Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Another Church???

Okay, so if you know me even a little bit you know that I'm not big on visiting churches or museums. I can definitely appreciate the architecture and the amount of work in them but they both tend to be a little too quiet and slow for me. I did the Egyptian museum in Cairo with my awesome guide in less than an hour and saw tons of amazing stuff. Unfortunately, Europe's full of both museums and old churches and you can't throw a stick without hitting one. Fortunately, I visited one cathedral in Cordoba that was very different and worthwhile to see.

Before this visit to Cordoba, which is located in the Andalusian province of southern Spain, all I knew of the place was Ricardo Montalban and his "Soft Corinthian Leather" commercials from when I was a kid. Well, Cordoba's a pretty cool small town with lots of history. It's been around for quite a while; first as a Roman city then later as the headquarters of the Islamic Caliphate. As with pretty much every town in Spain, Cordoba's centered around it's cathedral. What makes this one different is that is was an important mezquita (Spanish for mosque) originally built during the Caliphate that was later converted to a church. (Technically, there have always been temples or churches on the site but they were torn down to build the current building.) If it wasn't for the Christian imagery, crosses, and various Gothic touches, you'd think that you were in a mosque with beautiful Islamic architectural details.

Church tower? Check. Nothing too special here.

But wait, is this the typical door for your classic European Gothic cathedral? I think not...

So, once I got inside, I was truly surprised. The place has a layout like the mosques I had seen in Israel and Egypt but the styling is amazing. There are hundreds of columns topped with arches that are made from white and red stone.

It's only when you dig farther that you find Christian imagery like this cross:

In this photo, you can see the intersection of styles...the columns and arches from the Islamic mosque and the chapel and ceiling from the Gothic church:

You do eventually come to an alter that is in the same style as all other churches, but it's definitely not the highlight. Finally, here's another exterior photo of one of the doors to the building. You can clearly see the Arabic writing along with the Islamic styling, but above it all, you can see three "classic" Christian paintings.

With this great experience, you'd think that I'd be ready to visit the next 100 cathedrals/churches/chapels (just on the next block alone) but, alas, probably not. Well, actually, who knows. As with everything else, I'll keep my eyes open and see what happens.

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