Historic Center of Córdoba
Location: Córdoba, Spain, Europe
Theme: Cities & Towns
The city of Cordoba contains outstanding monuments from its Roman past, its golden age as an Islamic capital in the 10th century and from the period of the Christian Reconquista.
Explore nearby sites
Recommend this page
Historic Center of Córdoba
The Historic Centre of Cordoba now comprises the streets surrounding the monument and all the parcels of land opening on to these, together with all the blocks of houses around the mosque-cathedral. To the south this area extends to the further bank of the River GuadaIquivir (to include the Roman bridge and the Calahorra), to the east to the Calle San Fernando, to the north to the boundary of the commercial centre, and to the west to incorporate the AIcázar des los Reyes Cristianos and the San Basilio quarter. The city, by virtue of its extent and plan, its historical significance as a living expression of the different cultures that have existed there, and its relationship with the river, is a historical ensemble of extraordinary value.
Cordoba is defined by two geographical features: the mountains of the Sierra Morena, with their mineral wealth, and Guadalquivir, which skirts and then cuts through them. It was a flourishing Carthaginian township in 206 BC, when it was captured by the Romans, who recognized its strategic and commercial importance and made it the capital of Hispania Inferior, adorned with fine public and private buildings and enclosed by imposing fortifications. Among its illustrious sons were the two Senecas and the poet Lucan.
With the onset of the barbarian invasions of the 6th century, Roman society on the Iberian peninsula crumbled, and Cordoba fell to the Visigoths. In 756 the Caliph of Damascus set up his court at Cordoba and laid the foundations for the most glorious period of the city's history. He began building the Great Mosque, on the site of a Roman temple of Janus, which had been converted into a church by the Visigoths. Cordoba became the centre of a great realm renowned for its artistic and intellectual predominance and its liberal toleration of other religions, but the Caliphate collapsed after the bitter civil war of 1009-31, and only the Great Mosque survived as a symbol of its achievements. In 1236 the city was captured by Ferdinand III: the mosque became the cathedral and new defensive structures were raised, as befitted its role as a frontier town under constant threat of attack from the Moors. The historic centre, clustering round the mosque-cathedral, preserves much of its medieval urban fabric, with its characteristic narrow, winding streets.
Its earlier Roman past is, however, also in evidence, as the sixteen-span bridge was originally thrown across the fast-flowing GuadaIquivir. The fine mosaics in the Alcázar, with its columns of the 1st century AD temple, and sections of the Roman wall. The gardens of the Alcázar formed part of the Moorish design for the area around the Mosque, and are good examples of Moorish Andalusian garden design, with effective use of water. The remains of the monumental CaliphaI Baths are nearby. During the Moorish period there were many small places of worship around the Great Mosque. Most of these have disappeared, but their minarets survive as the churches of Santiago and San Lorenzo and the Hermitage of Santa Clara. Another important monument from this period is the Almodóvar Gate. There are reminders of the important Jewish population of Moorish Cordoba in the quarter known as La Judería, which best preserves the original street pattern, and the small Synagogue, converted for Christian use after the expulsion of the Jews in 1492.
The Christian structures of the Alcázar date from the early 14th century, and were built as a royal residence: they show strong Mudejar influence in their design. The Torre de la Calahorra formed part of a medieval fortress, perhaps from the beginning of the Christian period. The church of San Jacinto (now the Palace of Congresses and Exhibitions) is in Florid Gothic style; the Chapel of San Bartolomeo, Moorish in origin, now is clearly Christian, in the Gothic-Mudejar style; San Francisco and San Nicolás, which date from the same period. Also important buildings are from the 16th century: the Seminary of San Pelagio, Puerta del Puente, Casa Solariega de los Pàez de Castillo and Casa del Marqués de la Fuensanta del Valle, which illustrate the religious, military and architectural styles. From the 18th century come the civic buildings: the Triunfos de San Rafael and Hospital del Cardenal Salazar.