming patio,
gay with flowers. There are several good cafés. For amusement there is
the Grand Teatro, a large house, in which we saw _The Barber of Seville_
performed. There is, of course, a bull-ring, the Plaza de Toros of every
town in Spain. The chief fights are held during the ferias of May and

But Cordova is the town of dreams, memories, and meditations rather than
of exuberant gaiety. It is a Mecca of the artistic and the studious. For
garish pleasure, sparkling society, and excitement one must go to
Seville, Malaga, or Cadiz. There is a serene solemnity in Cordova,
though it is by no means a gloomy city. The mosque is the attraction and
the wonder of the city, and sacred temples do not dispose to hilarity.
Cordova is eloquent of the gorgeous, heroic past, and its stones contain
sermons upon human destiny and the insecurity of empires. It is a
garden city, antiquated, improgressive, tenacious of the ancient spirit,
and abounding in beauty of form and colour.

Cordova contains only the remnants of its pristine magnificence, but
these are marvellous and precious. The city once boasted of fifty
thousand resplendent palaces, and a hundred thousand inferior houses.
Its mosques numbered seven hundred, and the cleanly Moors built nine
hundred public baths. The city stretched for ten miles along the banks
of the Guadalquivir, flanked with walls, battlements, and towers, and
approached by guarded gates. The common folk spoke in phrases of poetry;
there were no illiterates. Art in every branch flourished in the city;
there were hosts of craftsmen working in brass, gold, and clay. The
libraries were huge, and hither came men of science, philosophers,
poets, and students of all subjects to glean from the store of the
world’s accumulated thought.

Throughout Europe the mention of Cordova brought yearning to the hearts
of the cultured and studious, and men suffered hardship and stress to
pay pilgrimages to this source of learning. Many who journeyed hither
echoed the words of Ibn Sareh, the poet, which he uttered upon entering
the seat of wisdom: ‘God be praised; I am in Cordova, the abode of
science, the throne of the Sultans!’ Seville was ‘the gem,’ ‘the pearl’
of Andalusia; Cordova was called ‘the Bride.’ El-Makkari, the Moorish
chronicler, rehearses many of the poetical tributes paid by Moslem
writers to the splendid city. Setting forth the culture of the city, he
adds, in one place: ‘The Cordovans were further celebrated for the
elegance and richness of their dress, their attention to religious
duties, their strict observance of the hours of prayer, the high respect
and veneration in which they held their mosque, their aversion to wine
and their destruction of wine-vases wherever they found any, their
abhorrence of every illicit practice, their glory in nobility of descent
and military enterprise, and their success in every department of the

Such were the inhabitants of Cordova at the time when the city was the
great capital of the Mohammedan empire. Seville and Toledo yielded
pre-eminence to Cordova, and men spoke in veneration of its four great
wonders: the immense and gorgeous mosque, the bridge over the
Guadalquivir, the city of Ez-Zahra, situated in the suburbs, and the
sciences which were studied in the colleges.

When we read the ancient annals and grow absorbed by the story of
Cordova’s past, we can scarcely realise that the town and its inmates
were real things. The place and the people seem to belong to the realm
of fairy romance; the city seems one of dreams, and the natives pass as
in a pageant of the imagination. And yet we may enter the sacred
mih-rab, commune with the ghosts of warrior and philosopher, and stand
where Tarik stood when he wrested the prized capital from the Goths.

Tangible evidence of a superb civilisation surrounds us in Cordova. We
see examples of early Moorish architecture brought to its highest
artistic manifestation in the mosque. We listen in vain for the voices
of teachers, the song of the singers and poets, and the call of the
muezzin to devotion; but we tread in the footsteps of the long-vanished
Moor, and read his story in the noble lines, chaste embellishments, and
gorgeous details which his skilful hands produced.



Probably a city of the Carthaginians once stood upon the ground now
covered by Cordova. Phœnicians, Greeks, Trojans, and Tyrians battled in
their day for the rich spoil of Spain, and the armies of Carthage
ravaged the whole of the country. Rome wrought the downfall of the
Carthaginian dominion in Bœtica (Andalusia) and Lusitania (Spain). In
A.D. 205 the Romans began to lay hands on the Iberian Peninsula, and
after long strife they conquered all the land save the territory of the
indomitable Basques of the rocky north.

At Corduba (Cordova) the Romans established a capital of Hispania
Ulterior, and the city was one of importance and prosperity. Under Cæsar
it became the chief town of Bœtica. According to Plutarch, the
government of Spain was given to Julius Cæsar after his prætorship, and
he ruled firmly and justly over Portugal and Andalusia. The conquering
emperor resided in Corduba, and it was here that he was first attacked
with epilepsy.

Beneath the rule of Rome Andalusia prospered. Roads, bridges, and
aqueducts were constructed; cities were enlarged and founded, industries
were developed, and the wealth of the country increased. This spell of
peace and progress was broken by the conflict between Cæsar and Pompey,
and Spain was the scene of some of their fiercest battles. With the
decay of Roman greatness and valour, Bœtica was overrun by the hosts of
the Goths from northern and eastern Europe. Like beasts of prey these
hordes despoiled the Roman cities, shattering temple and amphitheatre,
and laying waste fertile farms and abundant orchards. Rome yielded its
last hold upon fair Bœtica; the Goths seized upon the land, and split it
up into territories ruled by warriors. The invaders were ruthless in
their destruction; they aimed at removing every trace of the Roman
civilisation, and unfortunately they were successful in accomplishing an
almost universal demolition of building, monument, and statue.

Cordova was one of the residences of the Gothic kings. It was known as
Kordhobah among the Goths. There is little doubt that it was a city of
considerable opulence; for when it was sacked by the Moors it yielded
gorgeous robes, embroidered with gold flowers, fine chains of gold,
strings of pearls, and quantities of emeralds and rubies. The sway of
Ludherick, or Roderick, King of the Goths, was first menaced by Tarif
the Berber. Roderick was in dispute with the Lord of Ceuta, a city on
the Strait of Gibraltar, and this quarrel exposed him to the attack of
the covetous territory-hunters of northern Africa.

While Roderick and the Lord of Ceuta contended, Tarif, the redoubtable
leader of the Berber army, landed in Spain, with a force of one hundred
cavalry and four hundred foot-soldiers. Tarif appears to have solicited
reinforcements, in order to meet the Goths at better odds. A force under
Tarik was then sent by Musa Ibn Noseyr, with the object of capturing
Andalusia. As Tarik was crossing the sea, he beheld an apparition of
Mohammed, surrounded by armed Arabs. The Prophet bade the General take
cheer, saying: ‘Take courage, O Tarik, and accomplish what thou art
destined to perform.’ The vision was accepted by the anxious Tarik as an
omen of victory. He rallied his soldiers, and marched upon Cordova,
which was the royal citadel of Roderick. The Gothic king, upon the
tidings of the invasion, came from the north with his army to the
capital, and commanded his officer Theodemir to advance and encounter

Roderick was at this time striving with the sons of Witiza, the
preceding monarch, for his claim to certain territories. Count Julian
and Bishop Oppas sided with the princes, and a large number of the
people stood to their cause. The advent of the forces of Musa served as
an opportunity for the sons of Witiza to strike a blow at Roderick,
their powerful enemy. They decided to join the army of Tarik, and to
oppose the Gothic rule.

The combined hosts of Tarik and the sons of Witiza encamped to the south
of Cordova, after taking Algeciras. Meanwhile the Moorish commander
wrote to his superior for more troops, for Roderick boasted of a large
and valorous following. The great encounter between the Goths and the
Moors was enacted on the plain of Guadalete. Roderick came to the field
in a litter, carried by two mules, and over his head was a brilliantly
jewelled canopy. Aided by the disaffected princes and their adherents,
Tarik made a terrific onslaught upon the ranks of the Goths. It has
been recounted by Moorish historians that Tarik himself went into the
thick of the fight, and killed Roderick with his sword. This account is,
however, doubted by El-Makkari, who asserts that after the battle
Roderick could not be found alive or dead.

The victory was mighty and complete for the Moors. Upon the news of
Tarik’s success, his compatriots began to pour into the country, for the
purpose of colonisation, and in the expectation of enrichment in a land
which had yielded fortune to Carthaginian, Roman, and Visigoth. But
Cordova was still secure in the keeping of the Christians, though
Roderick had been defeated. Naturally the victorious Tarik yearned to
win fresh laurels, and his design was upon the great capital of the
Goths, the remaining stronghold of the routed defenders of Bœtica.

The general selected for the attack upon Cordova was Mughīth Ar-rumi. At
the direction of Tarik, this warrior rode, with seven hundred horsemen,
to lay siege to the city. Some of the Moorish chroniclers state that
Tarik himself led the expedition against the capital; but Mughīth
appears to have been the leader upon whom the conduct of this important
movement fell.

Advancing within a short distance of Cordova, the force encamped in a
forest, and remained cautiously in hiding. At this time many parts of
Andalusia, which are now wholly bare of trees, were well wooded. The
foolish destruction of the forests came later, under the Christian rule,
the reason for the wholesale felling of timber being that trees harbour
birds, and that birds feed upon seed and grain.

Concealed in a dense pinewood, Mughīth Ar-rumi saw the coveted city
almost within his grasp. But the walls were high, stoutly fortified, and
formidable, and the defenders were reputed valiant and stubborn. Scouts
from the Moorish army were sent to view the defences of the city. They
met a shepherd, and from him they extracted the intelligence that the
chief residents of Cordova had quitted, and fled to Toledo for
protection. By threat or bribe, the spies also gathered from the
shepherd that there was one weak spot in the city walls. With this
information they returned to the ambush, and acquainted Mughīth with
that which they had learned.

The Moorish commander bade his warriors prepare for a night attack upon
the city. Darkness and a heavy shower of hail favoured the stealthy
approach of the horsemen to the walls, the hail drowning the sound of
the horses’ hoofs. A halt was called. Mughīth ordered an inspection of
the walls, enjoining a close watch for sentries. The advance party
reported that no sentinels were to be seen at their posts, and that the
city seemed deep in slumber. Upon this the shepherd quietly conducted
the soldiers to the weakest point of the embattlements, where grew a big
fig-tree. One of the Moors clambered into the topmost branch of the
tree, and contrived to gain the summit of the city wall. Unrolling the
coils of his turban, Mughīth threw one end to the man, who used it as a
rope to assist his comrades in scaling the barrier.

The entrance into the city was achieved quietly and with little loss of
time. With scarcely any effort of resistance, the startled inhabitants
fled from their houses, and, headed by the Governor, rushed to a church
for safety. The edifice proved a veritable fastness for a large number
of the people. Mughīth Ar-rumi was baffled. His only course was to cut
off all approach to and egress from the church, trusting that starvation
would compel the imprisoned populace to yield. But he was unaware that a
conduit brought water underground to the building, and that the
defenders were probably able to hold out for some time, having provided
themselves with rations for a state of siege.

A negro, who managed to find a way into the church, was sent as a spy.
This man immediately fell into the hands of the besieged, who were at
first alarmed by his appearance. They had never seen a human creature
with a skin of ebony and hair of wool. Mistaking the hue of the black
man’s skin for uncleanliness, they washed and scrubbed him with great
pains. But, greatly to their wonder, the black covering refused to leave
the man’s skin, and they at length ended the prolonged ablutions. In
seven days the much-scrubbed negro made his escape. To Mughīth he
reported the conduit. Whereupon the general promptly cut off the supply
of water, and thought to bring the people to instant surrender. He was,
however, disappointed, for the band in the church still bravely held out
and defied him.

The extremest measure was at length employed by the impatient Moor. For
three months the refugees had resisted all endeavour to eject them or to
starve them into submission. The church was fired, and the luckless
defenders had no choice between instant death and yielding. They rushed
from the flames, and the Governor of the city was taken captive. The
church was afterwards known as ‘The Church of the Burning.’

So fell the Kordhobah of the Gothic kings. The palace became the
residence of Mughīth, who lived there until he had decided upon the
future government of the city. Before leaving Cordova, the Moorish
general appointed the Jewish residents the rulers of the city. Thus the
oppressed and plundered Hebrew came into possession, and rose to the
position of autocratic director of those who had bitterly persecuted
him. This affront to the dignity of the proud Goths was doubtless
grievous to them in the hour of their defeat. But it was a shrewd policy
of rulership on the part of Mughīth Ar-rumi.

Whether certain of the Moorish writers of this period are correct in
relating that Tarik was before the walls of Cordova, we are not able to
say. It is written that he came with an army, and after waiting nine
days in impatience, being unable to force an entry, he departed, and
left Mughīth to capture the city.

