The tale of Islamic Cordoba, of Qurtuba, is the tale of its Emirs and its Caliphs; it is the tale of its most emblematic buildings, its streets, its people, its doctors, its scientists and its philosophers. It is, in short, the story of five centuries in which the city, like the rest of al-Andalus, became acquainted with classical culture through the “early Renaissance” promoted by the Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula.
This historical period, which runs from the years 711 to 1236, definitely marked a before and after in the city’s history, and, according to some historians, was a model of intercultural coexistence. However, the idea of the “City of the Three Cultures” has been questioned by others, who oppose this idealised notion of peaceful coexistence. The truth is that during the years of Islamic rule in Cordoba, Muslims, Jews and Christians shared the same living space, although there were still many important social, and even legal, differences which divided the three groups.
In any case, many of the intellectuals of the time — and not only those from al-Andalus — wrote about the important status which Qurtuba enjoyed. Tenth century travellers, like the German nun Roswita von Ganderheim, sang of its glories, saying the city was “the shining Jewel of the world, a new, beautiful city, proud of its strength, renowned for its delicacies, resplendent in the full possession of all its properties.”
But whatever the truth of the matter, Cordoba’s Islamic past is without doubt one of the most widely known periods of the city’s history. The permanent reminder of the Mosque, which holds pride of place in Cordoba’s monumental heritage, has helped to keep the memory of Cordoba’s Arabic past alive over the centuries, and even today, when historians are revising their views on such concepts as the “Muslim invasion” or the “Christian Reconquest”, the essential details remain deeply engrained in the popular imagination.
The city we know today as Cordoba was named “Qurtuba” in the early eighth century, when Muslim troops came to power after crossing over from North Africa via the Straits of Gibraltar. First they reached Cadiz, and then in the year 711, the ancient city of Corduba. From then on, the city began one of the most glorious periods in its history, recovering again its key role as a state-builder, which it had once enjoyed in the time of the Roman conquest of the Iberian Peninsula.
Cordoba once again became a centre of power, but more importantly, it became a focal point for culture, philosophy and science, and for the first time achieved international recognition.
The city of Qurtuba grew amid the civil upheavals and the political and administrative evolution of al-Andalus, the new state created by the Arabs in the Iberian Peninsula. The new public buildings which were built, for administrative and political uses, marked the different stages in its history, although today we tend to treat them as coming from one single era.
THE BIRTH OF QURTUBA
The Islamic conquest of the old Visigothic Cordoba by the troops led by Mugit al-Rumi, Tariq ibn Ziyad’s lieutenant, was not, according to the different sources available to historians, a particularly difficult task. On the contrary, the Visigothic leaders, torn apart by internal strife, put up little resistance and abandonedthe city, which facilitated the city’s conversion into a centre of Islamic power in the south of the peninsula. The troops from Africa took little time to set up their political and religious headquarters in the south-western sector of the walled city, which in 717 became the capital of the conquered territory in the peninsula.
Historians have recently begun to analyze this supposed Islamic invasion from a different perspective, and now defend the idea that the citizens integrated perfectly into a way of life which was extremely similar to their own. During these early years in Islamic Cordoba, the authorities, dependent on the regime in power in Kairouan (Tunisia), and therefore on the Caliphate of Damascus, set to work on restoring the city’s damaged infrastructure and especially the old Roman bridge, which was repaired using stones from the city walls.
In those early decades, the city was ruled by governors dependent on Damascus and its people lived within the walled area coving about the same size as the Roman city. The Medina was therefore formed along the same lines, and the new authorities occupied the same buildings as the previous rulers, in this case the Alcazar, or fortress. However, it was not long before the first suburb sprang up outside the Medina. Built in 719 as a burial area, the suburb of Saqunda, situated on the far bank of the river, eventually grew into one of the most highly populated areas of the city.
THE INDEPENDENT EMIRATE
Following the arrival of the new regime, the city grew both in population and in political importance, and its leadership was consolidated mainly as a result of the political instability of the Caliphate in Damascus. Its downfall, followed by the rise to power of the Abbasi dynasty and the flight to al-Andalus of the Umayyad’s sole heir, converted Qurtuba into a cornerstone in developing the new state, which Abd al-Rahman I declared an independent Emirate in the spring of 756.
From then on, Qurtuba became the official capital of al-Andalus and as such, was deemed worthy of a comprehensive programme of architecture and urban planning, which to a large extent survives to this day. The rebuilding of the walls and the bridge (766 AD) began during the emirate; the Alcazar (fortress) was built in 785 AD and, most importantly, construction started for a new mosque (785 AD) on the site of a former Christian temple. The layout of the public and religious buildings (for instance, the Mosque and the Alcazar were joined) repeated the pattern of other Islamic cities and perfectly symbolized
the role of the Emir as the political and spiritual head of state.
It was during the Emirate when, in the mid 9th century, the major building work on the restoration of the Emir’s Palace (Alcazar) began, along with a range of urban improvements. However, the conversion of the city to Islam left its make not only in its major buildings, but also in the construction of smaller religious centres throughout the Medina. This network of mosques extended as far as the suburbs, such as the one built beneath the modern-day Church of Santiago.
Logically, the choice of Qurtuba as the capital of al-Andalus caused its population to grow and the city perimeter to expand. The suburbs — Saqunda and Sabular are the oldest on record – further extended the provision of public buildings and services. The first of these suburban settlements was to play the leading role in one of the bloodiest chapters in the history of Qurtuba when, in the year 818, it led a popular rebellion against the Emir Al-Hakam I. The Emir retaliated by razing it to the ground, and prohibiting any further building on the site.
The social organization of Qurtuba was also reflected in the urban distribution of the different groups. Thus, while the Muslim community was centred mainly around the Medina, the Christian community, known as the Mozarabs, lived outside the city walls in areas linked to the churches and monasteries built in the Visigothic period. This has been documented in the case of the present church of San Pedro and area of the former imperial palace of Maximianus Herculius, which was used as a burial ground.
On the other hand, the ruling Islamic elite settled mainly around the political and religious centre and built their homes either on the western edge of town or in the north, at the foot of the mountains, where there were many farmsteads, some of which belonged to the Emir himself.
THE CALIPHATE OF CÓRDOBA
The year 929 is critical to our understanding of Cordoba’s Islamic past. It was then when the Emir Abd al-Rahman III declared himself Caliph, and Qurtuba became the capital of the Caliphate, on a par with cities like Baghdad or Cairo. This status led inevitably to a revolutionary new era of urban planning, which included, by necessity, the construction of a new city to symbolize the newly-acquired power of the state. Madinat al Zahra was therefore created in the tenth century as the jewel of the Caliphate and led to the growth of the city towards the west, although both the Mosque and the Alcazar (fortress) preserved their role as centres of political and religious power. In fact, in the eleventh century, the palatine city was wrecked by rampaging Berber troops, determined to smash this glorious symbol of the Caliph’s power. The same fate was met, too, by a second palace-city, Madinat al-Zahira, built by Almanzor at the other side of town, on the right hand bank of the Guadalquivir, between the El Arenal area and the river, on the other side of the modern dual carriageway. It was here where Almanzor settled, after abandoning Madinat al-Zahra, and where he established a second administrative centre of power in the Caliphate, until it was sacked and razed to the ground in April 1009.
