Best Sights of Cordoba

Cordoba was the biggest city in Europe in 1000 AD, with a population between 500,000 and 1 million, the capital of the Moors. It was the most sophisticated, with advanced learning, famous doctors, philosophers, and an educated population. Today it is still a fascinating city. These are some of the best things to see.

1. Cordoba Cathedral / Mezquita

The Cathedral in Cordoba is the Mezquita. This was the most important mosque of the western Islamic world and one of the biggest mosques. The mosque was built on top of an earlier Visigothic church, which they destroyed, and this was started in 785 A.D. by the Moorish leader Abderrahman. In the 9th and 10th centuries the building was enlarged to its present size, which is 179m long and 129m wide. About one third of this area is taken by the courtyard. The perimeter of the mosque has an outer wall that is between 9m and 20m high, and with many buttresses.

When one enters the Mezquita, there is a hole in the floor in one part, and one can see the Visigothic remains. The Moors used the marble columns of the Visigothic church in their construction of the mosque. It took 2 centuries to finish the mosque, and at that time it was the second biggest mosque in the Muslim world. When the Spanish reconquered Cordoba in 1236, they built a Renaissance nave in the middle of the mosque and the mosque became the cathedral. The continued use of the church has saved the mosque from destruction, especially during the time of the inquisition. The Catholics dedicated the church to the Virgen de la Asuncion (the Virgin of the Assumption).

The most important architectural feature of the Mezquita are the double horseshoe arches, made of jasper, onyx, marble, and granite. There are more than a thousand columns in the church and they seem to be a sea of arches and columns to the visitor. The interior is only 11.5m high. All visitors are impressed. The Catholic section is also beautiful, and there was reconstruction for several centuries, so one also sees Baroque elements in the church. There is a bell tower (the campanario) that is 60m high, and this was built in 1593. It is crowned with the statue of the Archangel Raphael, who is the patron saint of the city. There is a choir that is very richly decorated with Baroque stalls from the 18th century. The high altar is made or red marble and has a picture by Palomino. In the Capilla Real there are nine statues of the saints by Alonso Cano and a silver tabernacle by Enrique de Arfe.

The Mezquita has a huge patio and garden filled with short orange trees, called the Patio de los Navajos (the patio of the oranges). This was used for the ablution required by the Muslim religion before prayers. Many times the Moors would pray in the patio, so most mosques have large patios. Anyway the Mezquita is one of Spain’s most impressive monuments, one of a kind. It is considered one of the highest achievement of Moorish art in Spain.

2. Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos

The castle was built in 1328 at the command of King Alfonso XI, the Just. It was built in the gardens of the Arab fortress. There are four towers in the castle, which are connected with sentry paths. The towers are the Torre del Rio (cylindrical in shape and having three floors), the Torre del Homenaje (octagonal in shape and of Gothic design, and which had living quarters), the Torre de Los Leones (Mudejar), and the Torre de La Vela (rebuilt in 1981).

The building of the castle contains magnificent Roman sarcophagi that date from the 1st and 2nd centuries. There is also the Mosaic Room, a meeting room which has elaborate Roman mosaics on the walls. There are Arab baths and a Patio Morisco.

The Alcazar was where Queen Isabela and King Ferdinand stayed between 1482 and 1490 while they were finishing the siege of Granada. Columbus would visit the monarchs and try to convince them to fund his expedition to the Indies. After Granada surrendered, the Catholic Kings gave the building to the Courts of the Holy Office, which stayed in the building until the Inquisition was abolished in 1821. After that the building was used as a military and civil prison. In 1951 the City of Cordoba took it over and restored the palace.

The gardens of the Alcazar are some of the most beautiful gardens in Spain. It has several pools and fountains. The Paseo de los Reyes is a walkway in the garden that has statues of the kings who lived in the Alcazar. The end of the walkway has the statues of the Catholic Kings and Columbus, because it was here that Columbus talked with Queen Isabela several times. The gardens are watered by flooding, which come from the times of the Moors. There are beautiful shrubs and flowers in the gardens and the gardens are constantly manicured by professional gardeners.

3. Roman Bridge

The Romans built this bridge over the Guadalquivir River during the time of Augustus. It has a length of 225 m and has 16 arches. None of the arches are the original and the bridge has been renovated several times. It is thought that it was part of the Via Augusta that went from Rome to Cadiz. The first reconstruction was during Moorish times, followed by another reconstruction after the Reconquest. In the beginning of the 20th century there was still another reconstruction. The last took place in 2006 and today the bridge is only for pedestrians.