Cordova was now made subject to the Khalif of Damascus; but in 756 it
was independent, under the rule of Abd-er-Rahman I. According to
El-Makkari, Ayub was the first to establish the capital of the
territory of Andalus at Cordova.

Mughīth, the capturer of Cordova, was not only an intrepid soldier, he
was a scholar and poet, and a lover of the arts. After the taking of the
city he went to Damascus, but returned to Cordova and lived in the



Abd-er-Rahman, a brave prince of a family that had ruled Damascus, was
born in troubled times in the camp before that city. Es-Deffah had
seized upon the throne; the family of the Omeyyads was hurled from
power. While under sentence of death for his attempt to restore the
fortunes of his family, Abd-er-Rahman passed a period of wandering among
Arab herdsmen. His dream was of Andalusia, where the supporters of the
Omeyyads were still numerous and powerful; and by dint of energy and
enthusiasm the young prince contrived to form a corps of one thousand

Abdulmalek Ibn Kattan, who had usurped rulership in Cordova, had been
defeated by the adventurous Balj at the head of a troop of Syrians. The
luckless Abdulmalek, after falling into the hands of Balj, was crucified
in a field outside Cordova, with a hog on one side and a dog on the
other. Until recovered by friends and removed for burial, the body of
the conquered sultan was left upon the cross as a menace to his

But Balj enjoyed only a short spell of power, for at the end of eleven
months he was forced to encounter the redoubtable prince of the
Omeyyads, whose army of Arabs was largely augmented by fierce partisans
in Spain.

Marching upon Cordova, Abd-er-Rahman besieged the city. Balj was
wounded, and his injuries caused his death. From this time, for about
three centuries, the capital of Andalusia was held by the Omeyyad line,
and during this rule the city reached the highest stage of its might and
magnificence. The Arab writers state that the independent khalifate of
Cordova was founded by Abd-er-Rahman I., after conquering Yusuf, who
reigned in the city. Yusuf resisted the Omeyyad troops outside the walls
of Cordova, and, being worsted, he retired. Abd-er-Rahman then entered
the city, and appointing the command to Abu Othman, went in pursuit of
the remnant of Yusuf’s army. Meanwhile Yusuf counter-marched, returned
to Cordova, and assailed Abu Othman, promising him future security for
himself and his relatives if he would surrender.

It is said that Othman refused to accept the terms of surrender. But
eventually Yusuf and Abd-er-Rahman came to an agreement, and both
monarchs lived in the city (A.D. 757) in amity. The treaty was, however,
afterwards broken by Yusuf, who left his palace, collected a force, and
made war in Andalusia. He was frustrated by the Governor of Seville, but
after the conflict Yusuf escaped to Toledo. Here he was recognised in
the street, and murdered, by spies who hoped to receive reward for their
fealty to Abd-er-Rahman. Yusuf’s head was sent to Cordova, and nailed to
an arch of the bridge, together with the head of his son.

Upon attaining the throne, Abd-er-Rahman began to turn his energies to
the development of Cordova. He had a passion for building. A new palace
arose, mosques and baths were erected, and an aqueduct was constructed
to bring pure water from the mountains. In 786 Abd-er-Rahman supervised
the building of the huge and splendid Mezquita.

In character the first Omeyyad ruler was humane, eloquent, and brave. He
had red hair, a fresh skin, and high cheek-bones. His form was tall and
supple, and he was fond of exercise, especially the sport of falconry.
His dress was always of white linen, and he lived simply.

There are, however, blots upon the reputation of Abd-er-Rahman I. He was
of violent temper, and subject to strong prejudices. His treatment of
Abu Othman, Temain, and other allies, who had assisted him in gaining
power, was not generous. He reigned for over thirty-three years, and was
buried in Cordova.

Hisham, son of Abd-er-Rahman, succeeded in the government of Cordova. He
was esteemed as a wise king, and under his direction the work of
building and adorning the Mezquita was continued. Hisham founded schools
for teaching the Arabic language, and he restored the long bridge over
the Guadalquivir.

The next ruler was Hakem, who continued the work of enlarging and
improving the mosque. This sovereign was soon confronted with the trials
of a rebellion in the city, and a very grievous period of famine. A poet
of Cordova wrote:

    ‘Time has brought on sterility and famine, but the calamity itself
         has proved a benefit to Al-Hakem.
     It has insured his rule, and delivered him of many a rebellious

Hakem was the first king to give regular pay to the army. He left a
family of twenty boys and twenty girls, and the throne descended to one
of his sons, Abd-er-Rahman II.

The fourth Omeyyad sultan was an encourager of poets, painters, and
philosophers. Abu Meruan, the illustrious historian, lived in this
reign, and Ziryāb, the distinguished musician, was a court favourite.
When Ziryāb was on his way to the city of culture and the arts, his
royal patron went out to receive him with honour and pomp. Being himself
a poet and a passionate worshipper of music, Abd-er-Rahman II. was a
true friend of all artists.

Ziryāb, the composer, was singularly versatile. We read that he invented
a new process for making linen white, that he introduced asparagus into
Andalusia, invented a crystal ware, and taught the use of leather beds.

It is interesting to learn that the harem of the second Abd-er-Rahman
contained several cultured women. One of these was Tarūb, a favourite
concubine, to whom the monarch addressed these lines:

    ‘When the sun rises every day to give us light, it reminds
        me of Tarūb.
     I am the happiest of mortals, since I am successful in love
        and prosperous in war.’

Another beauty of the court was Kalam, a woman of learning. She recited
poetry and was gifted in music.

We may pass over the somewhat uneventful period of rule under Mohammed
and Abdullah, and enter upon the reign of the illustrious Abd-er-Rahman
III. (912-961), the greatest of the Omeyyads, and the most enlightened
of the trio of monarchs bearing his name. This was the crowning, the
most glorious, hour of Cordova’s splendour. The Moors were in possession
of almost the whole of Spain. Draw a line on the map of the country from
the north-eastern limit of the Pyrenees to Coimbra, north of Lisbon, and
you will divide the region of the conquered Iberians of the Biscayan
mountains from the kingdom of the Mohammedans. All the districts below
the line were governed by the Moors. In 1360 only Granada remained as
the remnant of Moorish might in Spain.

Abd-er-Rahman III. lived in a gorgeous palace in the northern quarter of
Cordova. This was but one of the sumptuous houses of the city in the
height of its grandeur, for, on the authority of several chroniclers,
there were fifty thousand palaces in Cordova, besides three hundred
mosques. One of these palaces was known as Damascus; others were called
the Palace of the Garden, the Palace of Contentment, and the Palace of
Flowers. The glitter of Cordova shone afar throughout the Moslem world.
Ibn Said, the historian, wrote a full description of ‘the beauties of
the kingdom of Cordova,’ containing information concerning the
population, industries, and buildings of the fair and opulent city. The
water from the aqueduct was collected in a large reservoir, in which
stood the image of a lion, covered with gold, and having jewels for the
eyes. The stream poured in at the hind part of the lion, and gushed from
the mouth, and the overflow ran to the Guadalquivir.

A palace upon arches was built over the river. Dimascus, the chief
palace, had roofs supported by marble columns, and dazzling floors of
mosaics. Walls surrounded the city, which was approached by beautiful
gates, bearing such names as Bab Koriah (the Gate of Coria),
Bábu-el-Tamen (the Gate of the Gardens), and Bábu-el-Jemi (the Gate of
the Great Mosque).

The wise, the studious, and those skilled in the arts and the crafts
flocked to Cordova during the reign of Abd-er-Rahman III. Surrounded by
the learned in his splendid palace, the great Khalif lived in an
atmosphere of thought and beauty. Literary men came nightly to recite
their stories to the sultan and his nobles, musicians played their
compositions, and masters of science expounded their theories and

Amid the counsels of the intellectual and the prudent Abd-er-Rahman
ruled with discretion, justice, and tolerance; Spain had reached the
height of its civilisation. The land was made to yield of its richest;
fruits and flowers of the tropics flourished; the steeds of Arabia were
bred in the vales around the city; workers in clay, wood, and metals
plied their crafts with loving industry; and the world wondered at this
spectacle of might, culture, and peace.

It was Abd-er-Rahman III. who caused the building of Medinat-Ez-Zahra, a
city situated at a distance of four miles and a third from Cordova. This
marvellous suburb contained markets, taverns, baths, and institutions of
learning. A stupendous mosque was erected. El-Makkari speaks of the
magnificent palace, wherein the Khalif was served by an army of
servants; the gardens, and the fishponds teeming with well-fed fish, who
were regaled with a daily allowance of twelve thousand loaves of bread.

Forty years were spent in the making of Ez-Zahra. Ten thousand workmen
and three thousand horses and mules were employed in the labour. The
columns came from Carthage, Rome, and Constantinople; the walls and
roof of the palace were of marble adorned with gold.

Upon viewing the majestic city, a Moorish writer cried: ‘Praise be to
God Most High for allowing His humble creatures to design and build such
enchanting palaces as this, and who permitted them to inhabit them as a
sort of recompence in this world, and in order that the faithful might
be encouraged to follow the path of virtue, by the reflection that,
delightful as were these pleasures, they were still far below those
reserved for the true believer in the Celestial Paradise.’

When the messengers of Constantine came to Ez-Zahra, they were awed and
made speechless by the majestic grandeur of the palace. Alas! to-day not
a vestige of Medinat-Ez-Zahra survives. The ruthless Berbers razed the
fair city to the ground in 1010, leaving not a stone to remind the
beholder of its past glory.

The last Abd-er-Rahman possessed a love of ceremony and splendour. He
built palaces, mosques, and halls to appease this passion of
ostentation; and we read that when potentates journeyed to seek his
presence, he caused elaborate buildings to be erected for their nightly
reception along the route. In reading of the Mezquita, we shall see how
much of his time and wealth were devoted to improving and embellishing
the great structure.

Upon the city of Ez-Zahra Abd-er-Rahman spent huge sums from the
treasury. It was built to please one of his concubines, after whom it
was named, and a statue of the fair favourite was carved in relief over
the chief gateway. The palaces were of massive plan and beautiful
design. Dark hills formed the background to the city, and referring to
the situation Ez-Zahra said: ‘See, O master, how beautiful this girl
looks in the arms of yonder Ethiopian.’ The sombre hills were, however,
an eyesore to Abd-er-Rahman, and he proposed to remove them; but this
feat of engineering was not carried out, and to relieve the blackness of
the slopes the Sultan caused them to be planted with fig and almond

Hakem II., who succeeded Abd-er-Rahman, was a just ruler, distinguished
for his humility. He was a zealous ascetic, and he passed laws
condemning the use of wine. To enforce abstinence from the juice of the
grape, he rooted up the vineyards. We shall see later how this Khalif
devoted himself to enriching the Mezquita.

We have now reached the reign of the powerful Almanzor, or Almansur, a
romantic and ambitious personage, who came to Cordova as a poor student.
During the days of his poverty he made a scanty livelihood by writing
letters, and became the protégé of Aurora, mother of Hisham II. After
attaining this post, he appears to have made quick advance towards
preferment, for he was soon appointed kadi of a town, and obtained a
position as a civil servant in the city of Seville. Returning to
Cordova, he paid homage to his patroness Aurora, and gave her costly
gifts. His next appointment was as master of the mint, and we learn that
he built himself a mansion of silver.

Almanzor’s career was a fight for power. He won general esteem by his
prowess as a soldier, and in the wars with the Christians he triumphed
in fifty-six battles. Even when stricken by illness, Almanzor went to
the field in a litter, and directed the movements of his force in their
attacks on the infidels. Always scheming for authority, he contrived to
usurp rule in Andalusia. The attainment of his desire did not yield him
complete felicity, for he once wept at the thought that war would one
day destroy his sway and level his magnificent palace.

Under Almanzor Cordova grew in might and was still regarded as the
wonder of the Moslem world. The Vizier was a man of culture, a clever
diplomatist, and a valorous soldier. Conde says that in battle ‘he
resembled a raging panther, leaping on the prey and thirsting for
blood.’ In times of peace he held poetical tournaments, rewarding the
victorious poets with heavy prizes of money for their verses. Almanzor
was the founder of Ez-Zahirah, a town which grew up in the vicinity of
Ez-Zahra. It contained a resplendent palace, which was two years in the
building. Here the monarch maintained a court, and received foreign
potentates, with much ceremony and parade of wealth.

Cordova saw the first signs of impending decadence when Almanzor died,
and his son Muzaffar came in to rule. Under Almanzor the glory of the
city reached its culmination. ‘Do not make war on these people, for by
the Lord we have seen the earth yielding them its hidden treasures,’ was
the counsel of the Sclavonian ambassadors, after they had sojourned in
Cordova, and seen the wonders and riches of Ez-Zahra and Ez-Zahirah
displayed before their dazzled eyes. Vast were the resources and the
armaments of these three marvellous cities, and famous for valour were
their sons. Almanzor forged thousands of blades and spears, and the
yield of his shield manufactory was twelve thousand in one year.