Although no visible remains survive of the “Radiant City”, there are written testimonies of its wealth and its role as administrative headquarters of the powerful Muslim political and military forces. Meanwhile, the old Medina survived, and during the Caliphate, the extensions of the Mosque carried on apace with the addition of a great minaret. Smaller centres of worship continued to be built, such as those preserved in the Convent of Santa Clara, the Fontanar area or in the Church of San Lorenzo, and the main thoroughfares were strengthened, such as the former Roman bridge.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
The old city became centre stage for all the subsequent historical events, as the weakness of the Caliphate led to the fragmentation of the Taifa kingdoms and brought on the subsequent Almoravid and Almohad invasions, terminating in 1236 with the conquest of the city by the Christian kingdoms of northern Spain. During all those years, Qurtuba was limited to the walled city, including the suburb of the Axerquía built inside it, and this remained the same during the late Middle Ages and right up to modern times.
Хронология истории Кордовы:
- 711: Tarik lands in Gibraltar.
- 717: Cordoba becomes capital of the peninsular territories dependent on Damascus.
- 756: Abd al-Rahman I arrives in Cordoba.
- 773: Abd al-Rahman I creates the Independent Emirate.
- 785: The construction of the Arabic Alcazar (fortress) begins.
- 787: The construction of the Mosque begins.
- 788: Death of Abd al-Rahman I.
- 818: The suburb of Saqunda rebels against Al-Hakam I.
- 848: The first enlargement of the Mosque is completed.
- 912: Abd al-Rahman III starts his reign.
- 929: Abd al-Rahman III is proclaimed Caliph.
- 936: The construction of Madinat al-Zahra starts.
- 951: The third extension of the Mosque begins
- and the minaret is built.
- 961: Abd al-Rahman III dies and is succeeded by
- his son Al-Hakam II.
- 976: Hisam II comes to the throne.
- 1010: Civil war breaks out between supporters of Hisam II and Almanzor: Madinat al-Zahra is razed to the ground.
- 1031: The Caliphate is finally dissolved. The Taifa kingdoms are formed.
- 1136: The Albolafia water wheel is built.
- 1236: The troops of Fernando III capture Cordoba.
- 1984: The Mosque is declared a World Heritage building.
ROUTE: ON THE QURTUBA TRAIL
The city of Qurtuba lives on in the streets and buildings of modern-day Cordoba. You only have to walk the city streets and keep your eyes open to recognize the legacy of al-Andalus. This guide offers the visitor a few clues to help them unravel the age-old mysteries of Qurtuba.
1. The suburb of Saqunda (Miraflores Park)
In modern-day Cordoba, the Calahorra Tower, Miraflores Park and the district of Campo de la Verdad all stand over the site of the first and most populous suburb of the Emirate of Cordoba, which covered an area of over 16,000 square metres. The suburb of Saqunda, destroyed and razed to the ground by Emir Al-Hakam I after the revolt that took place in the year 818, was rediscovered when the park was being built. Below Miraflores Park, a large number of houses were found, alongside buildings for industrial and commercial use during the first centuries of Qurtuba’s existence. Moreover, we have been able to document the layout of the streets that ran through the district a thousand years ago – some of which were as much as 6 metres wide and 90 long.
The walls were made of boulders, very easy to obtain with the river so close by, sometimes interspersed with tiles, fragments of pottery and blocks of limestone. The archaeological excavations also unearthed a number of wells, which made up for the lack a clean water supply and a system of drains, and discovered a mass of pottery remains, mainly for everyday use, such as pots, mugs, lids, lamps and large storage jars.
The existence of a Muslim cemetery named Maqbarat al-Rabadán has also been linked in the historical records to this suburb. It was founded in the year 720 by the Emir al-Sahan, and there are numerous references to it in the written records as well as on funeral inscriptions preserved in the Archaeological Museum of Cordoba.
2. San Antonio Water Mill/ Molino de San Antonio
Passing Culeb Weir, downstream from the Roman Bridge, we arrive at the water mills – one named Enmedio or Jesus Maria, another Don Tello or Papalo Tierno and finally San Antonio, all of them dating from the twelfth century. Unlike the other mills located in the Guadalquivir river, the San Antonio mill was used exclusively for grinding grain, and was never employed for other common uses such as fulling or generating electricity.
In the 1960s, the San Antonio Mill was used as a small shipyard where wooden boats were built like the ferry boats used to cross the Guadalquivir River from the pier near the Martos Mill. The mill also provides an excellent lookout over the natural park known as the Albolafia Woodlands, which was declared a Natural Monument because of its great importance as a breeding site and observation point for birds.
It is planned to convert the old mill soon into a visitors centre for this unique natural area of 21.36 hectares, home to a wide variety of birdlife and a stopping-off point for many migratory species.
3. The Living Museum of al-Andalus. Calahorra Tower.
The Calahorra Tower was a fortified outpost on the left hand bank of the Guadalquivir, which, from the tenth century onwards, guarded the Roman bridge and defended the city against attacks from the south. Originally, it only consisted of a single horseshoe arch flanked by two adjoined towers. Its present structure is the result of subsequent reforms, especially the rebuilding work ordered by King Henry II of Trastamara in 1369. After being used as a prison in the eighteenth century and as a school for girls in the nineteenth, it was declared a historic-artistic monument in 1931 and restored in 1954.
Since 1987, it has housed the Living Museum of al-Andalus, which over 8 rooms, guides visitors by means of an audiovisual show through a brief history of al-Andalus, with special emphasis on the peaceful coexistence and mutual exchanges between the three cultures (Christian, Islamic and Jewish) who lived in medieval Cordoba. The museum contains a scale model showing the Mosque before the cathedral was built inside it.
4. The Roman Bridge / Puente Romano
This bridge was built in Roman times at the first fordable point in the river from its mouth, and lent the city a strategic advantage which must have helped it become the Roman capital of Andalusia and, later, of the Muslim al-Andalus.
The traditional image of what was for many centuries the only bridge in the city is in fact the product of countless reforms, the latest undertaken in 2008. Commissioned by the Roman authorities in Corduba, the bridge was in a dilapidated state when the Muslim troops arrived. For that reason, one of the first public works undertaken in Qurtuba was to rebuild it, although the most important transformation was carried out later by Emir Al-Hakam II.