At one end of the bridge there is the Calahorra Tower, a defensive tower. At the other end is the Puerta del Puente (entranceway of the bridge). The entranceway was designed by the architect Hernan Ruiz in 1572. There is a small shrine and statue of St. Raphael in the middle of the bridge, done by the sculptor Bernabe Gomez del Rio in 1651, where the devout burn candles.

4. Medina Azahara

About 8 km outside the city of Cordoba lie the remains of the city of Medina Azahara, built between 936 and 940AD by the Caliph Abd ar-Rahman III. This king built this city as his new capital and wanted it to outshine all other Arab capitals as his political statement of his wealth and power. There is a sentimental story that the king built it and named it for his favorite wife Zahra, although this story may have been invented. When the city was finished, many authors commented in their documents how beautiful the city was, with a grandiose design. It was the biggest city in Western Europe built from scratch. There were ten thousand persons who worked on the city until it was finished. The best materials available were used to try to make it the most beautiful city. This included the best marbles, stones and gold.

Medina Azahara was to become the royal residence, the seat of government, and the dwelling place of the staff of 20,000. The construction costs took up to one third of the annual state revenue. There were 4324 marble columns imported from Tunisia, and a large number of marble basins from Byzantium and Syria. The chief architect of the project was named Maslama bin 'Abd Allah.

The water supply to the city came from the Sierra mountains to the north. A conduit that was mostly underground was used, but in several places it emerged as an aqueduct on horseshoe arches. The water entered the city and went to a water tower. Lead pipes distributed the water from this tower to the different parts of the city. The better houses had a good water supply and they had lavatories with running water.

Unfortunately in 1010 there was a civil war and the city was sacked by Berber troops. The city was completely forgotten until it was rediscovered in 1910. Before the discovery, people thought that the remains were Roman. The city was built on 112 hectares of land and only 10% has been excavated. Restoration has gone very slowly and only parts of the palace have been restored. However it remains the most important medieval archaeological site in the whole of Europe. Spain declared this site as a National Monument in 1923.

The city was built on the slope of a mountain of the Sierra Morena on stepped terraces. The design of the city was rectangular in shape, with measurements of 1500 meters by 750 meters.. There were walls separating each of the three parts of the city. The highest part contained the palaces, the middle had the vegetable and fruit orchards and gardens, and the lowest part had the mosque and the houses of the workers. Some of the rooms of the palace have been restored. Archaeologists in 2007 discovered the remains of a new mosque and this was quite exciting as a discovery.

One of the innovative features of the palace was the arranging of the suites of rooms around a central courtyard or garden. Other Arab cities later copied this feature. The reception halls had the form of basilicas and had many naves. The reception halls were richly ornamented and used much sandstone, marble, and glass mosaics. Today one can see parts of the palace that have been restored, and they are very beautiful. The Salon Rico is the best restored section of the palace.

The most convenient way to go to Medina Azahara is by car because one can stay as long as one wants to.

5. Jewish Quarter

After the Temple of Solomon was destroyed in Jerusalem in 70 A.D., many Jews went to Cordoba, and they became the biggest Jewish community in Europe. They were discriminated against and could not own lands or practice agriculture, so they ended up in cities and became doctors, interpreters, businessmen, and artisans. The Jewish Quarter is where they lived in Cordoba. The Almodovar Gate is the entry point to this quarter, which is filled with narrow streets, but is filled with beautiful patios.

There is a synagogue on Calle Judios that is the only one conserved in Andalusia. In 1315 the architect Isaac Majeb built it. This is one of three synagogues (the other two are in Toledo) that have survived from Medieval times. In 1492 the Catholic Kings expulsed the Jews from Spain and the building passed to a rabies hospital, and later to the shoemaker's guild. The shoemakers added a chapel dedicated to their patron saint, St. Crispin. At the end of the 19th century it was declared a national monument when its origins were discovered. The walls of the synagogue have many decorations in the Mudejar style, with flower motifs and geometric designs.

The Umayyad Caliphate ruled Cordoba from 716 to the 12th century and they constructed many schools and libraries. There was tolerance to the Jews and Christian. In the 12th century the dogmatic Almohades arrived and put an end to the tolerance, and there was a general repression that affected two distinguished scholars.

Mosche Ben Maimon, popularly called Maimonides, was born in Cordoba in 1135. He was a great writer and his books were translated into Arabic. He was forced to flee to Morocco, and later to Cairo, where he became the doctor of the Sultan Saladin. He died in 1204 there. Averroes (Ben Rusd) was an Arab born in Cordoba in 1126. He was a doctor and philosopher. He had to flee to the court of Marrakech, where he died in 1198. There are bronze statues to both Maimonides and Averroes in the Jewish Quarter.