And yet power, pomp, learning and the arts--all decayed with the waning
of the great Omeyyad dynasty. The ripe fruit of this fine civilisation
seems to have rotted rapidly. Such social science as the Moors possessed
could not save it from destruction; the arts of war, in which the makers
of Kordhobah were so excellent, failed against the inexorable march of
decadence. Boastful imperialism and luxury ate out the heart of the
city, till it could not withstand the savage Berber mob. Complete
disorder prevailed, palaces were wrecked, mosques were pillaged,
treasure looted, gardens laid waste, and the largest library in the
world was ransacked and plundered.

We can scarcely form a conception of all the beauteous edifices, the
noble works of artist and craftsman, that perished in this last
upheaval. Almanzor’s palace was ruthlessly burned to the ground. The
city claimed to be an independent republic. Robbers swarmed in the holy
fanes, and murderers rushed red-handed through the streets.

In A.D. 1010 the Berbers attacked Ez-Zahra, and killed its defenders
with savage ferocity. Even within the mosque the fugitive citizens were
not safe from the swords of the invading barbarians. Led by Ibn Hishaim
Ibn Abd-l-Jabbar, the rebels swooped upon Cordova. The glorious art
treasures of Ez-Zahirah were seized by the troops, and the mansions were
destroyed by fire. Baghdad and other towns of the east became the
storehouses of the jewels, plate, books, and pictures which were stolen
from Cordova; and the uncultured horde came into possession under the
leadership of Suleyman. Only vestiges of Cordova’s pristine grandeur
survived this period of frenzied rapine.

Lamentable was the fall of this centre of wisdom, virtue, refinement,
and the arts. Nothing could restore its majesty and pre-eminence.
Misruled by discordant factions, Cordova lingered moribund, a sad
spectacle of shattered might. It has never regained a tithe of its
former supremacy. The drowsy city lives on its memories of greatness.

In 1235 Ferdinand III.--the doughty Christian warrior San Fernando--took
the city at the point of the sword, and reclaimed it from the alien

Spain rejoiced at this capture of the capital of Moorish power. It was
a triumph for the soldiers of the Cross. Most of the vanquished
Cordovans took refuge in Granada; the ‘reconciled’ sullenly accepted the
conditions imposed upon them, and remained in the city. Such was the
downfall of the Khalifs. The Christians established rule in the
despoiled capital; the mosque was purified from its taint of the Moslem,
and dedicated to the worship of God and the Virgin, and one by one the
hundreds of baths fell into disuse, for cleanliness was not a canon of
the victorious faith.

The coming of San Fernando only hastened the process of disruption in
Cordova. War was the chief business of the Spaniard at this age, and
handicraft was despised as something unworthy of a true Castilian
_caballero_. All the possibilities of reconstruction and restoration
were neglected by the Christians, who were more concerned with expelling
the Moors and shattering every relic of their rule, than in making
reasonable use of the resources and the crafts which they had developed
and brought to perfection. The remnant of the Moors still remained the
designers, craft-workers, and agriculturists, but their arts and their
husbandry steadily declined. No great and beautiful buildings were
reared on the ashes of Cordova, excepting the Christian additions to
the Mezquita, which was consecrated in the name of the Vírgen de la

The militarist Spaniards had no time to devote to trade, the cultivation
of the vegas, and the extension of learning. Buildings which had been
the joy of the Moors were permitted to crumble, or were pulled down to
supply material for the erection of squalid dwellings. Grim ruin
descended upon fair Cordova; melancholy decay succeeded its long era of
growth and prosperity. The admirable irrigation system, which had made
the meadows lush and the land fecund, was left unused, and the vineyards
and plots were neglected. Briars and weeds gained supremacy in the
fertile valley; the earth became impoverished and barren. The beautiful
horses of Arab breed, which were reared by the Moors, deteriorated in
stamina and grace, and degenerate cattle roamed the plains by the
Guadalquivir. Forests planted by the makers of Cordova were felled; the
country was rendered bare of foliage and shade.

In the seventeenth century the population of the city had been reduced
to about seventy thousand inhabitants, and the number of its residents
steadily dwindled after the expulsion of the Moors. There are now about
fifty thousand people in Cordova. In the tenth century three hundred
thousand persons dwelt in the city and its surroundings.

The Mezquita, the bridge, the mosque of Almanzor and the ruins of the
Alcazar stand as eloquent examples of the Cordova of Almanzor: not a
stone survives of the luxurious palaces, whose names suggest Oriental
splendour and the joy of life. We can but imagine the charm of the
Palace of Contentment and the Palace of the Diadem, and the loveliness
of the scented gardens that delighted sultans and sultanas, and the
sages and the poets of the far-famed ‘Bride of Andalusia.’

Hushed is the voice of the muezzin: no longer can men sit entranced at
the strains of the musicians, or listen to the recitals of the doctors
and the poets. But the same notes of the nightingale drift on the
perfumed breeze of evening, and the hawks still sail and soar above the
minaret. And in the Court of Oranges, girls of erect and Moorish mien
bear Oriental pitchers on their heads, as they resort to the fountain
for water; while through the open door of the Mezquita one may scent the
incense, and see the tangled vista of Arabic arches; or, standing upon
the many-arched bridge, watch the selfsame umber river which legions
upon legions of dusky warriors crossed to victory.

Thus Cordova, though in a sense dead, still lives and speaks. Its stones
are vividly reminiscent of the days of the Moors; the atmosphere is
mysteriously impressive, and the features of its natives have still the
Arab cast, while in their customs and their speech traces of the Moor

With the triumph of San Fernando came the steady disintegration of the
high civilisation of Cordova, and its history from the day of victory
onwards is one both mournful and instructive. The expulsion of the Arab
artisans was an error of policy which the more intelligent Cordovese
quickly recognised, for soon after the restoration of the city into the
hands of the Spanish sovereigns, many of the inhabitants proposed to
request the king to permit six per cent. of the Moors to remain in
Cordova. This petition was, however, lightly regarded by the Governor,
and it does not appear to have come under the attention of Ferdinand.
Later on, the citizens, finding that trade was rapidly declining, begged
that a few aged Moors might be allowed to stay in the city, and to ply
their trade of harness-makers.

The neglect of the staple industries of Cordova after the Christian
reconstruction is an object-lesson upon the paralysis of the arts and
crafts which characterises the Castilian influence during this period.
It seems almost incredible that the Spaniards had forgotten the art of
harness-making, or that the natives of Cordova refused to soil their
fingers in any sort of labour. But what other inferences can be drawn
from the proposed petitions that a small number of the Moriscos might be
retained as mechanics? It appears evident that the only occupations
deemed fitting for an Andalusian of that day were ecclesiastic or
military. There was only the choice between the church and the army.

An observant traveller, the Chevalier de Bourgoanne, who made a tour of
Spain in 1797, writes of the melancholy decay of Cordova. ‘In so fine a
climate,’ says the Chevalier, ‘in midst of so many sources of
prosperity, it (Cordova) contains no more than 35,000 inhabitants.
Formerly celebrated for its manufactories of silks, fine cloths, etc.,
it has now no other industrious occupations but a few manufactories of
ribbons, galoons, hats and baize.’



When Abd-er-Rahman I. seized upon the citadel of the Gothic Christian
kings, he found the Cordovese split up into various sects, such as the
Gnostics, Priscillianists, Donatists, and Luciferians. These cults were,
however, united in their detestation of the new creed of the East, which
the victors sought to impose upon them. It is quite clear from the
records of the more impartial Spanish historians, that the Sultan was a
man of tolerant mould and a respecter of justice. His ambition was to
erect a temple, which would rival in magnificence those of Baghdad,
Jerusalem, and Damascus, and approach in sanctity to the fane of Mecca

The Christian church in Cordova stood upon the site of the former Roman
religious edifice dedicated to Janus, and upon this situation
Abd-er-Rahman desired to rear his great mosque. Autocrat though he was,
the monarch strove to maintain the conditions upon which the
inhabitants had surrendered. He might have broken faith, and annexed
the Christian building and the ground upon which it stood. But he
honourably offered to buy the church and the plot from the conquered
people. The negotiations of purchase were placed in the hands of the
Sultan’s favourite secretary, Umeya Ibn Yezid.

At first the Christians refused to sell their cherished basilica, which
had been divided into a temple of the faith of Christ and a fane for the
worship of Allah. Here, in separate portions of the building, the
conquerors and the conquered murmured their prayers and repeated their
praises to their deities. How the Cordovese were induced to relinquish
the church cannot be explained by any historical evidence that we are
able to obtain from the writings of Arabians and Spaniards. Some authors
have suggested that the Christians of Cordova were disheartened by
adversity and the assaults of Islam upon their creed, and that they
yielded to the suasion and counsels of Umeya Ibn Yezid, and sold their
tabernacle to the invaders. At any rate it is manifest that
Abd-er-Rahman won in the end, and that he was able to forward his
project without showing violence to the natives of Cordova.

No doubt the Christians preferred to worship in their own buildings
rather than to share the basilica with the infidels, and this preference
may have influenced their spiritual leaders in meeting the request of
the sultan and his agent. Under the terms of transference, the Cordovese
were permitted to reconstruct the edifice formerly dedicated to St.
Faustus, St. Januarius, and St. Marcellus, three martyrs whom they
deeply revered. Immediately upon the conveyance of the church and its
site to Abd-er-Rahman, the work of erecting the gorgeous mosque was
begun with much enthusiasm and at the expenditure of huge sums of money.
The Khalif was rich. Besides the treasure wrested from the Goths during
the wars, he extracted a tithe upon the produce of the land and on
manufactures. A tax was also laid upon every Christian and Jew in
Andalusia. Beyond this, the Moorish kings were greatly enriched by the
acquisition of the valuable mines of Spain, the quarries of marble, and
other sources of wealth. From these revenues Abd-er-Rahman and his
successors, Hisham, Abd-er-Rahman II., the greatest of the dynasty and
the third of the line--and lastly, the extravagant Al-manzor--lavished
heavy sums upon the designing, construction, and costly adornment of the

The power of the first Khalif of Cordova was supreme and undisputed. He
was the sole spiritual and temporal head of the people, ‘the Commander
of the Faithful.’ Subservient to him were the _walis_ who ruled in the
provinces. Abd-er-Rahman’s despotism made upon the whole for charity,
tolerance, and justice. The accounts of his persecutions have been
coloured by pious historians, and bear the stamp of a natural hostility
to the conqueror and his religion. One or two of the more accurate
Spanish writers assert that, at the most, only forty persons were
martyred in Cordova under the Omeyyad sway; and, according to Morales,
these victims sought persecution.

To court sufferings at the hands of the Moors was deemed a noble virtue
in the breast of the devout Christians. We may recall the story of Santa
Teresa of Avila, who, as a child, wandered from the city with her little
brother to seek persecution in the country of the infidels. Whatever may
be charged against the Khalifs of the family of Omeyya, it cannot be
asserted that their policy after the conquest was one of tyrannous
subjugation. They undoubtedly levied taxes and imposts upon the Goths,
and confiscated their lands, after a campaign of destruction and
aggression; but as victors they displayed magnanimity, and sought to
heal the wounded spirit of the vanquished.

The attitude of Abd-er-Rahman I. towards the Christian population of
Cordova was, therefore, clement and conciliatory. Under his sovereignty
there dawned an age of prosperity and advancement. The work of building
the resplendent Mezquita employed thousands of artisans and labourers.
This vast undertaking led to the development of all the resources of the
district. Durable stone and beautifully veined marbles were quarried
from the Sierra Morena and the surrounding regions of the city. Metals
of various kinds were dug from the soil, and factories sprang up in
Cordova amid the stir and bustle of an awakened industrial energy. A
famous Syrian architect made the plans for the Mosque. Leaving his
suburban dwelling, the Khalif came to reside in the city, so that he
might personally superintend the operations, and offer proposals for the
improvement of the designs. We are told that Abd-er-Rahman moved about
among the workers, directing them during several hours of every day. The
monarch was growing old. It was the longing of his heart to witness the
final achievement of his great scheme before death overtook him.

In planning the Mosque the architects incorporated a number of Roman
columns with choice capitals. Some of the columns were already in the
Gothic structure; others were sent from various quarters of Spain as
presents from the governors of provinces. Ivory, jasper, porphyry, gold,
silver, copper, and brass were used in the decorations. Marvellous
mosaics and azulejos were designed. Panels of scented woods were
fastened with nails of pure gold, and the red marble columns were said
to be the work of God. The primitive part of the building, reared under
the direction of Abd-er-Rahman I., was that bordering the Court of
Oranges. Later, the immense temple embodied all the styles of Morisco
architecture in one noble composition.

