La Mezquita simply takes possession of old Cordoba: vast, sprawling, the Christian cathedral emerging from the ribs of the Moorish Mosque, its bulk and presence are unignorable.
It’s a good idea to circumnavigate before you enter: wander the surrounding streets, catch glimpses of the spire from narrow alleyways or see it from up high, from the old stone towers of the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, to get a physical sense of its mass and antiquity – and then go in, to a fantasy world of pink and white columns, horseshoe arches, chapels and pulpits, tiles and paintings, silver and gold, light and shade, a timeless and yet particular blending of cultures, faiths, visions and religions.
To give you a sense (I hope) of place, of time and locality, here are some exteriors.
The gardens of the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, in Cordoba, Spain – set within the medieval walls and towers of a palace that the Catholic monarch Alfonso XI built in the 15th century upon the site of Visigoth and Moorish forts – have that ‘Cordoba quality’ I mentioned in an earlier post: a sense of peace, of warmth, of open skies, an easy and comfortable humanity. The gardens may not be as grand as those of the Alhambra, in Granada, but they welcome you in.
Mind you, you are met at the entrance to the palace by a rather formidable gentleman, with his bible and sword (the sword being more prominent) before you descend into the garden itself.
From the entrance you walk down wide stone steps to blue-green pools dappled with fish; there are more pools below, and formal gardens, a lushness and ornamentation that is always absorbing, but never overpowers.
Speaking of formidable gentlemen, though, one of those you will find in the gardens, standing before the king and his queen, is the stony figure (yes, this is a play on words, but it is also a comment on what is a pretty humourless and po-faced trio) of Christopher Columbus.
When you are done, there is one more thing you should do, and that is climb to the top of the towers, and look out over the gardens, and the town, with its silvery green palm trees and look to your right: there you will see the steeple of La Mezquita – the topic of my next blog.
This portfolio of black and white images of Cordoba includes one image in colour – a quiet corner, two buildings intersecting, and a tree and its shadow intermingled. And then there is that splash of red, like blood…. I could have done it in monochrome, but suffused as it is with the afternoon light it just wouldn’t let me. And that dramatic splatter of red, of course, would have been lost.
The other images, when seen in colour, are essentially representation – ‘this is what it looks like’ – whereas the monochrome, to my eye at least, allows for interpretation and expression.
I hope you enjoy them – both the black and white and the colour. See what you think.