In the middle of the bridge, on one of the parapets, stands a statue of San Rafael, sculpted in 1651 by Barnabas Gomez del Rio, the first series of statues known as triumphs that the city dedicated to its patron saint.
5. Ablution halls of the Mosque / Lavatorios de la Mezquita Aljama (Hotel Conquistador)
The Hotel Conquistador, situated in Calle Magistral González Francés, opposite the Mosque, preserves within part of the ablution halls built by Almanzor adjoining Mosque in the year 999. These rooms were used for the ablutions (ritual washing before prayer) which the faithful were obliged to carry out before entering the Mosque to pray. Their discovery during the construction of the hotel was an exciting archaeological find, since it was the first physical evidence of the existence of the Mosque’s ablution facilities. The room, unique in Europe, is rectangular (16m x 28m) and is built of large stone blocks and fitted with a complex hydraulic system, which is visible through the glass floor in one of the hotel halls.
6. The Alley of the Handkerchief / Calleja del Pañuelo
Places like the Alley of the Handkerchief are a living reminder of the Islamic heritage in the urban structure of the medina, and is a perfect example of an azuc or azucaque – a narrow dead-end street that was built between blocks of houses to give access to different living quarters within. Calleja Pedro Ximénez is also known as the Alley of the Handkerchief because at its narrowest point it is no wider than an outstretched handkerchief. It leads to a tiny square at the end, scented with jasmine and orange trees, where a fountain trickles into an imitation Arabic well, creating a magical mood with nothing but the gentle splashing of water to break the silence.
7. Alley of the Flowers / Calleja de las Flores
The stunning view of the tower of the Mosque from this alleyway has made it the best known example of an Islamic azucaque, and it is certainly the most commonly photographed. However, it remained closed until the middle of the last century, when it was decorated with the arches that can be seen today, and a fountain was added by Victor Escribano Ucelay.
8. Baños de Santa María
The Arab baths of Santa Maria, located in Calle Velasquez Bosco, are one of the few surviving public baths, which were very popular and abundant in the Cordoban Caliphate and even lasted until after the Christian conquest.
We know that the baths were built during the Caliphate, although the first documentation we have is from after the Christian conquest of Cordoba, when King Ferdinand III ordered them to be handed over to one of the leading families in the city. It was in the thirteenth century, in fact, when the baths were given the name of Santa Maria, probably because of their proximity to the new cathedral, built in the interior of the Mosque. The monument includes a well and three vaulted rooms which corresponded to the frigidarium (cold baths), tepidarium (warm baths) and caldarium (hot baths). Other baths which survive in the city are those in Calle Cara and Calle Carlos Rubio, although they are in poor condition and neither is open to the public.
Calle Velázquez Bosco 8 — 10
9. The Alley of the Bonfire / Calleja de la Hoguera
Situated between Calle Cespedes and Calle Deanes, the Alleyway of the Bonfire is a unique example of Islamic urban planning, in this case resulting from two azucaques linked together, with a kind of small square in between which may originally have been the courtyard of a house.
10. The Mosque
The Mosque of Cordoba, one of the largest in the world, is currently the most important Islamic monument in the West and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO on November 1st 1984. The building, as it is known today, held up by 850 columns linked by 365 double arches is the result of at least five major building works, including the Christian reforms, which eventually turned what was the main religious focal point for the public all over al-Andalus into a centre of Catholic worship.
With its area of 23,400 square metres, it was the second largest mosque in the world, after the Great Mosque at Mecca, only to be rivalled later by the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. The Aljama (Great) Mosque of Cordoba was built in 785 by the Umayyad Emir Abd al-Rahman I on the site of the Visigothic Basilica of San Vicente, the remains of which have now been inte grated into the site today following recent archaeological excavations, and was used for Islamic worship from 751 onwards.
The new mosque, built by reusing the Roman and Visigothic capitals, pillars and blocks from the old Christian church, had eleven naves perpendicular to the prayer wall (al-kiblah) in the central part of which was the prayer niche (mihrab). As for the orientation of the kiblah, there are various theories which attempt to explain why the wall does not face Mecca, like other mosques of the Muslim world.
Some historians argue that is simply an architectural issue – the plot stood in this position and that was that — while others argue that it was actually built like this on purpose as a symbol of the uniqueness of al-Andalus. However, the most widely accepted theory today is that the main nave of the Mosque follows the orientation of the main street (cardo) in the Patrician Colony of the ancient Roman Córdoba, as the archaeological excavations in the city have proved.
A few years later, the Emir Hisam I gave the mosque ablution halls and a minaret, located a few meters south of the present-day tower. However, the first significant extension was carried out between the years 840 and 848 by the Emir Abd al-Rahman II. It was then that the Mosque was extended southwards, adorned with a different set of arches, using columns without bases and the first Islamic capitals. The decoration of this first expansion is the work of the Emir Muhammad (852-886), son of Abd al-Rahman II and founder of Madrid, who also restored the façade of the Gate of San Esteban.
The third extension was carried out between the years 951 and 952, when, by order of Abd al-Rahman III, the courtyard was extended and a new minaret was built – later to be destroyed – and the façade of the prayer niche was reformed. His son, Al-Hakam II, finished off the addition in 962, extending the prayer niche 47 meters further south and establishing the current dimensions of the mosque (175 metres). This extension, made between the years 962 and 966, reflects the highest artistic standards of the Caliphate of Cordoba. Despite being a continuation of existing work, the introduction of skylights at the beginning and end of the central nave made this section into the most delightfully independent and unorthodox part of the whole building. In the tenth century, the two most important cities in the world were Cordoba, ruled by the Umayyad caliphs, and
Constantinople, governed by the Byzantine emperors. Both these powers were conscious of their strength and collaborated in projects of cultural interest. One such project was the decoration of the mihrab of the Mosque of Cordoba, in the times of Al-Hakam II, with beautiful brightly-coloured mosaics laid over a gold background, fashioned on the spot by a team of Byzantine artists sent to the capital of the Caliphate.
Since then, the mihrab has been considered a masterpiece of marble, stucco and Byzantine mosaics. At this time, public building had a more marked propaganda purpose than ever. This aim was to the forefront in the renewal of the decoration of the facades and the construction of one dome in the central nave, in the space occupied by the first mihrab, and another three that still stand above the mihrab to this day. These domes, with their use of interlocking arches and rich ornamentation, are three of the highlights of a visit to the Mosque.
The final expansion took place three decades later, when Hisam II’s first minister, Almanzor, ordered the area of the mosque to be doubled, so that it increased in width to the 128.4 meters we know today. In this expansion, eight naves were added along the eastern facade of the old mosque, leaving the alignment of the mihrab considerably off-centre.
