The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba Spain

This is another live-in-Spain podcast, this time from the famous monumental mosque-cathedral in Cordoba.  Cordoba was an important Roman provincial town, a military outpost of the Visigoths, and for centuries one of the most important seats of Islamic culture in Spain until it was conquered by Ferdinand III of Castile in 1236.  The main Christian administration of Andalusia, the southern province on the Spanish peninsula, came to be in Sevilla, especially after Sevilla became the main port for communication with Spain’s colonial endeavors in the Americas.  This left Cordoba a smaller regional capital for the subsequent centuries until today, when its population is scarcely larger than it was during its heyday under the Umayyad Caliph in the eigth and ninth centuries.  Visiting Cordoba, there are significant structures around the city from almost every one of these historical periods, making it incredibly dense with monuments despite its small size.

Through this entire time, one of the religious centers of the city remained in almost constant use – first as a temple to Janus, then as a significant Visigothic church to the martyr St. Vincent, then as an increasingly large Caliphal mosque, eventually becoming one of the larger mosques in the Muslim world, and finally rebuilt in the sixteenth century as the Christian cathedral of its diocese.  My podcast is concerned both with this persistent history and with how that narrative has been used by Spanish historians to try to tell different narratives about how Christians and Muslims have gotten along, what roll that violence played in Christian and Muslims conquests, and even what it means to be “Spanish” today.  So there’s some description of the building itself and a fair amount of discussion of historiography.  I’ve embedded a few images in the mp3 if your player can detect that, but really if you want to look at the mosque-cathedral, you should check out their new virtual tour site.  It’s totally amazing.

This is a lunch-sized podcast and if you’re in cordoba, I totally recommend trying Salmorejo.  The thick tomato soup is a more substantial version of its lighter cousin, gazpacho, which in Cordoba is something you drink.  Salmorejo is thickened with bread crumbs and has chopped hard-boiled egg and bits of ham sprinkled on top.  With some pepper and olive oil and a slice of bread, it’s surprisingly filling and really delicious.  It has plenty of what I’ve seen described as Spains three main spices: salt, garlic, and pork.  If you want an appetizer, try the fried eggplant with honey, a distinctly Islamic influence dish still served everywhere to compliment your distinctly christian bowl of ham, egg, and tomatoes.

Maria Menocal, The Ornament of the World: How Muslims Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain (Bay Back Books Reprint, 2003).

Maria Menocal and Jerrilynn Dodds, The Arts of Intimacy: Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the making of Castilian Culture (Yale University Press, 2009).

Americo Castro, The Structures of Spanish History, translated by Edmund. King (Princeton University Press, 1954).

Claudio Sanchez Albornoz, España: Una Enigma Histórico (1956).

Maya Soifer, “Beyond Convivencia: critical reflections on the historiography of interfaith relations in Christian Spain,” in Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies 1:1, 19-35.


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