Sunday, 29 June 2014

Coming together in style

Sometimes it seems Christians and Muslims will never see eye to eye.

But there are a few examples around the world of the magic that can happen when both come together.

One of these is the Mezquita in Spain's Cordoba.

Inside the Mezquita
To be fair, it's a bipolar building but somehow it works.

Today, the Mezquita is officially the Cathedral of Cordoba, but it's strong Islamic architecture tells the story of how it was once a mosque.

Mezquita gateway

Call it laziness or call it recycling, but rather than knock down stunning Islamic architecture, Christian rulers simply converted them into something more their style.  It's like religious wars meets The Block. There are other examples of this in Spain, such as the the bell tower of Seville's Cathedral that was once a minaret.

Mezquita's belfry

In Cordoba, the result is the Mezquita.

My friend and I have plenty of opportunity to admire it, as by luck our hotel room overlooks the main gate.   Here locals and tourists dodge horse-drawn buggies and gypsies trying to sell sprigs of rosemary (I'm still recovering from receiving the "evil eye").

From the outside, the Mezquita holds its secrets close.  It's surrounded by an imposing stone wall, interrupted by ornate gates, that offers little hint as to what's inside.

The forest of arches
Once we step out of the sun and into the cool darkness of the main building, it's like entering a maze.  

Almost as far as the eye can see is a "forest" of arches that make up the Mezquita's expansive hall. 

Here, row upon row of candy-striped arches (made of onyx, marble, granite and jasper) speak of the building's Islamic history.  It's simple, but stunning.

But the Mezquita has one more surprise for us.   Like entering a clearance in a forest, we stumble into the ornate and light-filled Catholic cathedral that sits in the middle of the building.
The Catholic cathedral at the heart of the Mezquita

It's as though someone literally just plonked a cathedral down in the middle of the mosque (which is roughly what happened when the region's Islamic rulers were overthrown by Christians).

Looking back out to the forest of arches
In a deliberate contrast to the simple and calming hall of arches, the cathedral is decked out in paintings, sculptures and other decorative features demanding your attention.

The Christian's ornate cathedral
There are stunning mosques all over the world, just as there are beautiful cathedrals, but the Mezquita's curiosity is that they're both here sharing the same space.

The cathedral's altar

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