We journeyed inland with the hot breeze to Cordoba today and, well, even hours later I am struggling to write an explanation for you because I still can’t really get my own head around the Mezquita/Catedral there.
The Mosque (Mezquita) was originally built above a previous Visigoth basilica between the 8th and 10the centuries. Inspired by the house of the Prophet Muhammad in Medina, it’s an extraordinarily serene building with its rows and rows of columns and arches in harmonious pink and grey.
Following the Reconquest of Cordoba in 1236, a Gothic cathedral was built right inside the mosque! Why would you even do that? Subsequently bits were added to th existing mosque/cathedral like, perhaps, a modernist extension built onto a mock tudor house. The original minaret was even enveloped in a baroque tower.
I simple don’t understand how such different styles, with such different implications, can form part of one building.
When the skilled craftsmen built this astoundingly glorious (or florid) cathedral in the vey middle of the serene, quiet mosque, they went to supreme efforts to built a superlative edifice in the style of the day and yet the Emperor Carlos V is said to have angrily denounced the poor architects with, ” You have destroyed something unique to build something commonplace.‘
At first this seems counter-intuitive: how could the beautful, astounding workmanship be described as “commonplace?” And yet, have a think about it. This story of effusive homage to God was available to see all over Europe from St. Peter’s in Rome to any number of German Baroque churches and palaces in Europe. The unique is the quiet devotion inspired by the surrounding building.
It becomes all too easy to understand why increasing numbers of people resentfully turned against the profligacy and extravagance of this sort of church to the austere values of the newer Reformation movements. Less is more.