The first Khalif of Cordova did not survive to witness the completion of
the Mosque. He died in the Alcazar long before the work was finished,
and committed the task to his son Hisham. The prince carried on the work
with zealous devotion. Upon his father’s death in 788, the building
covered only a small part of the ground now occupied by the Mosque and
its later additions. Hisham I. built the tower for the muezzin, and the
fretted gallery for the women worshippers, and added much to the Zeca,
or House of Purification, erected by Abd-er-Rahman.

The Court of Ablutions was laid out by the first Khalif, and occupied
the ground of the present Court of Oranges. In constructing the Mosque,
the founders adapted the basilica form of building to the new worship.
During the Omeyyad dynasty the original building was constantly enlarged
and improved, and fresh decorations were added up to the time of
Almanzor. Each Khalif vied with his predecessor in beautifying the
temple. The pristine building was finished ten years after the planning
under Abd-er-Rahman I., that is, during the reign of Hisham I., who
conducted the labour with the utmost expedition. Marbles of spotless
white were chosen for the innumerable columns. Arrazi, an Arab writer,
speaks of the valuable wine-coloured marble, obtained from the mountains
of the district, which was much used in embellishing the naves of the
Mosques of Cordova and Ez-Zahra.

The solemnity and beauty of the ceremonies in the House of Purification
can only be imagined. Every day saw the celebration of the _tazamein_,
or purification of the devout, before entering the holy structure, and
six times daily the _alicama_, or call to prayer, was shouted by the
muezzin from the summit of the minaret. No shoes were permitted to
defile the sanctuary; the worshippers entered barefooted. From its
sacred shadow all Jews were excluded, and restrictions guarded the
approach of women, except the privileged royal brides.

The interior glittered with gold, silver, precious stones, mosaics, and
hundreds of lamps of brass. By the side of the priest stood a mighty wax
candle, and the scent of the burning aloes, ambergris, and perfumed oils
in the lanterns drifted through the tangled arches of the long naves.
Some of the brass lamps were made out of bells taken from Christian
churches. The pulpit was seven years in the making. It was of ivory,
ebony, sandal, aloe, and citron wood, with nails of gold and silver.
Eight artists lavished their skill upon the designing and adorning of
this pulpit. In the wondrous mih-rab the walls were of pure gold. A copy
of the Koran in a gold case, set with pearls and rubies, was kept in the
pulpit. It was taken away by Abu-Mohammed on one of his campaigns, and
was finally lost to the faithful.

The building of the Mosque began in 785 or 786, and throughout the rule
of the Omeyyad monarchs there were constant additions to the Zeca of
Abd-er-Rahman I. As Cordova grew, and strangers flocked to the city from
North Africa and Arabia, it was found necessary to provide a larger
edifice for the worshippers. In the time of Abd-er-Rahman II., the House
of Purification was enlarged by the addition of several aisles, two
porches were added, and a new mih-rab was constructed. The columns were
gilded at this period at the direction of the Sultan. During the reign
of Mohammed I. the work was continued; the walls and portals were
improved, and the maksurrah, or railed sanctum for the Khalif, was also
built. The ruler attended the services in great pomp on Fridays,
approaching the Mosque by an underground passage from his palace.

Hisham’s temple covered an area of 460 feet from north to south, and 280
feet from east to west. It was flanked by stout, fortified walls, with
watch-towers and a tall minaret. The number of the outer gates was nine,
and of the inner doors eleven. These doors led to the same number of
naves within the Mosque. The court had spacious gates on the north,
west, and east sides, and fountains for the purification of the pious.
The naves were eleven in number, stretching from north to south, and
these were crossed by twenty-one smaller naves running from east to

In the Mezquita of Cordova we see the first examples of the true Arabian
architecture, whose purity was lost at a later date in the style of the
Almohades. The Estilo Sarraceno, or earlier style of design and
decoration, has an example in the beautiful Puerta del Perdon of the
Mosque of Cordova. We learn that by the year 1282 the fashion in form
and adornment had so greatly changed, that the Moors who then remained
in the city appeared unable to follow the tradition of their craft in
decorating the interior of the cathedral. Even in the reign of Almanzor,
the specific style of the Arabs was giving place to less beautiful
conceptions of line and decoration. Nevertheless, it is generally
admitted that the Mosque is the finest example in Europe of the Moorish
religious edifice. It maintains uniformity in the plan of its
construction, while the dimensions are enormous, and the adornment
elegant and characteristic of the art of Islam in the flower of its
might and magnificence.

Abd-er-Rahman III. assumed his title of Khalif with the style of
_En-Nāsir li-dīni-llāh_, ‘the Defender of the Faith of God,’ added to
the Mosque a new tower, and renovated the ancient façade. The minaret
contained two staircases, which were built for the separate ascent and
descent of the tower. On the summit there were three apples, two of gold
and one of silver, with lilies of six petals. The minaret is four-faced,
with fourteen windows, having arches upon jasper columns, and the
structure is adorned with splendid tracery.

Long before the final stages in the history of the Omeyyad builders, the
Moslem temple of Cordova was deemed one of the greatest marvels of
architecture in the world. The chroniclers and poets of the period unite
in applauding the zeal of the sovereigns who expended such vast treasure
in furthering the glory of Allah by the erection of this sumptuous and
dazzling tabernacle. Abúlmothanne, the poet, wrote of the Mosque: ‘To it
the pilgrims resort from all parts of the world, as if it were the
sacred temple of Mekka. Indeed, its mih-rab, when examined, will be
found to contain _rokn_ (angles) as well as _makárn_ (standing-place).’
And another singer proclaimed that the Mosque, which was consecrated to
God, was ‘without equal in the world.’

Hakem II., Al-Mostansir-billáh, greatly increased the size of the
building. This just and cultured ruler caused the construction of the
third mih-rab, which was over four years in the making and rivalled all
the previous work in this gorgeous part of the Mosque. The new sanctuary
was crowned with a splendid cupola, and the marvellous mosaics of
foseyfasa were introduced. Hakem also designed a fresh maksurrah for the
Sultan, a space enclosed by an ornate wooden fence or screen, which was
beautifully domed in the Byzantine style.

Hakem II. was not only occupied in extending and adorning the interior
of the Mezquita. During his busy reign in Cordova, the immense library
was enlarged by contributions of manuscripts upon all subjects, gathered
from every part of the civilised nations. But the library, with its
unique treasures of Oriental lore, and its works of science in many
languages, was lost to the world upon the wrecking and downfall of the
city. The fruit of Hakem’s devotion remains, however, in the most
gorgeous and lovely embellishments of the Mosque. This Khalif also built
an alms-house adjoining the temple, and quarters for the residence of
the preachers and officials of the house of worship.

The style introduced by Hakem II. is seen in the Puerta Murada, in the
holy mih-rab, and the part once occupied by the maksurrah. This
sovereign delighted in rich colouring, in splendour and daring in the
construction of delicate columns to heavy arches, and in the extension
of the fantastic arched naves. He almost doubled the size of the
Mezquita by the extensions on the south side.

Under Almanzor there was no slackening in the enthusiasm which the
Omeyyad family exhibited in improving Cordova and extending and
beautifying its famous House of Purification. The part added to the
Mosque by Almanzor is that behind the altar, to the left, when entering
by the Door of Pardon. The enlargement during this Khalif’s rule was
towards the east. New rows of columns, numbering eight, were added,
giving a fresh sense of vastness to the aisles and vistas of interlaced

The great Mosque was completed in the time of Almanzor, and its
completion was the presage of the decline of Arab power in Spain. In
extent the building now measures 394 feet by 360 feet. Almanzor put the
finishing touches to the work which Abd-er-Rahman I. began. For
generations architects, designers, artists, masons, and metal-workers
had lovingly toiled to produce a triumph of art.

The Mosque was finished. Almanzor sought to improve upon the designs
and bewildering brilliance displayed in the labour of preceding reigns;
but it is doubtful whether his endeavours heightened the splendour of
the structure, or gave fresh lustre to the building that stood in the
days of Hakem II. It is agreed among the authorities upon Moorish art
that Almanzor’s contributions to the edifice show evidence of a decline
in taste, and a waning of the æsthetic sense of the Arab-Byzantine
schools of designers and craftsmen.

When Almanzor died, the Mosque was 742 feet in length from north to
south, and 472 feet in width from east to west. It was encompassed by
battlemented walls, with towers of irregular height. The south wall was
the highest, and it had nineteen towers. The total number of the
watch-towers was forty-eight, and the majority of these have survived.

In the stressful days when the Moorish colonisers sought to possess the
whole of the Iberian Peninsula, Cordova was stoutly fortified, and the
Mosque was protected by this unscalable wall. This barrier of stone is
over six feet thick, and designed to withstand the most violent
battering. The defences of the sanctuary are very picturesque; there is
a subject for the painter at every tower and corner; but they are
perhaps a little less wonderful than the grim walls of Avila, or the
sombre parapets of brown Toledo. They are made of durable stone, which
is marvellously preserved. Many times have these battlements shuddered
at the shouts of the fierce besiegers and the determined defenders;
often have their stones been stained with the blood of Goth and Moor.

To-day, in the shadow of the walls, we stroll and look upon the calm
vistas, the plain, and the cold grey slopes of the sierras, and see the
beggars shrinking from the blinding glare of the sun, prone upon the
ground in their tatters, in the cool shelter which the tall towers
yield. The Mosque dreams, as all things dream in ancient Spain. Its
solid outer walls have defied the ravage of storms and wars. They remain
weird monuments of Oriental strength, placid and somewhat mournful in
their magnificent sufficiency.



The Court of Oranges is shaded on one side by the oldest parts of the
Mosque. It is much larger than the Orange Court, or Patio de los
Naranjos, of the cathedral of Seville. Here was once the Court of
Ablutions, the place where the faithful purified themselves before
venturing within the Mezquita. The fountains, five in number, remain to
remind us of the original character of the courtyard. Women come here to
fetch water from the clear springs. They carry tall jars upon their
hips, or upon their heads, and loiter by the fountain to gossip.

This quiet court invites the aged and the idler. It is cool and
gratefully shaded, and when the orange-trees are in bloom a fragrance
pervades the place. The priests who officiate in the cathedral spend the
hours of leisure here, pacing in pairs up and down, as they smoke their
cigarettes. Now and again, one notes the lover waiting for his fair one
amid the fountains and the palms.

Once there were nineteen beautiful gateways leading into the Court of
the Oranges, and these were uniform with the nineteen aisles. We enter
by the Puerta de los Palmas, facing the Puerta del Perdon. The sumptuous
Gate of Pardon at once attracts us. It is over twenty feet high, with
the characteristic horseshoe arches and the elaborate Oriental
ornamentation. But this is not the ancient gate; it dates from the
Christian recapture of Cordova, and is constructed in imitation of the
Arabian work. It is surmounted by a belfry. The upper part of the
horseshoe arches is exceedingly ornate, and on either side are coats of
arms. The structure is in the Estilo Sarraceno. There are massive doors,
coated with copper, upon which are inscriptions. Above the door are
poorly painted frescoes.

The Bell Tower erected in place of the old minaret of Abd-er-Rahman III.
is not Moorish. It was designed by Hernan Ruiz, one of the Christian
architects who planned the cathedral. This tower is interesting as a
later monument, but it is not in harmony with the Mosque. It rises
higher than the former minaret, is more pretentious, and is out of
character with the surroundings. On the top is a figure of San Rafael.

The Court of Oranges is over four hundred feet long and more than two
hundred feet in breadth. There was a destruction of many of the trees
during a violent storm about seventy years ago, and some of the
orange-trees were not replaced. The courtyard has quiet cloisters on
three sides, with pillars and arches in the Gothic style.

One side of the Patio de los Naranjos is occupied by the Mosque, and it
is here we see the finest exterior work of the time of Abd-er-Rahman I.
and Hisham. The portions added by Almanzor are behind the altar to the
left, when entering by the Gate of Pardon. In the main the impression
that one gains in the Court of Oranges is distinctly Moorish. The
fountains, the trees, the fine doors of the Mosque, the walls, the gate
on the eastern side, and the inscriptions are purely Oriental. For the
rest there has been tampering. The hand of the ‘restorer’ can be traced,
and the Bell Tower is an affront upon the old edifice.

Four of the fountains were originally constructed by Hakem II., when he
had spent his energy upon improving the interior of the Mezquita. The
two founts in the east were for the ablution of the women; the two in
the west for the purification of the men. The fountains were scooped out
of single blocks of marble, brought from one quarry. To bring these huge
masses of marble to their positions in the Court of Oranges, it was
necessary to make a sloping road. The fountains were drawn by oxen, and
borne upon heavy carts, and seventy beasts were required for each team.
When the tanks were set in their places, the water streamed in through
the great aqueduct of Abd-er-Rahman I., and the surplus went to fill
other fountains in the city.