The Mosque of Cordoba consists of one large hall for performing the salat (prayer) and an open courtyard almost as big as the hall of the salat; for this reason, the faithful gathered to pray in the courtyard when the hall was already full. In the present-day Orange-Tree Courtyard, a result of the successive enlargements of the original Islamic courtyard, rows of orange trees continue the sensation produced by the forest of columns inside the building, whose naves originally opened directly into the courtyard, so that the light entered into the prayer hall.
The outside wall of the mosque is as thick as a city wall, which emphasises the closed nature of the building, isolating it from its surroundings. Of all the doors, those known as the Gate of San Esteban and the Gate of Deanes are the only ones which have survived in their original state, while the rest were rebuilt at the beginning of the sixteenth century or were restored at a later date.
Most of the Arab minaret is still preserved, embedded within the existing tower; built by Abd al Rahman III, it remained unchanged until the Renaissance, when a set of bells was added. Thereafter, problems of stability meant that the Arabic minaret had to be encased in a sturdier stone construction in the mid-seventeenth century. In 1664, the tower was crowned with an image of San Rafael.
To understand the Mosque as it has survived to these days, it is important to know how the building was changed after the Christian conquest of the city. After the Christians took the city in 1236, the building began to be re-used as a church, with minimal alterations being made.
The area of the mosque became property of the town council after the Christian conquest — in 1489, the first Gothic nave was built, and in 1523, they ordered the cathedral to be built. Right in the middle, under the central dome of the skylight where the expansion of Al-Hakam II began, 63 columns were removed to make way for the cathedral, which took three centuries to build and decorate. It is said that when Emperor Charles V visited Cordoba, he commented, with great concern: “If I had known what we had here, I would have never dared to touch the old building. You have destroyed something unique in the world to build something you can find anywhere.”
11. The Sabat
The centres of power, both spiritual (the Mosque) and political (the Alcazar, or Fortress) in Islamic Qurtuba were inextricably linked, not only symbolically, but also literally. From the façade of the Mosque, in the present-day Calle Torrijos, near the Gate of San Miguel, a raised walkway, or sabat, was built in the late tenth century to join it mosque to the royal residence, the Alcazar, by which the Emirs and Caliphs were able to attend religious services without “leaving” the palace.
The remains of the foundations of the sabat, dating from the years 970-972, were recently discovered by archaeologists, although this one was the second sabat to be built, and nothing remains of the earlier one. It had two parts, one visible from the outside, consisting of a bridge supported by three arches crossing the road, allowing normal traffic to pass below, and another part hidden inside the mosque, behind the wall of the quibla (direction of prayer).
The passageway was divided into eight sections, five in the mosque and three on the bridge, with simple vaults in the ceilings and divided by eight doors clad in bronze and iron. The light came from windows with lattice-work blinds.
At the eastern end of the corridor was the door to the maqsura (the Caliph’s prayer chamber), situated to the right of the mihrab and decorated with mosaics. The inscriptions indicate its function: “The Imam al-Mustansir, al-Hakam, Prince of Believers, ordered his chamberlain Ya’far to build this entrance to his place of prayer.” Nowadays, this section survives as part of the Mosque, with the entrance door to the maqsura and the door where it joined the bridge, now visible from the street, at the end of the western wall, and the foundations of one of the arches are marked by a plaque on the floor.
12. The Andalusi Palace (Episcopal Palace)
The Alcazar, a fortress which had previously served as a palace for the Visigothic kings, was the residence of the early Islamic rulers and the centre of political, religious and economic power in al-Andalus between the eighth and the beginning of the eleventh centuries. It was a huge building that occupied what is now the Bishop’s Palace, the San Pelagio Seminary, part of the Fortress of the Christian Monarchs and the area known as Campo Santo de los Mártires.
As far as the archaeological investigations in this area have discovered, the Alcazar covered around 39,000 square metres and was flanked by a wall in which there were at least six gateways, of which no remains survive. The Alcazar was planned as a large group of buildings assigned to display areas, administrative departments and work areas. From contemporary records, it is known that it housed a famous library founded by the Caliph Al Hakam II. During his reign, he sent emissaries to the Islamic East in search of manuscripts to stock the extensive library, which was considered one of the most important of the Middle
Ages, but which unfortunately perished in a fire. According to Ibn Hazm, it was estimated to contain around a hundred thousand volumes, and more manuscripts were constantly added, meticulously copied out by female calligraphers who worked in the palace every day.
In addition, the fortress, which had spectacular gardens, was used as a cemetery for the Emirs’ and Caliphs’ families. In front of the Alcazar, there was a large esplanade that reached up to the wall, overlooking the river. The north and east-facing walls of the Andalusi fortress survive to this day, now part of the Episcopal Palace, as do the towers, which were built into the Renaissance façade of the palace. In a small courtyard adjoining the main courtyard of Congress Palace, part of the original Alcazar walls can still be seen.
13. The Albolafia Water Wheel
The water mills near the Roman Bridge and the weir that links them (the Culeb Weir) were already mentioned in the twelfth century Arab sources. The most important of them was the Albolafia water wheel, built in 1136-1137 by the Almoravid Emir Tasufin, son of Caliph Ali ibn Yusuf, to channel water to the Andalusi fortress. It is an impressive piece of engineering that continued working until the early twentieth century, though not always with the same function, and consists of a main wheel, measuring 15 metres in diameter, equipped with buckets or hollow receptacles to collect water; a support built from stone blocks to withstand rising flood waters from the river and a channel to catch the water, supporting a complex system of arches reminiscent of those used by the Romans to build their aqueducts.
According to historians, Queen Isabel “the Catholic Queen”, weary of the noise of the wheel going round during her stay in the nearby Fortress of the Christian Monarchs, ordered it to be dismantled in the fifteenth century. What we can see today is only a modern reconstruction. Since the fourteenth century, the Albolafia has appeared on the city’s coat of arms, and later, the emblem of the Town Hall, which also contains the Roman Bridge.
The Andalusian Arabs’ mastery of hydraulic engineering is also evident in the development and improvement made in Qurtuba of the infrastructure built in previous centuries under the Roman Republic and Empire. Other examples of new buildings in the Islamic city still survive to this day, such as the water cisterns which were discovered in the area of San Rafael de la Albaida, one of which has been conserved on a roundabout on the city ring road.
14. Fortress of the Christian Monarchs / Alcazar
According to recent research, after the conquest of the city, Fernando III reserved the southwest corner of Andalusí fortress as a site for the royal residence. During the reign of Alfonso XI “The Bringer of Justice”, this area was extended and took on the familiar appearance of the castle we know to this day. From 1482 onwards, it was headquarters of the troops of the Catholic Monarchs. For 10 years, they planned here the strategy for the conquest of the Kingdom of Granada, the last Muslim stronghold in Spain, and the monarchs spent long days in the Alcazar, where they received Christopher Columbus. It is also rumoured that the Moorish king of Granada, Boabdil, was kept prisoner here.
