Historic Centre of Cordoba

Province of Cordoba, Autonomous Community of Andalusia
N37 52 45.1 W4 46 47
Date of Inscription: 1984
Extension: 1994
Criteria: (i)(ii)(iii)(iv)
Ref: 313bis
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Cordoba’s period of greatest glory began in the 8th century after the Moorish conquest, when some 300 mosques and innumerable palaces and public buildings were built to rival the splendours of Constantinople, Damascus and Baghdad. In the 13th century, under Ferdinand III, the Saint, Cordoba’s Great Mosque was turned into a cathedral and new defensive structures, particularly the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos and the Torre Fortaleza de la Calahorra, were erected.

Founded by the Romans in the 2nd century BC near the pre-existing Tartesic Corduba, capital of Baetica, Cordoba acquired great importance during the period of Augustus. It became the capital of the emirate depending on Damascus in the 8th century. In 929, Abderraman III established it as the headquarters of the independent Caliphate. Cordoba’s period of greatest glory began in the 8th century after the Moorish conquest, when some 300 mosques and innumerable palaces and public buildings were built to rival the splendors of Constantinople, Damascus and Baghdad. In the 13th century, under Ferdinand III, Cordoba’s Great Mosque was turned into a cathedral and new defensive structures, particularly the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos and the Torre Foraleza de la Calahorra, were erected.

The Historic Centre of Cordoba now comprises the streets surrounding the Great Mosque and all the parcels of land opening on to these, together with all the blocks of houses around the mosque-cathedral. This area extends to the other bank of the River GuadaIquivir (to include the Roman bridge and the Calahorra) in the south, to the Calle San Fernando in the east, to the boundary of the commercial centre in the north, and  incorporating the AIcázar de los Reyes Cristianos and the San Basilio quarter in the west.

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. It represented an obligatory passage between the south and the “meseta”, and was an important port, from which mining and agricultural products from the mountains and countryside were exported.

The Historic Centre of Cordoba creates the perfect urban and landscape setting for the Mosque. It reflects thousands of years of occupation by different cultural groups – Roman, Visigoth, Islam, Judaism and Christian-, that all left a mark. This area reflects the urban and architectural complexity reached during the Roman era and the splendour of the great Islamic city, which, between the 8th and the 10th centuries, represented the main urban and cultural focus in the western world. Its monumental richness and the unique residential architecture stand out. There are still many ancestral homes and traditional houses. The communal houses built around interior courtyards (casa-patio) are the best example of Cordoban houses. They are of Roman origin with an Andalusian touch, and they heighten the presence of water and plants in daily life.

The Great Mosque of Cordoba represents a unique artistic achievement due to its size and the sheer boldness of the height of its ceilings. It is an irreplaceable testimony of the Caliphate of Cordoba and it is the most emblematic monument of Islamic religious architecture. It was the second biggest in surface area, after the Holy Mosque in Mecca, previously only reached by the Blue Mosque (Istanbul, 1588), and was a very unusual type of mosque that bears witness to the presence of Islam in the West. The Great Mosque of Cordoba was also very influential on Western Islamic art since the 8th century just as in the neo-Moorish style in the 19th century.

Concerning architecture, it has represented a testing ground for building techniques, which have influenced both the Arabic and Christian cultures alike since the 8th century.

It is an architectural hybrid that joins together many of the artistic values of East and West and includes elements hitherto unheard-of in Islamic religious architecture, including the use of double arches to support the roof. The direct forerunners to this can be found in the Los Milagros (Miracles) Aqueduct in Merida. Its building techniques – the use of stone with brick – were a novelty reusing and integrating Roman/Visigoth techniques. Also it included the “honeycomb” capital, which differs from the Corinthian capital, characteristic of caliph art. Subsequently, this was to greatly influence all Spanish architecture. Likewise the combination of the ribbed vault, with a system of intertwined poli ovulate arches gives stability and solidity to the ensemble, and it represents a first class architectural milestone a hundred years before the ribbed vault appeared in France. 

Criterion (i): The Great Mosque of Cordoba, with its dimensions and the boldness of its interior elevation, which were never imitated, make it a unique artistic creation 

Criterion (ii): Despite its uniqueness, the mosque of Cordoba has exercised a considerable influence on western Muslim art from the 8th century. It influenced as well the development of “Neo-Moresque” styles of the 19th century. 

Criterion (iii): The Historic Centre of Córdoba is the highly relevant testimony to the Caliphate of Cordoba (929-1031): this city – which, it is said, enclosed 300 mosques and innumerable palaces – [was] the rival of Constantinople and Baghdad. 

Criterion (iv): It is an outstanding example of the religious architecture of Islam. 

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