There was no sparing of the toil of man or beast in the days when the
Omeyyads reigned in Cordova, for each Khalif seemed eager for the
completion of his share of work upon the Mezquita. The army of Morisco
labourers was augmented by a host of Christian captives, and we read
that these unfortunates were employed to carry stone upon their heads.
We can imagine the files of Christians, each man bending under his
burden, compelled to toil in the upraising of a mighty temple to the
glory of Islam. But the pendulum swings, and time brings its changes in
the fortunes of Moor and Christian. At a later period it is the
Mudejar, the ‘reconciled’ Moor, who supports the cumbrous loads upon
his head, and does the bidding of the Catholic in the construction of
the cathedral. And out of all this labour and sweat, hewing of stone,
forging of metal, carving of wood and ivory, beating of gold and silver,
and laying on of choice, imperishable colours, we have the composite
fane of to-day--the Christian cathedral enfolded in the more wondrous
structure of the Mohammedan Mosque. Surely there are questions that
flash upon the mind as we sit in the Orange Court, and listen to the
throb of the bell calling the Christians to prayer within the ancient
Mezquita of the Omeyyads!

But the Cordovese do not appear to ponder upon Time’s fantastic
transformations. They muse of other things--the affairs of the hour--and
regard the Mezquita as an excellent asset to their slumbrous and
impoverished city. Every stranger within their walls is looked upon as a
sightseer; and what should he come to see but the famous Mosque? And so
the boys in the street, offering their services as guides through the
labyrinthine white alleys, point ahead and cry: ‘Mezquita, Mezquita.’
For the building is not known as the cathedral; it is still called the
Mosque, although it has been reconsecrated and dedicated to the worship
of God and the Virgin Mother.

Climb to the top of the tower and look around upon the bleached houses
of the city, the curving river, the dull green of the olive thickets,
the yellow grain fields, and the grey ridges of the mountains.
Everything is sharp, clear-cut in the unpolluted air, and glowing in the
brilliant sunshine of the south. The thoroughfares are like a network,
tangled and mazy. Carthaginian hosts crossed those sierras to conquer
this coveted territory from the Iberians. Then came the legions of Rome,
to expel the settlers and to found Corduba. Here stood the great temple
of Janus in the days of Seneca and Lucan, the arena, the schools, and
the institutions of a powerful and cultured people. But all these fell
with the inrush of the Goths from the north, those intrepid warriors,
fanatical as they were fearless; and Cordova saw the ruin of the Roman
civilisation, and the inception of a new faith and a new social order.

The scene changes constantly; the action of the drama is vivid. Again
the invading flood sweeps over Andalusia. The swarthy Moors advance in
battle array to the walls of the city, and the affrighted Cordovese fly
to their churches for hiding. Again there sounds the clash of weapons
and the shouts of combatants. And Islam prevails; the Christian
cathedral is given to the Moors, and the Mezquita takes its place.

For centuries the Omeyyad rules in Cordova, and shapes the city to his
fashion, obliterating almost every trace of the preceding orders,
creeds, and customs. These are the palmy days, whose memorial lies below
us in the Mosque, and the bridge over the Guadalquivir. These are the
days that made Cordova a name familiar in the ears of the civilised
nations, the days of power, splendour, and learning, whose glory shone
throughout the world. The new Mecca arose; the creed of the East
conquered, and Iberia was transformed to the guise of the Orient. And as
the Moorish sway spread, and the conquered Christians conformed to the
new traditions, and the country prospered, men thought that this state
was sound and stable, and probably final and perfect.

But the pendulum swung again; the dominion of Islam was threatened by
enemies within and without. History repeated itself; Time worked its
inevitable revenge, and a lustier race made profit from the decadence of
the Morisco civilisation. Spain arose and turned upon her oppressor,
and the streets of Cordova were once more drenched with the blood of
Moor and Christian. This proud Bell Tower stands as a symbol of the
reconquest, and of the decline of Cordova.

Christian Spain rejoiced in her change of fortune. The crusaders set
themselves to demolish and to upheave. They abandoned the wholesome
habits of the Moors; the baths were destroyed by the hundred as useless
relics of the detested Mohammedan. Temples, colleges, and palaces were
thrown down. Science, the arts, and letters were neglected. We have read
how trade forsook Cordova, and how the light of learning was almost
extinguished. Gone were the cultured days of Abd-er-Rahman III., and the
resplendent pomp of Almanzor. The Mecca of the West had fallen; the fate
of Roman Corduba had come upon it. There was no revival, no uprising of
the ruins from the ashes that could remake Cordova in the semblance of
its old self. Vestiges alone remained to remind the beholder of the
grandeur and the glory of the Mohammedan domination. A misdirected
imperialism, an irrational conception of greatness, wrought the wreckage
of the ‘Bride of Andalus’ after her recapture by the Christian



Before the rise of Mahomet, the architecture of the Arabs was almost
devoid of those specific characters that we find in the later work of
Omeyyad designers and artists. The pristine Arabian edifices were built
as though the tent served as the model for the architects of this
nomadic race. But in the great Mosque of Omar at Jerusalem we have the
first example of a new and vigorous development of the art of
architecture. The minaret, or praying-tower, was invented by Alwalid,
and other distinctive features of the Moorish or Saracenic style were
introduced in religious buildings.

In the earliest Morisco-Spanish edifices there was not much original
work. The Visigothic temples were reconsecrated to the new faith and
adapted to the plans of the primitive Mohammedan mosques, but the
designs and style of decoration were not purely Morisco. The work was
probably influenced by Persian and ancient Egyptian art, and according
to Señor F. M. Tubino it contained Semitic elements. We shall also note
the incorporation of the Corinthian capital with the slender Moorish
column of marbles of various colours. The characteristic horseshoe arch,
with its delicate columns, was one of the earliest manifestations of the
developing art of the Moors. There has been much discussion concerning
the introduction of the pointed arch, which is so often claimed as
‘Gothic.’ The arch in architecture was no doubt copied from the curved
interlacing of the branches of trees, and the wide, flat arch was
succeeded by models of a more pointed type. In the thirteenth century
the pointed arch was a comparatively common form, and it is fairly
evident that its origin was in the East.

In the Mosque of Jerusalem, and of Amrou, in Cairo, there were early
examples of the pointed arch. The contrary flexure is a form of pointed
arch, and it was used by the Moors. Sir Christopher Wren, and other
authorities upon architectural art, lean to the opinion that the
so-called Gothic arch is of Oriental origin. There are, however, a
number of students who have endeavoured to disprove the Moorish genesis
of the narrow arch.

In the First Period of Morisco architecture, the talent and the energy
of the designers were chiefly applied to the planning of military
defences, towers, walls, and embattlements. The Second Period was one of
greater security from the alarms of wars, and the architects devoted
their art to devising religious structures and noble mosques. In the
Third Period we see the upraising of fine secular buildings, palaces,
dwelling-houses, with their courts and colonnades, and the erection of
sumptuous marble baths.

From the eighth to the eleventh century the style in Spain is known as
the Arab-Spanish, and is sometimes called the Estilo Califato. This
style is ‘Saracenic,’ with Jewish features. In the next period, from the
twelfth to the thirteenth century, we have the Almohade development of
Arabian architecture, whose examples may be seen in most of the Moorish
cities of Spain. The last period--from the fourteenth to the fifteenth
century--which marks the decline of the pure Morisco designs, is
sometimes described as the Alhamares.

The salient characteristics of Moorish architecture are the groves of
slender columns, the interlacing horseshoe arches in bewildering
profusion, the minaret, with its gradually inclined path in lieu of
steps for the ascent, the gorgeous colouring of flat surfaces, the
mosaics, dazzling gildings, and decorations of precious stones and
jewels. It was the Moor who discovered the art of preserving colour and
rendering his adornments imperishable. The flat illuminations were
probably imitations of Egyptian decoration, but it is not certain that
the secret of preserving the lavish and brilliant colours was derived
from Egypt.

In selecting his woods for the purposes of decorating the Mosque of
Cordova, the Moor employed those of the most durable texture, so
durable, indeed, that age has scarcely left its mark upon them. The
bricks and stones are equally lasting, as may be proved by an inspection
of the walls of the Mezquita. There was no hasty work in the
construction of the temple of Allah. Nothing was used except material of
a permanent quality. The treasure of the earth, its forests and its
mountains, was employed in the great labour of duty and devotion.

It has been suggested that the horseshoe arch has a very ancient
symbolic meaning of a Phallic origin. This is, perhaps, not the occasion
for discussing this theory. It is apparent that the Moors employed this
form of decoration upon every opportunity and complicated it in a
variety of styles. They used it in their doorways, aisles, cloisters,
and windows. The Ajimez window is typically Morisco. It has usually from
two to three arches, supported on fine columns, and is exceedingly
graceful in design. Ajimez signifies a window through which the sun or
light shines. For effects of light in the interiors of their fanes the
Morisco architects designed several ingenious apertures, such as the
star-shaped window, through which the daylight peers with singular

The defect of the Mosque of Cordova is in a want of space above the
naves. We lack the grandeur of height within the building. Loftiness
does not seem to have appealed to the designers. The average height of
the columns is about sixteen feet. Length and breadth have, however,
been carefully considered in the construction of the temple, and the
long arched aisles are like forest avenues. There were once one thousand
and twelve columns in the building, but many of these were removed when
San Fernando commanded that the Mezquita should be adapted as a
Christian cathedral.

The Vizier, Almanzor, removed the eastern wall of the Mosque and
extended the building in order to add eight new naves. These naves had
the same number of arches as those already standing, and they were
intersected at right angles with lesser naves, thirty-five in number. At
this period a lack of space necessitated a narrowing of some of the
arches, and the curves were made more pointed. Every conceivable
ornamentation was introduced in the beautifying of these arches.

The _foseyfasa_, or enamel-work of the Moors, is seen in its brilliant
examples in the Mosque. This enamel, called _foseyfasa_ by the Arabs, is
composed of crushed glass and small pebbles baked together with gorgeous
colours, and sometimes containing an admixture of gold and silver. It
was used at Damascus, in the great Mosque, and at Constantinople.
According to Gayangos, this mosaic enamel was set in its place by Greek
mechanics imported by Abd-er-Rahman. This work is finely exampled upon
the entrance to the sanctuary, and throughout the Mosque there are
specimens of this wondrous art of embellishment.

The principal nave of the Mezquita has huge arches on stone columns,
with finely carved capitals, and a large number of minor arches in the
Estilo del Califato. Most of these columns were made from the stone of
Spanish quarries. They are of jasper, marble, and other stone, and
number nearly nine hundred. Narrow avenues run transversely through the
grand aisles. We are lost in them; these passages appear interminable,
and their ribbon decorations bewilder the eyes.

We approach the sacred mih-rab, the receptacle of the Koran, the holiest
of holies of the temple. The façade is exceedingly beautiful, in the
later style of decoration, and the arcades of the vestibule of the
sanctuary have fine triple arches and interlacing curves of exquisite
design. The dome is cone-shaped.

The door is in the Estilo del Califato, dazzling in the wealth of its
colouring, marvellous in the grace and symmetry of its main arch,
trefoil arches, and delicate frets. The mih-rab is seven-sided, with a
cupola of extraordinary richness of hue, and details of the greatest
interest. One is baffled in attempting to describe this sanctuary. The
technical terms of architecture do not convey a conception of its beauty
to the lay mind. In the days of its glory, the mih-rab was illuminated
by an enormous lamp and huge candles. El-Makkari, the Arab, says that
the great lantern had nearly fifteen hundred lights, and that the total
number of lights was over ten thousand. The enamels shone with their
brilliant hues in the rays of these lamp-lights and candles until the
eye could scarcely rest upon the walls and the cupola. Here the khalifs
came in pomp to worship, and to scan reverently the pages of the costly

The hollowed roof of the mih-rab and the floor are of white marble. We
may see the marks worn by the knees of the faithful who came hither to
pay their devotions to the Father of Islam. The mosaics of the walls
exhibit the finest designs and richest tones of the _foseyfasa_ work.
This is the third mih-rab, the production of Hakem, and it is a retreat
that speaks eloquently of that piety which seeks to glorify a deity by
the erection and adornment of a temple. It is resplendent beyond

This chamber was the repository of the famous _nimbar_, a pulpit on
wheels, which had seven steps, and could be moved to any part of the
Mosque. When the Christians regained power in the city, this highly
ornamented pulpit was cut into pieces, and portions of it were used in
the construction of the altar. The superb copy of the Koran, to which we
have referred before, was kept in a golden case, mounted with precious
stones. It was so heavy that two men were required to carry it.