In 1482 the building passed into the hands of the Tribunal of the Inquisition, which had its headquarters here until the Inquisition was abolished by the Cadiz Parliament in 1812. It is from this that the Tower of the Inquisition, built in the mid-fifteenth century, gets its name.
15. Caliphal Baths / Baños Califales
According to contemporary records, Qurtuba had over 600 public baths, of which only five survive to this day, dating from between the early tenth and late fourteenth centuries. Built in the style of Roman baths, these facilities had an important social function as meeting and leisure areas for both men and women, although they were never used at the same time shared by both sexes.
Arabic baths were built around five basic rooms, whose ceilings were studded with small star-shaped skylights: the changing room, the cold room, the warm room, the hot room and the room for heating the water and storing firewood. Of the baths which have survived to this day, the best example is located in the Campo Santo de los Mártires, which was fully restored in 2002 and formed part of the Andalusí fortress. These baths were reserved exclusively for the use of the royal family and the changing room may well have been, according to historians, a reproduction of the throne room. It was also fitted with a mihrab (prayer-niche).
Its structure is organized around four rooms with vaulted ceilings and star-shaped skylights, one of which has been reconstructed. The Caliphal Baths lay buried below the modern street level and were excavated between 1961 and 1964.
16. The Seville Gate / Puerta de Sevilla
According to the sources, there were a total of seven gateways to the city walls of the Medina, one of which was the Seville Gate (Bab al-Ishbiliya), also known as the Gate of the Droguería – a shop selling cleaning products — (Bab al-Attarine), since it was the entrance to this section of the souk. However, the Seville Gate mentioned in the chronicles has little to do with the one we know today – the earlier gate is thought to
have been situated next to the Royal Stables in the stretch of wall before the entrance to the Alcázar Viejo district, popularly known as San Basilio in Christian times.
After the creation of this district and the subsequent extension of the city and the west wall, a new city gate was needed. This gate was later demolished, but it was rebuilt in the mid-twentieth century.
Today, beside the gate stands a bronze sculpture made in 1963 by Matthew Ruiz Olmos commemorating the ninth centenary of the death of the poet Ibn Hazm, carrying in his hand a scroll with his most famous work: “The Dove’s Collar.”
17. The Gate of Almodóvar / Puerta de Almodóvar
Cordoba was known by some chroniclers of the time as “The City of the Seven Gates.”
The number of gates reflected the importance of the city, as well as linking them with the most important cities nearby. The Gate of Almodóvar, called Bab al-Yawz (The Walnut Tree Gate), and later as The Gate of the Jews (Bab al-Yahud), was built in the fourteenth century and underwent major reforms in the sixteenth, was later restored in 1802 and, more recently, in the 1960s.
It is the only surviving example of the great Medieval gateways from the original city walls, which were knocked down one by one in the late eighteenth century and finished off in the nineteenth. It consists of two prism-shaped towers joined by a gently pointed arch which forms the vault. The arch was filled in in the nineteenth century by a wall with a lintelled door. The stretch of city wall next to it dates from Arabic times.
18. Andalusi House
At Calle Judios Nº12, the former home of painter Rafael Boti, stands a small domestic museum known as Casa Andalusí (The Andalusi House). The building, dating from the twelfth century, recreates domestic life and the introspective lifestyle of the inhabitants of Qurtuba. One of the most interesting aspects of the tour focuses on the manufacture of paper in the Cordoban Caliphate, where the complex process of making this material is shown.
The house, adjoining the walls of the Medina, preserves the internal walkway featured in many of the houses in this street, which divided the house from the city wall. In the basement, a Visigothic bas-relief was discovered along with a number of other archaeological remains, which testify to the mixture of civilizations which occurred in this city. As for the house structure, it may previously have formed part of a larger and earlier Islamic house, with walls made from a mixture of brick and stone.C/ Judios 12, Cordoba, Spain
19. Municipal Souk / Муниципальный рынок
In the tenth century city, there were as many souks as there were districts, but the most important of all was the one known as the Great Souk, situated to the west of the fortress, the present-day district of Alcázar Viejo, where the most important trading activities took place. Inside, all kinds of trades were plied, with the silk traders and perfumers taking pride of place.
According to the written records, the souk located in the vicinity of the Great Mosque was burnt down by a huge fire, and, although after the incident happened in the year 936 another market was built on the opposite side of the city, products known in the Mediterranean for their high quality, such as velvet fabrics, wool, felt, silk, local delicacies and beverages, continued to be sold here.
Between Calle Judios and Calle Averroes, in one of the courtyards of the old Casa de las Bulas, stands the modern-day Municipal Souk, a square occupied by a number of craft workshops that produce and sell their products to the public. It is a reproduction of what the Medieval souks of Qurtuba looked like, where artisans worked under the supervision of the market inspector or almotacén. In fact, the local souk today keeps alive many of the craft traditions inherited from Islamic Córdoba, like pottery, silverware and the leatherwork for making the intricate Cordobanes and Guadamecíes (embossed leather designs). The best way to see a sample of leatherwork is to visit the House Museum of Art on Leather in the nearby square Plaza Agrupación de Cofradías.
20. Minaret of San Juan / Минарет Сан Хуан
In the Plaza de San Juan at one end of Calle Sevilla, stands the minaret of an early Islamic mosque built at the end of the ninth century. Built in Caliphate style, this tower was part of the Church of San Juan de los Caballeros, after the church was transferred to the Order of St. John of Jerusalem in 1236. As the only minaret from Qurtuba which has been preserved intact, it is one of the prime examples of Caliphate art.
21. Convent of Santa Clara
The present-day Convent of Santa Clara, in Calle Rey Heredia, was built about 976 over a former Byzantine basilica. The building, which is set to house the city’s future Historical Museum, preserves the minaret built into the convent tower, as well as a portion of the courtyard walls and what was once one of the main access doors from the street, featuring a voussoired lintel framed in a blind horseshoe arch, in Calle Osio. Archaeological excavations have discovered, in addition, parts of the mihrab (prayer-niche) and kiblah (prayer wall) inside the convent.
22. Alley of the Arches / Calleja de los Arquillos
Based on the philosophy of seeing without being seen, Andalusi houses were often built amid a mass of tortuously winding streets that were opened during the day but closed as night fell.
This narrow passage is in fact one of the few adarves (passages leading to a private house) which survive – access was limited in these narrow streets and they were closed at night to protect the residents, given the high level of insecurity in the absence of a municipal police force. Islamic society revolved around religion and had no municipal organization, since the city was kept in order by tradition and private enterprise. The Alley of the Arches is also the scene of the old legend of the Seven Princes of Lara, which tells how (although the story has little basis in fact) the heads of seven sons, all nobles killed after a battle in Soria, were sent to their father, Gonzalo Gusti, a prisoner of Almanzor, and hung in this alleyway for all to see.
