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  • Fiona

Flowers and a Mosque-Cathedral in Cordoba

A festival of flowers like no other I've seen

The Jewish Quarter

A beautiful Air BnB

and, the jewel in the crown, the Mosque-Cathedral

Fiesta de los Patios

It's rare for a festival to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site but Cordoba's Patios Festival is no ordinary affair. The fiesta, which began in 1918, take place annually during the first two weeks of May when dozens of historic, whitewashed homes in the centre of Cordoba open their patios (courtyards) to the public to enter (for free) to admire incredible floral displays.

The patio is a courtyard - an outdoor space in a house that provides lighting and ventilation to the other rooms. It is also a communal area, the centre of family life. In Cordoba, due to the hot, dry climate, the city’s inhabitants, - first the Romans and later the Muslims - adapted the typical design of the popular house to their needs, making the home centre around an inner courtyard, normally with a fountain in the middle and often a well to collect rainwater. The Muslims made further adjustments, giving the house an entrance from the street which passed through a porch, and filling the courtyard with plants to give the sensation of freshness.

We had been trying to go to Granada and Cordoba since December last year, but each attempt was thwarted by the continually changing Andalusian travel restrictions designed to stem the transmission of Covid - it turned out to be a blessing because it meant that when we finally did go it was when this fabulous festival was in full swing. As well as the patios, the entire city seemed to be embracing flowers - they were everywhere, beautiful, vibrant bougainvillea tumbling over walls, flower pots lining the streets, window boxes with flowers spilling out of them. So colourful and oh so special!

(please click on the arrow on the right of the main picture to scroll through the thumbnail pictures)

La Judería de Cordoba

Route 5, on a self-guided tour of the patios, took us through the very charming Jewish Quarter of Cordoba - this barrio (neighbourhood) is a maze of narrow cobbled lanes where the Jews lived between the 10th and 15th Centuries, before the inquisition drove them out, underground or to convert to Catholicism.

We wandered along the twisting narrow corridors (retracing our steps when we ended up at a dead end) imagining what it would have been like in the 13th century on a foggy winters evening.

The pictures show how narrow the streets are, the cobbles and one of the main gates into this area of the city.

A beautiful Airbnb

Our Airbnb - keeping within the spirit of the 'Fiesta de los Patios' although not included in the festival itself...

The Mosque-Cathedral

Well, my brain was working overtime trying to work out how they put a Cathedral inside a Mosque...

It turns out that it is a kind of hybrid structure - history says it was a church in Roman and Visigothic times, the Moors turned it into a mosque between the 8th and 10th centuries and then after the reconquest, the Christians decided it was to be a Cathedral - and then they made a few alterations... in the mid-13th century, King Alfonso X oversaw construction of the Villaviciosa and Royal Chapels (the latter of which was rebuilt by Henry II in the 14th century) and in the 16th century Charles V added the great Renaissance nave right in the middle of the mosque which included a central high altar and cruciform choir, numerous chapels along the sides of the vast quadrangle, and a belfry 300 feet (90 metres) high in place of the old minaret….just a wee bit of work!

We entered the walls of the complex through one of several grand doorways, passed through a courtyard of orange trees, and into the building itself. We immediately saw the Moorish character in a forest of pillars (made out of plundered porphyry, jasper, and marble) that were topped with double red and white striped horse-shoe arches. Apparently there are 850 of these pillars and they, together with the arches, are of architectural necessity, to both support and raise the roof to its great height.

The sight was jaw-dropping stuff and the atmosphere was incredible with the incense from the Cathedral wafting through the space and the sunlight from the doorways and high windows creating interesting shadows among the columns.

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