Upon the ceiling of the Mezquita there were formerly inscriptions. Among
them were the command: ‘Be not one of the negligent,’ and the dictum:
‘There is no God but Allah, to whom all beings address themselves in
their need.’ The Christians effaced these inscriptions when the Mosque
was purified and consecrated to the Virgin Mother.

In the Capilla de Villaviciosa we shall see the Arab-Byzantine crossed
arches on decorated columns. This was the retreat of the Khalif, and it
was once lined with silver. The chapel is the only one of Moorish
interest. There are forty-five Christian chapels, but these scarcely
demand inspection. In front of the Capilla of San Pablo is the tomb of
Pablo de Céspedes, the Cordovese painter. This chapel has a horseshoe
arch with sharp points. The Capilla de la Cena contains ‘The Last
Supper,’ painted by Céspedes. And in the Sala Capitular were statues by
Alonso Cano and de Mora.

The chapels were constructed from the side aisles of the Mezquita when
the building was dedicated to the Christian faith. After the capture of
Cordova by San Fernando, the original work of the Moorish builders was
spoiled in many parts of the Mezquita. Large surfaces, beautifully
designed and coloured, were removed by the innovators, columns were
pulled down, and screens destroyed. ‘The gold lavished on the panelled
ceilings,’ so praised by an Arab poet, was obliterated in many places;
the Christian architects wrought havoc in almost every part of the
structure. No doubt the pious reconstructors were unconscious of their
vandalism. They sought to improve upon the art of the Mohammedans, and
to build a worthier edifice. But their failure is only too apparent, and
it has been admitted by Spanish writers. Charles V. expressed sorrow at
the garish and meagre innovations, saying that the designers and
craftsmen had destroyed a great and unique work of art in their
endeavour to improve upon the design of the Moriscos.



From the time of the taking of Cordova by the sainted King Ferdinand,
Spanish architects and artificers designed and constructed additions to
the interior and exterior of the beautiful Mezquita. We have already
described these additions as often incongruous and for a great part
unlovely. San Fernando caused the erection of the first Christian chapel
within the Mosque, and it occupied a position by the south wall,
covering three naves from east to west, and four transverse naves from
north to south. The chapel, which was dedicated to St. Clement, enclosed
two Moorish arches.

Following the example of the sovereign, several noblemen erected chapels
in the Mezquita. In 1250 Don Diaz de Haro built the chapel of Santa
Inez, and later Domingo Muñoz erected that of San Bartolomé. Enriched by
donations from the pious, the Chapter of the Cathedral undertook to
transform the building, and even sought to improve upon the work of the
Mohammedans. They removed the apartment of the Kadi, destroyed the
chamber of the Khalif, known as the _maksurrah_, and in its place reared
the Grand Chapel. The chapels of St. John and of Santiago were built
between 1260 and 1265.

At this time four Mudejares, or reconciled Moors, were employed upon the
work of altering the Mosque. It was evidently the wish of the improvers
that the Arabic tradition should be followed in the construction of the
arches and the plan of the decorations; but already the Moorish art was
declining, and these latest examples of Morisco design and ornamentation
do not display that wealth of imagination and high skill which
characterised the Omeyyad craftsmanship. Hence the work in the Cathedral
became more ‘Gothic’ and less Arab-Byzantine, as piece by piece the
chapels were added to the structure of Abd-er-Rahman, Hakem II., and

The worst vandalism was wrought when the great Choir was made under the
sanction of Charles V., who afterwards regretted that he had consented
to the alterations. In order to erect the Coro, with its high roof, the
old Moorish ceiling was destroyed. The architect originally employed
upon the Grand Chapel and Choir was the celebrated Hernan Ruiz, who
achieved some notable designs in the Plateresque style. The retablo, or
high altar, is by Alonso Matias, and the painting is the work of

In the Coro the seats are beautifully carved by Pedro Cornejo. The
Capilla de Nuestra Señora de Villaviciosa is perhaps the most
interesting of the many Christian chapels erected within the Mezquita.
It is in the later Moorish style. Céspedes’ painting of ‘The Last
Supper’ is in the Capilla de la Cena; and the tomb of this artist, who
was a native of the city, is near the Capilla de San Pablo.

In the Christian Cathedral there are many examples of the composite
Moorish and Gothic architecture, which is known in Spain as the Estilo
Mudejar. Portraits of saints and paintings of living things were
introduced later, in contravention of the Mohammedan law forbidding such
representations in the decoration of holy buildings. Statues were also
placed in the Cathedral. The brilliant Plateresque style eventually
succeeded the later Mudejar work; the decorations were fanciful and
flamboyant, and not always inspired by the highest æsthetic sense.
Finally, in the seventeenth century, the Baroque style became the
fashion of the hour, and the arts of pictorial embellishment and of
carving degenerated often into the bizarre and the theatrical. Wood was
used in place of stone for statuary, and many of the fine old
altar-pieces in the Spanish churches were destroyed to give place to
grotesque and more ‘realistic’ conceptions.

As early as 1278 the minaret of Abd-er-Rahman III. was crowned with the
Christian figure of Saint Raphael, and at the time of the alterations
under the direction of Hernan Ruiz the bulk of the Moorish praying-tower
was removed, and the much loftier belfry erected. Most of the beautiful
doors of the Mosque were blocked up during the progress of the
reconstruction. The door of the Gate of Pardon was decorated by Henry
II., and is in the later Mudejar style, with Christian images above it.
Such are among the many examples of the curious blending of Moorish and
Christian forms of design and styles of ornamentation within and without
the Mosque.

For further examples of Mudejar architecture we may visit the Hospital
del Cardinal, where there is a fine chapel dedicated to San Bartolomé.
The Church of Santa Marina was originally Moorish, but it is now modern.
Relatives of the Gran Capitan Gonsalvo are buried in the San Hipolito.



Very little of the ancient Moorish Alcazar remains. On the south side
there are a bath and some towers, and the plot by the river is
beautifully shady with semi-tropical foliage and fruit-trees. The old
Alcazar was originally the Palace of the Khalifs, and it covered a large
area. It contained huge and sumptuous chambers and several handsome
baths, which were destroyed during the reign of Isabella. The northern
part of the building was erected in the time of Alfonso XI., about a
century after the recapture of Cordova by San Fernando.

The gate leading to the bridge is no longer Moorish. It was designed by
a Christian architect. We gain a glimpse of the sierras through the
portal, and passing through, reach the many-arched bridge, leading to
the Campo de la Verdad. The foundations are Roman, and it was probably
built in the time of Cæsar. At the far end is the Calahorra, a
picturesque tower. In the centre stands the shrine of the patron saint
of Cordova, St. Raphael, the archangel.

This bridge was the scene of many conflicts during the Moorish occupancy
of the city. Long before it was built, when Cæsar came to attack
Cordova, he constructed a temporary bridge across the Guadalquivir, by
placing large baskets of stones in the river and laying timber upon

The Moorish water-mills, which can be seen from the bridge, are
interesting relics. The river, the mills, the bell-tower of the Mosque,
and the walls form a picture which lives in the memory. The view lacks
the stern grandeur of that from the Bridge of Toledo, but it is
nevertheless beautiful. In flood-time the river seethes by the
buttresses, and tumbles through the arches to spend itself below in a
wide and imposing stream. And at night, when the moon gleams on the
Guadalquivir, and lights the Mosque, and lingers upon the ancient walls
and towers, the scene is one of fairy-like enchantment.

Men fish above and below the bridge, employing curious lever nets and
other quaint tackle for the capture of shad and eels. Along the verge of
the swirling stream busy women kneel to rinse and wring their linen,
and to spread the garments upon the green banks to dry in the hot sun.
The devout pause before the shrine in the centre of the bridge, and pay
their reverence to St. Raphael. Here, too, loiter the idlers of Cordova;
they lounge and blink at the water, and smoke their cigarettes in the
sunshine. And on market-days there is a stream of pack-mules and asses,
heavy wains with teams of horses, and droves of cattle across the long

The spell of Cordova holds one long after leaving the city. One recalls
the white, tortuous alleys, and the luminous blue shadows of the Mosque
at noonday. The odours of orange-bloom and of roses are wafted to the
nostrils, as one thinks of the silent patios, where the footstep echoes,
and the huerta by the river, where there are trees and plants of the
tropics. One hears the rattle of the mule-wagon upon the stony
thoroughfares, the first streets that were ever paved in Spain; the
nightly cry of the watchman, in his mediæval garb; the jangling of
church bells the call of the water-seller, carrying his tall Oriental
jar; the rich liquid tones of the nightingales in the gardens and the
thickets of the Guadalquivir; the early morning scream of the hawk
floating over the bell-tower, and the bleating of the wandering herds
of goats. Cordova is Moorish, Spanish, Andalusian, but, still more than
all, Oriental. Wonderful Moors! Marvellous city of light, colour,
beauty, and romantic memories!



The ‘holy and learned’ city of Cordova has ever produced sons worthy of
its renown. There were, no doubt, many philosophers, teachers, and poets
during the Mohammedan dominion, whose names have not been preserved, and
whose works have perished. Corduba was the birthplace of Seneca, the
relative and the contemporary of Lucan, and one of the greatest men that
the city produced.

The moralist and philosopher was a delicate, ailing child, and
throughout his life he suffered from ill-health, which was increased by
his severe studies, and possibly by his asceticism. Seneca was one of
the first strenuous advocates of the vegetarian diet and ‘the simple
life.’ It is said that he subsisted upon the plainest fare and practised
rigorous self-denial.

There is much that is admirable in the character of Seneca, but there
are also traits that appear extremely incompatible with his constant
insistence upon right conduct and purity of life.

The genius of Seneca was soon recognised by the rulers in Cordova, and
his fame reached Rome, whither he went, and where he was received with
the respect that his deep learning merited. His career was, however,
checked by his unfortunate intrigue with Julia, the married sister of
the Emperor Caligula. As a punishment for his adultery he was sent to
Corsica, where he lived in banishment for eight years.

During this long spell of solitude Seneca mused and studied, and found
the period of exile one of fruitfulness to the mind. Yet when he was
recalled to Rome, at the intercession of Agrippina, the philosopher
exhibited a keen desire for wealth, which is scarcely reconcilable with
his affirmations concerning the life of simplicity and self-denial. In
order to make money, he did not hesitate to lend sums at an exorbitant
interest. He became a courtier, and was the confidential tutor of Nero;
but at the height of his fortune he conspired against the emperor. His
condonation of Nero’s murder of his mother was an elaborate piece of
casuistry, devised for no other reason than the desire to retain the
royal patronage. In this and in other episodes, the career of Seneca
bewilders us, and provides matter for reflection upon the inconsistency
of human nature and the fallibility of even the greatest ethicists.

The last pages in the life of the philosopher are sad. He was condemned
to death as a traitor, and he had married a young wife. When he heard
that the guards were on their way to arrest him, Seneca resolved to open
one of his veins and to bleed to death. His loyal and loving wife begged
to share his fate, and at her request he cut one of her veins. But
Seneca was old, seventy years of age, and his blood flowed so slowly
that he could not die. In his desperation he drank a cup of hemlock,
hoping to poison himself, and by that means put an end to his anguish.
Yet even the hemlock potion failed. Asphyxiation in a heated chamber at
last brought death to the aged sage, and by timely attention the life of
his young wife was saved.

Marcus Annæus Lucanus, or Lucan, was born in Cordova in the year A.D. 38
or 39. He was the nephew of Seneca, and his father was a public servant
held in esteem in the city. Our data for a biography of Lucanus are very
scanty. He wrote poems before he left Cordova, and encouraged the
writing of Latin verse among the Spanish residents. His great work, the
_Pharsalia_, was left unfinished.

Lucan was lauded by Tacitus as a poet. He went to Rome, and it is
recorded that he vanquished Nero in one of the poetical tournaments in
which that monarch delighted. The egotistic emperor never forgave Lucan
for beating him in this literary contest. He vindictively forbade the
poet to write any more poems or to recite to audiences. We need not be
surprised that the aggrieved poet rebelled against this attempt to
utterly silence his song, to deprive him of the exercise of his art, and
to crush him. Lucan was aroused. He became one of the conspirators of
Piso, and plotted against the power of Nero.

When he was arrested, and offered pardon if he would name his
accomplices in the plot, Lucan falsely accused his mother Atilia of
complicity. This cowardly resort was, however, of no avail. He was not
spared by the vengeful Nero, who gave the poet his choice of death.
Lucan chose the usual Roman mode of opening a vein in a bath. He is said
to have recited one of his poems as he died.