6. Palacio de Viana

The Palacio de Viana is a National Artistic and Historic Monument, as well as an Artistic Garden. The building and gardens occupy an area of 6500 square meters, and half of the space is taken by the gardens. This is one of the biggest private palaces in Spain that can be seen by the public. There are 12 patios and the artwork and furniture in the palace is impressive. One can see the evolution of Cordoba architecture from the 14th century to today because there were constant additions to the original palace, until the palace occupied the whole block.

The owners of the palace have been families of the aristocracy. Among them have been Miguel Ruiz, the treasurer of Andalusia and Murcia. The last was the Marques de Viana, Don Fausto Saavedra y Collado. In 1980 the Caja Provincial de Ahorro de Córdoba bought the property and opened it as a museum to preserve it.

There is plenty of artwork in the palace. The stairway to go to the second floor is impressive. There are tapestries from Flanders and those made from Goya's designs. There are oil paintings from the school of Brueghel. One gallery shows paintings of battles. The library contains 7000 volumes, and many are of hunting. There is a big collection of porcelain, jewelry, Cordovan leathers, firearms, and musical instruments. The period furniture, lamps, and carpets are beautiful too. One can also see Roman mosaics and beautiful ceramic tiles.

Every patio is different and each one has a different theme and name. The patios have beautiful trees, shrubs, fountains, small pools, and flowers.

7. Museo de Bellas Artes

The Museo de Bellas Artes is the Fine Arts Museum. It is located in the medieval building of the Hospital of Charity and occupies the former church of the hospital, and other rooms. The museum was opened in 1862 and shows the evolution of painting and sculpture in Cordoba between the 14th and 20th centuries. There is a large collection of paintings by the Andalusian Baroque painters such as Zurbaran, Antonio del Castillo, Palomino, and Valdes Leal. Other artists represented are Sorolla, Rusiñol, Zuloaga, Gonzalo Bilbao, Regoyos, Carlos de Haes, Jimenez Aranda, Romero Barros, Eugenio Lucas, and Pedro de Cordoba. There are works by contemporary artists Pedro Boti and Pedro Bueno. The Cordoban sculptor Mateo Inurria is represented.

8. Julio Romero de Torres Museum

Julio Romero de Torres (Born in Cordoba in 1874 - Died in Cordoba in 1930) - Julio Romero de Torres was one of the best modern Spanish painters, known for his sensual portraits of women, especially Gypsy women. His father was the famous Impressionist painter Rafael Romero Barros. Julio learned art from his father, who founded and directed the Bellas Artes Museum in Cordoba. In 1906 he went to work and study in Madrid. He painted Vivadoras del Amor for the National Exhibition of Fine Arts, but it was rejected because it was considered too scandalous, with its realism. He also learned much about art during his travels in Europe. His style of painting has been classified as the symbolist style. After the First World War he worked as a professor of Clothing Design in the School of Fine Arts in Madrid. In 1922 he traveled to Argentina with his brother until he got sick and had to return to Cordoba. He deteriorated and died there.

His museum in Cordoba occupies his former residence and is filled with his paintings, mostly of women. There is plenty of furniture and many of the artist's personal effects, photographs, and portraits by contemporary artists, such as the bust of Romero by Mariano Benlliure. When Romero died, his work was donated to the city and this museum was created.

9. Palacio de la Merced

The Palacio de la Merced is the site of the Provincial Council and is the most beautiful Baroque building in Cordoba. It was a former convent, the Convent of La Merced, where Columbus stayed. There is a beautiful patio, staircase, and church. The facade of the building is beautiful and colorful, something very unusual. The church has an impressive doorway dating from 1745. The main altarpiece is magnificent and was made by Gomez de Sandoval.

10. Archaeological Museum

The Archaeological Museum is set in the Renaissance Palace of the Paez de Castillejo family. The facade of the palace was designed by Hernan Ruiz and the sculptors Francisco Jato and Francisco Linares, and dates to the 16th century. The museum is set over two floors and various patios. The staircase is impressive and there is rich coffering on the ceilings. There is a very large collection of Iberian items and the most important item is the Iberian Lion of Nueva Carteya. The Roman collection is extensive, with many sculptures, sarcophagi, mosaics and a wonderful statue of the god Mithra and one of Minerva in white marble. There are columns and capitals from the Visigothic era. The Moorish collection has statues, coffins, capitals, fonts, glass and silverwork. There is an inlaid bronze stag from Medina Azahara that is very artistic. The coin collection from all periods is very extensive.

