Today the city of Cordoba have a bit over 300,000 inhabitants making it a minor city in the southern part of Spain and far from the center of power of present day Spain. It is pretty far from what the city used to be during its heyday.
Back a bit over a thousand years ago – in the late tenth century before of the turn of the millennium the city was a glorious city and the center of power. With around half a million people living in the modern city it was not just the biggest city on the Iberian Peninsula it was one of the biggest cities in the world. Cordoba was the capital city of the Al-Andalus the Islamic kingdom of Spain.
The city wealth attracted craftsmen and artist from a large area. They left their mark on the city making many beautiful constructions – none better than the main mosque of the city the Mesquita. People of different religions were living side by side within the walls of the city there was a big Jewish quarter of the city which has many surviving buildings still standing – including one of only three surviving medieval synagogues in all of Spain and the only one in Andalusia.
When the city fell to the Christian kings in 1236 they were impressed with the wealth and business of the city and actually made it the capital of Spain for a while. At first they considered destroying the mosque since they didn’t share the same values of religious freedom the former rulers had. But fortunately they found the mosque was just too amazing a building to destroy so they converted the mosque into a Christian cathedral. One cathedral wasn’t enough for the great city so the Christian rulers went on building spree construction new churches in all the different sections of the city of Cordoba. So today you can enjoy a wide selection of Christian churches from this era in the city. The Christian kings also made a new fortress at the edge of the old town – this fortress was the headquarter of the first king to unify all of Spain under one crown. At the castle they planed the conquest of the last Muslim hold out in Spain in Granada. The king and queen also met with Christopher Columbus at this castle before he left on his voyage across the Atlantic to America.
There are many old buildings inside the walls which all seems to date back for quite a long time. Part of the reason was the center of power in Spain shifted after the conquest of Granada – Cordoba was no longer the obvious base for the conquest of new territories for the king of Spain so he could move elsewhere. The city population decline significantly and went all the way down to only 20,000 inhabitants in the 18th century – a far cry from the heyday of the city. The small population meant limited pressure to replace the old buildings with newer buildings so they probably just left what was standing inside the walls. This is fortunate for today’s visitors to the amazing old city. There are just so many old wonderful buildings to go and enjoy.
The city is a real pearl of Andalusia and really should be one of the main destinations to go for a visit if you are in the region.