Ibn-Roshid Averroes, the most renowned of the Arabian philosophers, was
born in Cordova in A.D. 1120. He came of a high-born family held in
honour in the city. His grandfather was a Kadi of Cordova. In his youth
Averroes learned law, mathematics, theology, and the practice of
medicine. His reputation as a man of erudition and of force of intellect
caused Almanzor to grant him privileges. He was appointed Kadi of the
city of Seville.

The story of the life of Averroes is an example of the eternal conflict
between the reformer of thought and morals and the mass of the people of
his age. Averroes was misunderstood, impeached as a dangerous heretic,
and condemned as an enemy of humanity. The Moors, in spite of their
culture, could manifest rank fanaticism when they encountered any
teaching that seemed to contradict the writings of the Koran, or the
traditional piety. Averroes was a follower of Aristotle, although he
remained a Mohammedan, and as the Greek philosophy did not accord
completely with the dogmas of Mohammed, the teacher was arraigned as an
assailant of religion and a foe to morality. His ostracism was thorough.
The noble man was pelted with stones by boys in the street, and scorned
by the whole city.

Shrinking from this terrible spectacle of the humiliation and cruelty
heaped upon the innocent head of his revered tutor, the young
Maimonides, a diligent pupil of Averroes, fled from Cordova. Averroes
soon after left the city, and wandered in Morocco. But he was not
allowed to roam unmolested. At Fez the populace treated him with gross
inhumanity. He was forced to stand on the step of the mosque, and every
one who passed into the House of Allah spat in the philosopher’s face.
Hunted, despised, and bereft of the opportunity for using his learning
for the good of humanity, Averroes dissembled and professed to repent of
his heresies. We can hardly experience surprise at this. His humiliation
and his trials had been such that few men could endure without a loss of
reason or a total paralysis of aspiration.

Averroes returned to Cordova. But he was still avoided and looked upon
as a felon, and his poverty and miserable state continued. Eventually he
was reinstated. There was a reaction of feeling; bigotry was wearing
out, and the virtues and attainments of the great thinker were
recognised at their worth. The chief work of Averroes was his
philosophy, compounded of Aristotle and the teaching of Neo-Platonism.
His writings upon Aristotle are not of the highest value, for he was
unversed in the Greek language.

Like Seneca, the Arab teacher Averroes was a rigidly plain liver. He
contented himself with common raiment, slept on hard couches, and made
only one meal in twenty-four hours. Averroes was not only reputed for
his culture and his philosophical treatises; he bore the character of
amiability, simplicity of manner, and extreme courteousness. He rises
far above Seneca in the conduct of life and the application of his
principles to actions. He was a true moral philosopher. Cordova has
produced many illustrious sons, but certainly not a greater man since
his day.

For some time the philosophy of Averroes was regarded as highly
dangerous among the Moors of Cordova. It was considered equally
injurious to the Christian faith, for all the works of the Arab doctor
were placed upon the Catholic Index.

Cordova gave many valiant soldiers to the world, but none more brave
than the Gran Capitan. The hero’s name was Fernandez Gonsalvo, or
Hernandez de Cordova. He was born in 1453, and arose to fame about 1495.
‘Nursed amid the din of battle,’ Gonsalvo accompanied his father to the
courts of Alfonso and Isabella. He fought in Portugal, showing
remarkable intrepidity at the great battle of Albuera. At Monte Frio the
Great Captain led the besiegers in scaling the ramparts. At Granada his
horse was killed beneath him, but he mounted that of his attendant, who
lost his life in the encounter. In the Calabrian campaign, Gonsalvo led
the army. For his prowess he was made Viceroy of Naples.

The life of the Gran Capitan is a chapter of moving romance. In the
Spanish estimation he is almost as mighty and adorable as the Cid.
Gonsalvo was over sixty when he died. He was a born commander, capable
of judging character and of leading men, and possessed of extraordinary
bravery and coolness in action. His manners were urbane and pleasing.

The city is associated with at least three famous painters of the
Andalusian school: Pedro de Cordova, Pablo de Céspedes, and Juan Valdés
Leal. The Museo of Cordova is not a very important collection of
paintings, but it contains some works of Céspedes, Zurbarán, and Ribera.
Zurbarán’s best work is not to be seen in Cordova. Ribera’s ‘Rest on the
Flight into Egypt,’ in the Museo, is a fine picture, but it is injured
by the state into which it has fallen through neglect. It is deplorable
that so many of the paintings in the collection at Cordova are in a
condition of decay. During our visit to the city we were appalled at the
indifference exhibited by those in charge of the pictures.

There is evidence that Cordova under the Moors contained some works of
the early Spanish schools of painting. Pablo de Céspedes, in an essay,
states: ‘In the parish church of San Pedro, in our city of Cordova, on
the right wall, there are many paintings of those times which escaped
the barbarous fury of the Moors when they held that place, though they
have not escaped the ravages of time and the neglect of those intrusted
with the care of the church. The consequence is, they are scarcely
intelligible from the injury which they have received and the dust which
has accumulated upon them. This sort of painting, rude and savage as it
is, appears to have been the ashes whence was destined to spring that
fairest Phœnix of modern art which has since burst forth in such
splendour and riches.’

The first painter of Cordova of whom we have a brief record is Pedro de
Cordoba. In 1475 he painted the Annunciation, which is still to be seen
in the Capilla del Santo Cristo of the Mezquita. The picture is
representative of Gothic art; but it is in a poor light, and the canvas
is in a condition of neglect.

Cordova was ranked as the second centre of art in Andalusia; and the
Italian influence, which succeeded the Gothic, was exemplified in the
productions of the cultured and versatile Pablo de Céspedes, who was
born in the city in 1538. This artist, who wrote a celebrated poem on
the art of painting, is ranked among the writers as well as the painters
of his nation. He studied in Italy, and became one of the canons of the
Cathedral of Cordova. In Rome he painted frescoes after the manner of
Correggio. ‘The Last Supper,’ and two pictures of ‘St. John’ and ‘St.
Andrew,’ are in the Mezquita, and in these we see the intellectual
quality of this painter’s art. Cean Bermudez, the Spanish critic, ranked
Pablo de Céspedes high as a colourist, and especially in flesh-tints.
Most of the pictures by Céspedes have perished.

Juan de Valdés Leal was born in Cordova in 1630. Most of the painter’s
life was spent in Seville, where he was regarded as the rival of
Murillo. His most sincere, and one of his earliest compositions is in
Cordova, in the Church of the Carmen. This work is interesting because
it instances the dramatic qualities of the painter. The retablo is
painted in eleven different parts, representing the life of the prophet
Elijah. Most of the work of Valdés Leal is to be seen in Seville.

Antonio de Castillo y Saavedra, born in Cordova in 1603, revived the
best traditions of Céspedes. Castillo was one of the first of the
Spanish landscape-painters, but his strength lay in the presentment of
figures. His colour is not his _forte_, as will be seen from a study of
his pictures in the Museo. Perhaps his most admirable work is the
‘Denial of St. Peter.’ Castillo unfortunately attempted to imitate
Murillo, and it is said that he was envious of the reputation of that
more popular painter. This artist seems to have spent most of his time
in Cordova, where he died in 1667.

The poet Luis de Gongora was born in the city in 1561. His first studies
were at the University of Salamanca, whither he was sent at the age of
fifteen, to learn law. While at the College he became exceedingly worn
in health, but his disease was not mortal, and his recovery was
accounted miraculous. While still a youth Gongora wrote poetry. He
showed but little aptitude for the profession of lawyer, and upon his
return to Cordova he cultivated his bent for poetry.

In person Luis de Gongora was tall and powerfully built. He was a
caustic writer, and in his first period his style was simple and
delightful. But he became more mannered and affected as he grew older,
and his later work was marred by pomposity, extravagance, and often by
sheer absurdity. His mannerisms were, however, regarded as the fruit of
rare genius by his host of disciples and imitators. Gongorism became the
fashion among poetasters in Spain, and the followers of this master of
eccentricity were slavish flatterers and fanatical worshippers.

At forty-five Gongora left Cordova and entered the Church. He afterwards
lived in Madrid. In the capital he was under the patronage of
influential hidalgos and nobles, and Philip III. made him his honorary
chaplain. Gongora eventually returned to his native place, where he died
at the age of sixty-six, in the year 1627.

In spite of his stilted style and metrical defects, Gongora was endowed
with true poetic talent. Writing of him, Lope de Vega said: ‘I have
known this gentleman for eight-and-twenty years, and I hold him to be
possessed of the rarest and most excellent talent of any in Cordova, so
that he need not yield even to Seneca or Lucan, who were natives of the
same town.’



It is not a little singular that the present Cathedral of Cordova is
better known to the inhabitants of the city as _La Mezquita_, or Mosque,
than by its Christian designation; which circumstance may be taken as a
proof of the great influence exerted over Spanish thought and feeling by
the Moorish occupation of the Peninsula.

The truth is that Spanish and Moorish interests had much in common, and
both nations had equal pride in the celebration of notable deeds
performed by Mussulman or Christian. The mingling of the two peoples
after the conquest of Granada gave, at least to the commonalty of both
nations, a spirit of charity which it had been better to foster than to

This gentle sentiment is well expressed in a lament by Amados de los
Rios, a great Spanish antiquary and Orientalist, who sings a mournful
requiem over the departed glories of the Mosque, once the model of Arab
architecture, and the pride of Islam:--

‘Neither the sumptuous Christian fabric that to-day rises in the midst
of those countless columns, nor all the treasures of art lavished upon
it by the celebrated artists of the sixteenth century who erected it,
nor that interminable series of chapels of every epoch which, resting
against the walls of the Mosque, disfigure it; nor the clumsy angels
that seem to suspend their flight to shed glory over the divine service,
nor the words of the Evangelist sounding from the seat of the Holy
Spirit, can dispel or banish in the slightest degree the majesty of
those wandering shades, that in vain seek in the sanctuary the sacred
volume whose leaves, according to tradition, were enamelled with the
blood of the Khalif Othman, martyr to the faith. A world of souvenirs
here enthralls the mind of the traveller as he gazes with a feeling of
sorrow upon these profanations,--works dictated by the intolerant yet
sincere faith of our ancestors, impelled by the desire of banishing for
ever from that spot consecrated to the law of Jesus, the spirit of
Mohammed and the ghosts of his slaves that haunt it, and will for ever
haunt it while it exists. For, in spite of the mutilations it has
endured, and of the changes it has undergone, there is impressed upon
it, by a superior ineradicable law, the seal of the art that inspired
it, and the character of the people by whom it was planned and erected.’

Don Amados is not alone in his eloquent, if unavailing protest. When
Charles V., in 1526, visited Cordova, and observed St. Peter’s (the
Coro) rising out of the very centre of the Mosque, he rebuked the
Bishop, Alonso Manriquez, who had erected the incongruous edifice, in no
measured terms. When the king saw the extent of the mischief, he said:
‘You have built here what you or any one might have built elsewhere; but
you have spoilt what was unique in the world.’ Alas! the monarch had
forgotten, or did not choose to remember, that the declaration came with
a very bad grace from one who, for his never-completed palace at
Granada, had torn down whole Courts and Halls of the Alhambra.

Like most Moorish buildings, the exterior of the Great Mosque of Cordova
has a somewhat forbidding aspect, and rises before one much unlike a
house of prayer.

The vast interior of the Mosque may be likened to a petrified grove of
palm-trees, their stems strangely varied in colour, and in amazing
perspective to all points of the compass. Marble columns of every hue,
from pure white and translucent alabaster, through the intervening red,
the precious verde antique, jasper, porphyry, all shades, to the deepest
black; the variety only to be explained by the fact that the great
builders Abd-er-Rahman I., together with his son and successor, Hisham
I., procured their materials whenever and wherever they could ‘acquire’
them. Many of the columns being too tall, were ‘topped’ to supply a
deficiency in the length of another--a process eloquent of the pillage
of many a distant city.[1]

All historians agree that the great Mosque of Cordova owes its inception
to Abd-er-Rahman I., the first sovereign to reign independently over
Andalus. Directly the Sultan found himself comparatively free from his
turbulent rivals, and firmly established on the throne, he began the
building of his royal palace--that of the pleasure-house called
Rissafah, and of the great Mosque. The circumstances which led to the
erection of the Mosque are thus related:--

When a city surrendered to the Moors by capitulation, it was their
custom to divide with the Christians the principal temple of that city.
So, for instance, when Damascus was taken, the principal temple was
divided, half of it remaining in the hands of the inhabitants for their
form of worship, while the other half was appropriated to the use of the
Moslems, who forthwith converted their moiety into a Mosque.

