La Judería, Muslim, Christian, Jewish heart of Cordoba

After Seville, the second stop of my recent trip to Andalucía was lovely Córdoba, precisely its quaint and historic quarter of La Judería.

La Judería
Façade of Cordoba’s Mezquita in the historical quarter of La Judería

If Granada boasts a style that mixes Moorish and Christian influences, Córdoba combines these two approaches to art, society and religion and embeds them in the old Jewish quarter of La Judería.

Here the fascinating mosque-cathedral Mezquita lies next to a Roman bridge, the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, citadel-residence-fortress of the Christian Kings that now is one of the main Córdoba’s landmarks, and the city’s old synagogue in Calle de los Judios.

La Judería
Arches and pillars inside the Mezquita

Arriving in Córdoba by coach from Seville meant to us a shift from modern-style station and roads to a maze of narrow winding alleys, where only local taxi drivers get around easily.

Córdoba, pretty much like all Andalucía, wakes up slowly and taking her time, with workers bothering going to breakfast around 10-ish and tourists willingly adapting to local lifestyle. Shopkeepers bring out their display of flamenco dresses and loud jewelry, and the day officially starts.

La Judería
Arched corridor inside the Mezquita

Imperatively, the first site to visit at La Judería quarter, admire and photograph is the Mezquita, one of the most impressive examples of Islamic architecture in the western world. The beauty of the complex is intimidating, the atmosphere inspires peace, the history competition and struggle for hegemony. Not only a mix of Islamic and Christian patterns well describes this spiritual place, but a combination of personalities within the same Muslim world, as it bears features dating back to Caliph Abd-ar-Rahman‘s period, who founded the Umayyad dynasty and established Córdoba as the capital of al-Andalus commissioning its construction in 785AD, and to his successors Abd-ar-Rahman II, al-Hakam II and Amanzor.

La Judería
Mihrab in the Mezquita, an indentation in the wall that marks the direction of the qiblah, namely the Mecca

The former mosque is now a Roman Catholic cathedral, and before being a mosque had actually already been a Christian Visigothic church on the ruins of which Abd-ar-Rahman started building the Muslim worship place. Studying the whole complex might take years, as it would mean exploring the different layers of history and unearthing a fascinating collaboration of religions, tastes and an aesthetic that blends Roman, Gothic, Byzantine, Syrian and Persian elements, the first example of the so-called Califal style.

La Judería
Catholic Cross underneath Islamic style decoration

After re-conquering Córdoba, Christians transformed the monument into a church again and, although leaving pretty much intact the Moorish architecture, built a cathedral inside with a great central nave facing a finely decorated altar.

Being La Judeíra the Jewish Quarter, the presence of the synagogue was pretty obvious. Of simple decoration, its walls empty, with only the ever-present menorah as an ornament, symbol of Jews’ traditional austerity that in the 11th and 12th centuries integrated with Islamic rules and Christian customs, organizing their lives in an almost walled citadel on the border with the Alcázar.

La Judería
Central nave in the cathedral facing the high altar

The first thing visitors notice after stepping over the threshold of this residence-fortress at the heart of La Judería neighbourhood is the idea of prestige its builders meant to give to it. Dream gardens, simple yet beautiful fountains that pour their waters into crystal clear pools, carefully trimmed hedges and trees, and a massive statue, seemingly the portrait trend of the time, symbolizing the moment when the cardinal celebrated the wedding between the Kingdom of Castile in the person of Isabella I and the Kingdom of Aragon, Naples and Sicily embodied by its ruler, Ferdinand II of Aragon.

La Judería
Fountains in the gardens of the Alcazar at La Judería quarter

Both Isabella and Ferdinand went down in history as “the Catholic” due to their infamous support to the equally infamous Spanish Inquisition, the “holy” tribunal promoted by the Monarchs themselves in order to keep their Catholic image untarnished and their reign free from infidels.

La Judería
Royal wedding between Isabella I and Ferdinando II of Aragon in the gardens of the Alcazar

Strolling about the Alcázar even only a small historical awareness can be painful: it was one of the first permanent courts of the Inquisition and the headquarter where the campaigns against the Nasrids took off, until Granada was reincorporated to Catholic Spain in 1492, year that saw also Isabella support Cristoforo Colombo’s travels that introduced the American continent to European rulers, causing the beginning of the Spanish colonization.

La Judería
Menorah in Cordoba’s synagogue

It goes without saying that any city we visit has been the theatre of events involving our ancestors, but while some rest in the scrap heap of history, others constantly make a comeback due to their immortal aftermath, either good or bad. Andalucía belongs to the latter category, as around every corner hides a name of heavy legacy, just like at La Judería.

  1. Très beau! Toi qui a beaucoup voyagé, quel est le pays qui t’a le plus émerveillée?

  2. Non ti smentisci! Bellissime foto, molto suggestive! E complimenti per il commento!!!

  3. Such great photos, Angela. Especially the interior of the Mezquita.

  4. Great photo essay Angela! This was my favourite shot –> Arched corridor inside the Mezquita

  5. wow, these photos are amazing.
    Great article.

  6. Wow! That architecture is just stunning!

  7. Looks like a great place, I haven’t been to Cordoba yet but this inspired me to make sure that I do :) Love the style of the architecture.

  8. I love Andalucia! I’ve spent about a year there between two different trips and somehow never made it to Cordoba. Your black and white picture of those distinct arches is stunning!

  9. Cordoba is amazing, truly one of Andalusia’s hidden gem. So many people overlook it, but I though it was one of the best surprises of my trip.

    • True, Cordoba is amazing, maybe you’re right, I saw less tourists than in Seville and Granada, although the Mezquita was really packed. It was my second time in Cordoba, always happy to go back!

  10. I think Moorish and Christian styles mixes very well. I don’t know what it would feel and look like in art, society and religion but judging from these photos, it doesn’t look half bad. Great to learn a little bit of history about this place. Looking forward to visiting all of its intricacies. Great shots, by the way!

  11. These pictures hurt! So good!

  12. Such interesting information of the Muslim, Christian, Jewish history in Cordoba. Wonderful photos. The photo of the Catholic cross amid Muslim decor is really intriguing.

  13. Wonderful Andalucian art!
    Cordoba’s old streets are also great wondering on and photographing.

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