23. Archaeological Museum / Археологический музей Кордовы / Museo Arqueológico
The Cordoba Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology is located in Plaza Jerónimo Páez, in a Renaissance palace that belonged to the family of the Páez of Castillejo.
The museum, one of the most important archaeological museums in Spain along with Madrid, has an exhibition space of six rooms and three courtyards on the ground floor, where there are Prehistoric, Protohistoric, Roman Spain and Visigothic Spain collections. There are also two rooms and a gallery on the top floor with Medieval collections, mainly from the Islamic period.
Museum rooms VII and VIII show the history of Qurtuba, both on a domestic level, thanks to the wide range of pottery and other household objects, as well as on a public, administrative and commercial level.
The museum has recently been enlarged, and houses what could be considered the most important collection of Andalusí currency in the world, especially silver coin from the Umayyad era, which was virtually the only currency issued in the Iberian Peninsula between the eighth and ninth centuries AD. These hoards of coins, known as tesorillos (little treasures), are an unrivalled source of information because they include the name and date of the mint, including Caliphs, Kings, Emirs or Sultans, crown princes and other administrative posts.
Among the most outstanding examples of Andalusi coinage are the Abd al-Rahman I Dirham and the Haza del Carmen Treasure, the largest treasure ever found in Western Europe, containing over 30 kilos of coins and fragments from the Caliphate era. Among the Islamic pieces on display in the museum, one of the most striking is the late ninth century Capital of the Musicians, found in the hills above Cordoba and which may have been a decorative element in an Arabic farmstead; there is also the Madinat al-Zahra Fawn, a small statue which could well have been used as the spout for a highly decorative fountain of outstanding beauty. An identical fawn is on display in the museum of Qatar.
The Andalusian Regional Government (Junta de Andalucía) bought a pottery piece in 2003 known as the Little Giraffe of the Caliphate, a figure that formed part of a dining set for one of the palace-city’s wealthy residences and was probably used for serving drinks.
In addition, there is a wide variety of everyday or luxury items from the Arab civilization, such as silver vessels, glass objects, oil lamps and so on, including a piece from the bowl of a white marble fountain, decorated with plant ornamentation and lions’ heads.
However, one of the most outstanding pieces in all the museum –the only one of its kind that survives in the Islamic world – is the Sundial which belonged to scientist Ahmad Ibn al-Saffar.
The Sephardic community was one of the pillars of Qurtuban society. There are references to a Gate of the Jews, which, at the time of al-Hakam II, was known as the Puerta de Osario, and archaeologists
have recently discovered, during an excavation in the Zumbacón district in the north of the city, a small plaque with a Hebrew funeral inscription, which is also on display in the museum.
The epitaph of Yahudah bar Akon, who died in Cordoba in the middle of the ninth century and seems to have been an eminent personage, also has extraordinary historical importance, since it is the only piece of evidence to date that proves the existence of a Jewish community in Cordoba at the time of the Umayyad Emirs.
24. The Axerquía District / Barrio de la Axerquía
The original city walls around the city were extended in late Roman times and survived intact until after the Visigothic period. However, it was not until the mid-ninth century when an organised scheme of urban planning was actually imposed on the eastern sector of the city, known as the Axerquía (in Arabic, al-Yiha al-Sharqiyya), which was separated from the Medina by a wide space for defensive reasons. This area, in the times of the Emirate, included a number of outlying districts such as Sabular, Furn Burril, Al-Bury, Munyat ‘Abd Allah and Munyat al-Mugira, as well as Rabad al-Zahira, which embraced the whole easternmost end of the city.
The Axerquía was organized around two paved roads leading from the Medina, one issuing from the Puerta de Roma, by the modern parish of San Lorenzo, and the other by the Puerta Nueva from the present-day district of San Pedro. It is still possible to find remains of public baths in the area of San Pedro, although they are not open to visitors, and of several of the ancient mosques, such as the one near San Lorenzo. This area of the city contains some of the most fascinating spots to visit, such as the Plaza de la Corredera, Plaza del Potro or the Fernandine churches.
25. Church of San Miguel / Iglesia de San Miguel
This was one of the first parishes to be created after the conquest of Cordoba by Fernando III El Santo in 1236 on the site of former mosques and it is certainly one of the best preserved. The architecture of the church, built in the late thirteenth century, clearly shows the transition in styles from Romanesque to Gothic with ogival arches. Since then it has been rebuilt on many occasions, especially in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The main altarpiece was built in marble in the eighteenth century, as was the Sacristy Chapel. The side door, on the Epistle side, is a magnificent example of a Mudéjar doorway with its pointed horseshoe arch, while the entrance on the left hand side belongs to the original Gothic style of the building.
In the right hand aisle there is the Vargas family Chapel, an early fifteenth century Mudéjar work, which features a pointed horseshoe arch. It is also possible to visit the so-called Fernandine Churches, following a specially-planned route organized by the Cordoba Tourist Board.
26. The Living Library of al-Andalus / Biblioteca Viva de al-Andalus
The building that houses the Living Library of al-Andalus was part of a large palace situated at the top of the Cuesta del Bailio. This palace, known the Small House of the Bailiff of Lora, takes its name from Pedro Núñez de Herrera, the great bailiff of Lora of the Order of St. John, who lived there in the sixteenth century. The main idea of the library is raise public awareness of the contribution made by classical Andalusi (Andalusian Arabic) culture to the world of universal culture through its collection of the most important background works on al-Andalus.
One of the most striking features of this culture was the dialogue and understanding between Christians, Jews and Muslims.
27. The Church of Santiago / Iglesia de Santiago
The Church of Santiago, one of the parish churches built over former mosques by Fernando III “The Saint” after the conquest of the city, preserves in the base of its tower the remains of a minaret belonging to the mosque of the former Sabular district, which like all the other districts, had its own centre of worship. This was one of the oldest mosques in Qurtuba, built in the mid-ninth century, and today it is possible to see three of the four sides of its minaret, the doorway and part of its original interior structure.
28. The Martos Water Mill / Molino de Martos
The Martos water mill is situated next to the weir known in the past as the Parada de San Julián (San Julian Jetty) and in front of the former Puerta de Martos, from which it takes its name. It dates from Medieval times and records state it was working from the ninth century. It is built with solid stone blocks and divided into three separate rooms.
In the Middle Ages it was used as a grinding mill or water wheel, and was made up of two different houses. From 1550 onwards, the grinding mill was knocked down to make way for a new building, which can still be seen today, and the hydraulic process was changed to the system known as regolfo, which harnessed the power of the water flowing away from an obstacle.