According to this usage, when the Arabs entered Cordova they divided
with the Christians their principal place of worship, all other
churches, both within and without the city, being immediately pulled
down. The Moslems remained for a long time satisfied with this state of
affairs, until their number increased, and Cordova became a very
populous city, owing to the Arabian Amirs having taken up their abode in
it, and made it the seat of Government. The Mosque could then no longer
contain the worshippers, and roof after roof was added to accommodate
them, the roof of each successive addition being inferior in height to
the preceding structure, until the roof of the latest addition was so
low as to be but a few feet from the floor, preventing the people from
standing with any comfort under it.

Upon the consolidation of the Omeyyah dynasty, Abd-er-Rahman at once
turned his attention to the enlargement of the Mosque. He sent for the
chiefs of the Christian Church, and proposed to purchase from them that
part of the building which remained in their hands, in order that he
might utilise the space for the better observance of the religion of the

After much negotiation, the Christians agreed to relinquish their
moiety, on condition of being allowed to rebuild or repair a church
outside the walls, and of holding it independently of the Moslems. The
church of the Christians was consecrated wholly to the worship of their
God.[2] This being granted by Abd-er-Rahman, and the Christians having
received the sum agreed upon, the Sultan demolished the old place of
worship (A.D. 784-5), and laid upon its site the foundations of the
great Mosque, which became one of the wonders of the world.

The building was carried on with incredible activity during the whole of
his reign, for the Sultan begrudged no expenditure that could add to its
magnificence; yet it was not until nine years after the death of
Abd-er-Rahman that the Mosque was completed according to the original
plan. The design was accomplished by the Sultan Hisham I. in the years
794-5, and the Mosque received considerable improvements at the hands of
his successors; indeed, it can be safely said that none of the Sultans
of the illustrious family of Omeyyah who reigned in Cordova failed to
make some estimable addition, or contributed in some way to the
decoration of the sumptuous building. Hisham’s son, Abd-er-Rahman II.
(A.D. 822-852), ordered much ‘gilt work’ (_Zak-hrafah_) to be made, but
died before the work was carried out. Mohammed, his son and successor
(A.D. 852-886), continued the work begun by his father, and brought it
to a close. Mohammed’s son, Mundhir, in a short reign (A.D. 886-888), is
recorded as having made improvements in the building. The great Khalif,
An-nassir (Abd-er-Rahman III., A.D. 912-961), caused the old minaret to
be pulled down and a more magnificent one to be erected. Al-hakem
Al-mustanser-billah (Hakem II., A.D. 961-976) made important additions.
Seeing, on his accession, that Cordova was every day increasing in
extent, and the population rapidly growing, he directed his attention to
the enlargement of the Mosque, and completed the additional building
known by his name, by which the structure, already gorgeous, reached the
highest perfection, the work of his time being executed in a manner that
bewilders by its excellence.

Lastly, in the reign of his successor Hisham II. (A.D. 976-1009), and
under the administration of his famous _Hajib_ (Lord Chamberlain and
Prime Minister) Al-Mansur, or Almanzor, as he is more commonly called,
an addition was made which almost doubled the capacity of the building.
A vast number of houses were pulled down, the sites and the lands
belonging to them appropriated for the extension of the Mosque; the
addition falling nowise short, in respect of solidity, beauty of design,
and boldness of execution, of those of any of his predecessors, unless
we except the transcendent work of Hakem II.

The grace and purity of construction and decoration in Cordova reached
their zenith during the reign of Hakem II. He it was who built the
_maksurrah_[3] within the Mosque, a production that has been described
by contemporary writers as one of the most exquisite fabrics ever raised
by man. In the two jambs of the arch forming the entrance to the
_mih-rab_[4] were four columns of great value: two were made of green
marble, the other two of lapis-lazuli.[5]

Near the mih-rab there once stood a pulpit constructed by Hakem II.,
equalled by none other in the world for workmanship and materials. It
was built of ivory and the rarest woods, such as ebony, sandal, almond,
Indian plantain, citron, aloe, and so forth. This beautiful object was
to be seen in the Cathedral of Cordova as late as the middle of the
sixteenth century, when it was dismembered and its materials employed in
the construction of a Christian altar. It was known to the
Spaniards under the name of _carro de Almanzor_, the chariot of
Al-mansur--probably because it stood upon wheels.

Not only did the Khalif Hakem II. make many additions to the great
Mosque of Cordova, but improvements which greatly benefited the city. In
place of the old reservoir for purification in the Court of the Mosque,
he built four others at two sides of the Mosque, and these he filled by
means of a canal which, taking the water from the hills of Cordova,
poured it into an immense reservoir of marble which fed the four minor
cisterns. These marble receptacles for water may yet be seen in the
Mezquita of Cordova; the quarry whence they were extracted is likewise
indicated by the peasants at a few miles from the city. The water,
running constantly, after supplying the needs of the Mosque, was
distributed into three conduits parting from three sides of the Mosque,
East, North, and West, thus supplying the city and suburbs.

The actual dimensions of the Mosque are difficult to establish. An
excellent authority says that in length from North to South, the Mosque
measures six hundred and twenty feet, in width four hundred and forty
feet. Mr. Waring, in his _Notes of an Architect in Spain_ says the
Mosque is an oblong of three hundred and ninety-four feet by three
hundred and sixty feet. The famous Orange Court is in length two hundred
and twenty feet, and, being within the boundary walls of the Mosque, is
probably included in the first measurement given.

It is impossible to fix with any degree of certainty the number of
columns contained in the Mosque during the time of Mohammedan supremacy.
Ambrosio de Morales and the Infante Don Juan Manuel, both of whom
described the Mosque before the columns were reduced in number by the
unnecessary, not to say barbarous, alterations to which the building has
been subjected, estimate the figures at one thousand and twelve; but it
is only too certain that when the Mosque was converted into a Christian
Church very many columns were removed to make room for altars, chapels,
and the like.

No less than one hundred columns were comprised within the _maksurrah_,
which was further provided with three doors of exquisite workmanship,
one of which was covered with pure gold, as were the walls of the
_mih-rab_. The floor of the _maksurrah_, it is said, was paved with
silver, and that the pavements adjacent to it were covered with
_sofeysafa_, an obscure word which Don Pascual de Gayangos believes to
be a transposition of the Arabic word _foseyfasa_,[6] signifying enamel
work of exceptional brilliancy, laid down by Greek workmen whom
Abd-er-Rahman had brought to Cordova for the task.

The ceiling of the Mosque was formerly covered with oval cartouches
bearing appropriate monitory inscriptions and pious sentences, such as
‘Be not one of the negligent,’ ‘Felicity,’ ‘Blessing,’ ‘There is no God
but God, to whom all beings address themselves in their need,’ thus
inciting the minds of the faithful to contemplation and prayer. Some few
of the cartouches are still remaining, but the inscriptions were
carefully effaced at the time when the Mosque was transformed into a
Christian temple. Those in the _mih-rab_, and in the angles near the
tower, were spared.

The number of brazen chandeliers of different sizes in the Mosque is
computed at upwards of two hundred, and the number of cups attached and
containing oil, at upwards of seven thousand. Some of the oil-reservoirs
for the great lamps were Christian bells deprived of their clappers,
afterwards inverted, and suspended from the roof. It is known that in
the many expeditions against the Christian, bells were frequently
removed from their churches and brought to Cordova. Sometimes the metal
of the bells was recast into forms more in accordance with the Moorish
style of ornament.



The most elegant description of Cordova is that contained in the epistle
of Ash-shakandi, a native of Shakandah, a town close to Cordova, on the
southern bank of the Guadalquivir. He calls Cordova ‘the repository of
science, the minaret of piety and devotion, the abode of magnificence,
superiority, and elegance: neither Baghdad nor Damascus can compete with
it. An idea of its worth can only be arrived at by comparing the city to
a beautiful bride of whose dower it should form part. Cordova may be
properly called the military camp of Andalus, the common _rendezvous_ of
those splendid armies which, with the help of Allah, defeated at every
encounter the worshippers of the Crucified. Its great Mosque, lighted
with bronze lamps made from Christian bells, had its foundations formed
of the materials of demolished churches brought to Cordova by Christian

During the reigns of the monarchs of Gothic descent, Cordova cannot be
said to have been the capital of Andalus, for although it served as a
place of temporary residence for some of their kings, it was not,
properly speaking, the court of the empire. By the establishment of
Islam within it, its importance increased; the city became the capital
of the Mohammedan empire in Spain and the stronghold of the family of
Merwan,[7] the two important cities of Seville and Toledo quickly
acknowledging its pre-eminence.

Upon the coming of the Beni Omeyyah, its Sultans exalted Cordova above
any city of Andalus, by reason of its convenient situation and
delightful temperature. In course of time Cordova became, says
El-Makkari, ‘the meeting-place of the learned from all countries, and
owing to the power and splendour of the mighty dynasty that ruled over
it, it contained more excellences than any other city on the face of the

There is a highly characteristic anecdote of the relative merits of
Cordova and Seville, the refined society of the one city being devoted
to literature, while that of the other was dedicated to music. ‘When a
rich man dies at Seville,’ says a native writer, ‘and his heirs desire
to sell his library, it is sent to Cordova for disposal; when, on the
other hand, a musician dies at Cordova and his instruments are to be
sold, the custom is to send them to Seville.’

A Mohammedan author of the twelfth century of our era, Al-hijárí, Abu
Mohammed, wrote a description of Cordova in a volume called _Al-mishab_,
‘The Chatterer,’ in which he describes the glories of the city.
‘Cordova,’ says he, ‘was, during the reign of the Beni-Merwan, the
cupola of Islam, the convocation of scholars, the court of the Sultans
of the family of Omeyyah, and the residence of the most illustrious
tribes of Yemen. Students from all parts of the world flocked thither at
all times to learn the sciences of which Cordova was the most noble
repository, and to derive knowledge from the mouths of the doctors and
_ulemas_ who swarmed in it. Cordova is to Andalus what the head is to
the body. Its river is one of the finest in the world, now gliding
slowly through level lawns, or winding softly across emerald fields
sprinkled with flowers, and serving it for robes; now flowing through
thickly planted groves, where the song of birds resounds perpetually in
the air, and now widening into a majestic stream to impart its waters to
the numerous wheels constructed on its banks, communicating fresh vigour
to the land.’

The extent of ancient Cordova has been differently stated, owing, no
doubt, to the rapid increase of its population and the expansion of the
buildings under the Sultans of the dynasty of Merwan on the one hand,
and on the other, to the calamities and disasters by which it was
afflicted under the last sovereigns of that house. Cordova is further
described by Mohammedan writers as a city which never ceased augmenting
in size, and increasing in importance from the time of its subjugation
by the Moslems until A.D. 1009-10, when, civil war breaking out within
it, the capital fell from its ancient splendour, gradually decaying and
losing its former magnificence until its final destruction A.D. 1236,
when it fell into the hands of the Christians.

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_Specially drawn for The Spanish Series_]


[1] It is said that many of the pillars were brought from the plunder
of Narbonne, the French town on the Mediterranean.

[2] The new Christian Church was dedicated to SS. Faustus and Marcial.
The priests quitted their Cathedral peacefully, bearing in procession
the relics and images of the saints.

[3] _The maksurrah_ is a screen or enclosure surrounding the _mih-rab_,
with a sort of throne or platform where the Sultan sits, elevated above
the level of the Mosque. The whole of that space which was taken up by
the _maksurrah_ is now occupied by the chapel of St. Estevan.

[4] The _mih-rab_ is a recess having a cavity within one of its walls,
wherein stood that copy of the Koran held in highest veneration. The
cavity also marked that point of the compass towards which stands the
_Ka’bah_, the object of veneration at Mecca.

[5] The four columns are yet in place in what is now the chapel of St.
Peter. Behind the mih-rab at Cordova was a room where other copies of
the Koran were kept. Both the sanctuary, and the mih-rab room, now
form part of St. Peter’s Chapel, which the inhabitants vulgarly call
La Capilla del Zancarron--the chapel of the shin-bone--from a popular
belief that the shin-bone of the Prophet was there preserved.

[6] _Foseyfasa._--Gayangos tells us that the word is not in the
dictionaries, but that, according to an old Arabian writer, it is
a substance of glass and small pebbles crushed and baked together,
uniting, with great variety of colour, great brilliancy and beauty;
it is sometimes mixed with silver and gold. One of the conditions of
peace granted to the Emperor of Constantinople by the Khalif Al-walid
was that the Emperor should provide a certain quantity of _foseyfasa_
or enamelled work for the great Mosque at Damascus. Idrísí, in his
description of the Mosque of Cordova, says that the enamel which
covered the walls of the _mih-rab_ came from Constantinople.

[7] Merwan, the last Khalif at Damascus of the Beni Omeyyah dynasty,
was the ancestor of Abd-er-Rahman I.

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