Here we are visiting Córdoba, one of the “must visit” places in Andalusia, and as the British orientalist and archaeologist Stanley Lane-Poole wrote in 1907 “To Córdoba belongs all the beauty and ornaments that delight the eye or dazzle the sight”.

Our reason for picking May 2010 for our first visit was the Festival Patios Cordobese 2010 and as you will see in the next few pages our travels this time took us through the Jewish Quarter (La Judería), in to the Mezquita Catedral, and out of the city to see Madinet al-Zahra.

Historic Córdoba, was the capital of Hispania Ulterior Baetica, and it is said that it actually grew to be bigger than Rome itself. They built El Puente Romano (the Roman Bridge) crossing the Guadalquivir, a Roman Theatre, the Aqueduct, a Temple of Augustus, nearly 3 km of walls completely surrounding the city, the Cercadílla Palace and many Funerary Monuments. The oldest Jewish settlement in the Iberian peninsular known as "La Juderia" was inside the old city through the Almodóvar Gate.

In 711, the Moorish invasion of Iberian peninsula began. An army of 300 Arabs and 6,700 Berbers (black Moors) landed on the Iberian peninsula and conquered a large part of the land. This particular army represented the Damascan Umayyad Caliphate. In May 766, Córdoba was elected as capital of an independent Muslim emirate of al-Andalus, and later it became a Caliphate itself. During the Caliphate apogee (around 1000), Córdoba had a population of roughly 400,000 inhabitants, and was considered one of the most advanced cities in the world, as well as a great cultural, political, financial and economic centre. The Great Mosque dates back to this time, and under Caliph Al-Hakam II Córdoba received what was then the largest library in the world, housing from 400,000 to 1,000,000 volumes.

After the fall of the Caliphate in 1031, Córdoba became the capital of a Republican independent taifa. In 1070 it was conquered by Al-Mu’tamid ibn Abbad, lord of Seville, who was later replaced by the Almohads.

During the latter's domination the city declined, the role of capital of Muslim al-Andalus having been given to Seville. On 29 June 1236, after a siege of several months, it was captured by King Ferdinand III of Castile during the Spanish Reconquista. The city continued to decline especially after Renaissance times. In the 18th century it had just 20,000 inhabitants, and the population and economy started to increase again only in the early 20th century.

But first let us look rapidly at the history of Córdoba. Córdoba stands for both a Spanish province and the capital city of the province. It’s history dates back over two thousand years, and in fact before the Guadalquivir River silted-up, ships could navigate inland past Seville and up to Córdoba. It was a strategic capital for the Romans and they were already well aware that the region was rich in minerals, wheat and olive oil. References to Córdoba date back to the bronze age, and later the Guadalquivir was referred to by the Moors as "al-wadi al-kabir" or the Great River.

Al-Hakam II (above) and his court (below)

King Ferdinand III

last updated: 10 July 2010