In 1559 it was converted to a fulling mill. It was the most important mill situated in the weir, and has kept its name up to the present day, thanks to its location next to the former Puerta de Martos. The mill’s use is closely linked to the city’s historical and industrial development, starting off as a grinding mill to produce flour during the Medieval Islamic period and later becoming a regolfo and fulling mill in 1550-1565.
In more recent times, the inhabitants of Cordoba would come here to have a dip in the Guadalquivir, and it also served as a pier for the ferry boats which crossed the river.
Today, the mill is open to the public and houses a small Museum of Water run by the Botanical Gardens of Cordoba, illustrating the mill’s history and focusing on culture, the management of water resources and the traditional uses of river plants.
29. The Church of San Lorenzo / Iglesia de San Lorenzo
This church, like many of the churches situated in the Axerquía area, was built over an ancient mosque, as shown by the founding inscription preserved in the Archaeological Museum and the remains of a minaret which can be seen inside and outside the existing tower.
30. Avenida de las Ollerías
After the fall of the Caliphate in the tenth century, during the Almohad period, the outlying areas previously used for private residences were reoccupied and turned into manufacturing areas, such as the pottery workshops found in the grounds of the former Alba ironworks, and other nearby areas, such as the corner of Avenida de las Ollerías with San Juan de la Cruz, where remains of an olive oil factory have been found.
31. The Bus Station / Estación de Autobuses
The Andalusi house was built following a special design of which there are few surviving examples – in fact, no complete Islamic home has survived intact to the present day. The most important remains, however, are those which were discovered during the excavations for the construction of the new Bus Station.
Although experts agree there was no unique model of Islamic home – it was influenced to a great extent by the traditions of each area — it is true that they share many features in common, such as the inward-facing design. In fact, the first part to be built was a dividing wall of sufficient height to prevent people from looking in and intruders from trespassing.
Next, the different rooms were built around this inner space, all looking onto the interior courtyard and usually only one storey high. All the rooms had access from the zaguan, or entrance hall, which was the focal point of the Andalusi house.
32. The Cercadilla Site / Yacimiento de Cercadilla
The remains of what is considered to be the Palace of Emperor Maximianus Herculius was occupied continuously throughout the Middle Ages. The consecration of the building for Christian worship and its subsequent occupation by the Mozarabs mean that these remains are of enormous importance for understanding the city’s history.
Archaeologists have shown that the Cercadilla Site formed part of the north-western suburbs of Qurtuba and that this area was incorporated into the city in the tenth century after a dozen or so homes were built here, linked by a network of streets and commercial areas, mainly centring on farm produce and cattle trading. Remains have been found in Cercadilla of specially waterproofed fonts, probably used for oil production or cattle comrearing, as well as part of a large furnace, which was used for baking pottery.
33. La Arruzafa
The modern-day district of El Brillante was a residential area in Qurtuba where important government figures built their country houses. One of the oldest of these in Cordoba was the al-Rusafa farmstead, built by Emir Abd al-Rahman I (756-788) to the north of the capital. In this almunia, or farmstead, which seems to been the first farm in al-Andalus with historically documented gardens, exotic plants and trees brought from Syria were acclimatised to the area and specimens from other regions, such as palm trees and pomegranates, were introduced and later spread to the whole of the Iberian peninsula.
Centuries later, the Convent of San Francisco de la Arruzafa, known as San Diego by the people of Cordoba, was built on the same site, and after the Dissolution of 1836, it became an inn.
In the 1940s, the Carbonell olive oil company, who owned the property, sold the farmstead to the Montijano-Carbonell and Fresneda-Carbonell families and to the Cordoba Syndicate of Initiatives and Tourism in order to build the present-day Parador (National Hotel) of La Arruzafa.
34. Madinat al-Zahra
In the year 936, under the supervision of the master builder Maslama ben Abadia, the great architectural project of Abd al-Rahman III was launched, 8 km west of the Medina: the palace-city Madinat al-Zahra, considered the largest urban area built at one single time in the Mediterranean region. After Abd al-Rahman III’s proclamation as Caliph of al-Andalus, the court, made up of scribes, falconers, servants, jewellers, pastry-cooks and even cup-bearers, moved to their new location, which could accommodate up to 12,000 people. Although popular myths recount how the new city was built to please a favourite mistress, it was really intended to emphasise the immense power of the Caliph. No expense was spared on the materials used: marble, ebony, ivory and precious stones.
The palatine city, which it is hoped will one day be declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO, is located on the foothills of the Sierra Morena range, on the slopes of Yabal al-Arus (The Hill of the Newly-weds), and was built on the slopes using different levels of terracing. The first level corresponds to the residential area of the caliph, together with the official buildings (the Vizier’s House, the guardroom, the Rich Hall, administrative offices and gardens) and on the lower level was the city itself (houses, workshops and so on). The Great Mosque was separate from the two other levels. Among the most important buildings of the palace city was the Vizier’s House and, above all, the Rich Hall, used to receive embassies and state visits from Christian or African sovereigns and European envoys, and to celebrate the festival of Ramadan. In both edifices, the magnificence of the building work can be seen in the remains of capitals, plinths and remarble of the highest quality.
The sheer size of the project transformed Madinat al-Zahra into the main focal point of urban development in Cordoba, and the city grew in that direction, which has been proved by the excavations in recent times on the outskirts of the city. Only 70 years elapsed from its foundation in the year 940 until its destruction at the hands of the Berbers in the year 1009, which coincided with the fall of the Caliphate and the establishment of the Taifa kingdoms. Forgotten for centuries, until in the nineteenth century the remains were identified as Madinat al-Zahra, the city’s ruins were mercilessly plundered for many years as a
source of building materials for new buildings in the city, such as the Monastery of San Jerónimo or even for the Cathedral built inside the Great Mosque. Legend has it that you could even find pieces of Madinat al-Zahra in the Alhambra of Granada, the Giralda in Seville, and in many private houses in northern Morocco, as well as in Cordoba.
However, thanks to the protection and conservation of the monument since 1985 by the Andalusian Regional Government, much of the buildings’ historical heritage has been recovered. Since then, archaeological excavations in the palace-city have continued apace. To develop the new city, it was necessary to create, among other things, a network of communications (roads and bridges) to connect it with the rest of al-Andalus, as well as a supply of running water (aqueducts). Little survives of the network of Caliphate roads today except a stretch of road paving, located along the hillside, and several roads and bridges, including the Puente de Nogales, built over the stream of the same name in the tenth century, or the bridge over the Camino de las Almunias, the only trace which remains of the road that connected the city with the former residence of Abd al-Rahman III. A few important examples of the city’s hydraulic infrastructure have survived, including two sections of the water supply network which brought water from the spring at Fuente
de la Teja to the city, one at Valdepuentes and another at Vallehermoso, although the latter is partly destroyed. Although originally from the Roman period (first century), the Aqua Vetus aqueduct (also known as Valdepuentes) was re-used to supply water to the palace-city and a short two-and-a-half metre section, of what was originally 20 kilometres in length, can be seen today at La Arruzafilla. This aqueduct, which for centuries was the city’s main water supply, was in use until after the Christian conquest.
The main building of the archaeological site is soon to feature a museum that will house about 200 works of art which are essential to appreciate the monument’s historical importance, although they are at present distributed round various museums, notably the The Fawn or The Little Giraffe, currently on display in the Cordoba Museum of Archeology and Ethnology.
35. The Al-Rumaniyya (or Alamiriya) Farmstead / Finca Alamiriya
Two kilometres from the Madinat al-Zahra archaeological site stands the farmstead known as Alamiriya, whose original Arabic name was al-Rumaniyya. This former country house dating from Caliphal times, which is now a cattle farm breeding wild bulls, was originally built by Caliph al-Hakam II’s treasurer, Durrir al-Sagir, who finally, in the year 973, handed it over to his master with all its belongings.
The excavations carried out in 1910 by Velázquez Bosco west of Madinat al-Zahra revealed a building of extraordinary importance, mistakenly identified with the Alamiriya farmstead. The farmstead was divided into four terraces and occupied an area of 4 hectares at the foot of the Cordoba hills. It was obviously a building of considerable importance, made up of a series of rooms flanked on one side by an enormous irrigation pool measuring 49.70 metres in length, 28 metres wide and 4.10 metres deep.
The terraces were put to agricultural use using water from the pool, which means that the site has a special value as an historical record of farming systems and crops cultivated in Andalusi agriculture. The sacking of Madinat al-Zahara, which occurred between the years 1009 and 1013, brought with it the destruction of farmsteads located in the vicinity, such as al-Rumaniyya. The farmstead was declared a Historic-Artistic Monument in 1931, and is the only surviving building of its kind in Spain and the Islamic world. In 1996, the Andalusian Government approved the new delimitation of the Madinat al-Zahra archaeological site to include this farmstead, among other remains. The proximity of the farm to the city of Cordoba makes it a popular place for a country walk, despite the sign that warns: “No trespassing. Farm for wild bulls.”
36. The Turruñuelos Archaeological Site / Yacimiento de Turruñuelos
The Turruñuelos site, situated in the vicinity of Madinat al-Zahra, dates back to the eighth century under the rule of Abd al-Rahman I. Turruñuelos was therefore intimately linked to the historical era in which the palace-city was founded, and it was connected to the site by the Camino de los Nogales. It lies to the west of Cordoba, on the plains which extend between the Cordoba foothills and the Guadalmellato Canal, in an area called the Cortijo de Turruñuelos, from which it gets its name.
The group of buildings is made up of a series of terraces, with the upper levels reserved for the residential area and the lower ones used as arable land. Roads led from the building in the same way as at Madinat al-Zahra, with one road leading to the residential area in the north and an official entrance gate in the middle of the South side, orientated perpendicular to the retaining wall, which led to the Old Road from Cordoba to Almodóvar.
THE ROUTES OF THE ANDALUSI LEGACY
The Andalusi Legacy Foundation, formed by the Andalusian Ministry of Tourism, Trade and
Sport and Ministry of Culture, focuses on the reappraisal and dissemination of Spanish-Muslim
civilization, through its artistic and cultural heritage, as well as in its social and historical
relations with the Arab World, Mediterranean countries and Latin America.
These aspects are reflected in the Routes of the Andalusi Legacy, which have been named by
the Council of Europe as a Major Cultural Route. These routes consist of traditional, historic
paths or those taken by ancient travellers and are hoped to become a new inland tourist attraction
for the community of Andalusia. This network of routes helps tourists discover towns and
other places of interest which, for various reasons (for their monuments or location, or for their
historical, literary or legendary references) are linked to Andalusi civilization.
- The Caliphate Route (Cordoba — Granada)
- The Washington Irving Route (Seville — Granada)
- The Nazari Route (Navas de Tolosa — Jaen — Granada)
- The Almoravid and Almohad Route (Tarifa — Cadiz — Granada)
- The Caliphate Route
The Caliphate Route links two of the most important cities in Spanish-Muslim history, Cordoba and Granada, and follows the line of the ancient frontier in Jaen.
These two influential cities marked two golden eras in Spanish history. The legacy of Cordoba was universal, while Granada left us its sophistication and dramatic history. Between these two cities lies the huge cultural, political and social legacy which al-Andalus left in its wake, a civilization whose features were unique and unrepeatable — it was a land of legends, of garrisons, watchtowers and castles, of notable towns, of their people and their customs.
The territories that make up this route belonged, in Umayyad times, to three provinces or Coras: Cordoba, Cabra and Ilbira. They were influenced and enriched by the glory of the Caliphate of Cordoba, whose capital became the most outstanding centre of culture in the Western world.
Priego de Cordoba
Throughout its history, this town has always played a strategic role. The historian Ibn al-Khatib
wrote that, in the year 745, Egyptian soldiers entered the peninsula and settled in Bago, building
forts high in the hills. One of these enclosures was probably the origin of the medina at Baguh, the
Arabic name for Priego. In the year 889, the town became the headquarters of Ibn Mastanna,
one of the ringleaders of the Muladi movement, who declared himself lord of Priego and Luque.
The town was eventually conquered by Alfonso XI and from 1502, it enjoyed a period of great
prosperity and many buildings were built. What remains of its Andalusi past includes the castle,
rebuilt by the Christians, the area of la Villa (the original town centre of Priego, with Muslim
and Medieval influences), the pottery factory and a number of watchtowers scattered
around the nearby countryside.
This town, founded by the Muslims, stands at the foot of a ridge of rocks that gave it its
name, Suhayra (meaning crag), and is one of the most picturesque villages in Cordoba
province. Its castle, built in the late ninth century, perches precariously on the edge of
a huge cliff. Near the town is the Cave of Bats, with its prehistoric cave paintings and a splendid vantage point with breathtaking views over the surrounding countryside.
This industrious city was mentioned for the first time in the chronicles in the ninth century,
when it was referred to as inhabited by Jews. Under the Almoravid rule, the town enjoyed a degree
of economic prosperity and cultural splendour. The parish church of San Mateo, a National
Monument, was probably built on the site of the ancient Mosque, which in turn may have
been a former synagogue. Its restored Muslim castle, in the Plaza Nueva, is famous for having
held Boabdil, King of Granada, prisoner, after he was captured at the Battle of Lucena.
Nestling high in the Sierras Subbeticas Natural Park, the quiet village of Luque is famous for its castle,
built by Mohammed I in the ninth century, and rebuilt by the Nazari dynasty in the thirteenth,
and for its parish church, which was started in Gothic and finished off in Renaissance style.