11. Plaza Corredera

This is a plaza reminiscent of Castile, and is the only one of its kind in Andalusia. The buildings around the plaza date from the late 17th century and were built with brick. The plaza has a very symmetrical look that adds to its beauty.

12. Plaza Tendillas

This is one of the main squares of the city. In the middle of the square is a monument to El Gran Capitan, flanked by small fountains shooting small jets of water into the air. The buildings around the square have very pleasing architecture.

13. Roman Temple

The remains of a Roman Temple are downtown and the ruins consist of nine very tall Roman Corinthian columns. It was constructed in 1 A.D. and was used for the cult to the emperor. Most of the temple was constructed in marble. The capitals of the columns were elaborately decorated. It is known that Cordoba became a Roman colony in 206 B.C. and the city became prosperous and the capital of the Roman province.

14. Calahorra Tower

This tower at the end of the Roman Bridge has an interpretation center that explains Moorish culture (Museo Vivo de Al-Andalus). The tower dates from 1369 during the reign of Enrique II. The word Calahorra is Moorish and means "free castle". The building was declared a Monument of Historic and Artistic Interest in 1931. The museum is hosted by the Roger Garaudy Foundation and is devoted to the history of Cordoba from the 9th to the 13th centuries, when Cordoba was at the height of its splendor, when Moors, Jews, and Christians coexisted peacefully. The presentation is audio visual. The top of the tower has a marvelous view of the city and the river.

15. Torre de la Malmuerta

This tower and gateway used to be part of the city walls. It is named as the Tower of the Wrongly Killed. The legend is that a nobleman thought his wife was unfaithful and so he killed her. He found out she was innocent and asked the king pardon. The king ordered him to build the tower in her memory. The arch of the tower shows a date between 1406 and 1408, when Enrique III was the King of Castile. The construction follows Moorish design, with an octagonal shape and thick walls.

16. Plaza de Colon -This is a large garden that has a big traditional fountain in the middle. This is a favorite place for families to gather and relax.

17. Monument to Manolete - Manolete was considered the greatest bullfighter in Spain, and he invented many different types of passes. He died in 1947 in the bullring when a bull gored him. His monument has a statue of him, flanked by two large white horses.

18. Churches - Among the beautiful churches are the Iglesia Convento de Capuchinos. In the square of this church is the Cristo de los Faroles (Christ of the Lamps). The Church of San Pablo has some wonderful Mudejar style chapels and the sculpture of Nuestra Señora de las Angustias from 1627, a masterpiece by the artist Juan de Mesa. The Church of San Francisco was founded by King Fernando III, the Holy. The main altarpiece is very impressive.

Priego de Cordoba

The town of Priego de Cordoba is located 103 km southeast of the City of Cordoba. It has about 23,000 inhabitants and is called the "city of the water" because it has many springs and has an abundance of water. It is known to be one of the most picturesque towns of Cordoba because it has many Baroque buildings and churches. It is set in the mountains of the Natural Park of Las Sierras Subbeticas. The town is famous for its olive oil and it has its own Denomination of Origin. The local economy is based on agriculture, the manufacture of clothing, and tourism, and the

town is quite prosperous.

Priego was a town began by the Iberians and later taken by the Romans. Priego became a fortified town of the Moors with the name of Baguh. It was conquered by the Christians under Ferdinand III in 1225. In 1327 the Moors retook the town. Finally in 1340 Alfonso XI retook the town.

In 1711 Priego became part of the Duchy of Medinaceli and the town became prosperous because of its silk industry. The taffeta and velvet the town produced was sold all over the Spanish peninsula, France, and the Americas. That was when the Baroque decoration was placed in the town's churches and palaces. Unfortunately at the end of the 18th century the mulberry trees deteriorated and there was strong competition from the cotton industry, so the town entered a sharp recession. Today the agricultural industry and tourism have improved the local economy.

1. Town Hall

The Town Hall building was constructed in 1952 and is an elegant building that sits on the Plaza de la Constitucion, a very pretty square. The former convent of the Poor Clares used to occupy the site. Today the local tourist office is located on the ground floor of the building.

2. Calle Rio

The main street of Priego de Cordoba is called Calle Rio. The word "rio" means river and below this street runs the river. This street is known for its elegant houses, many with Baroque facades. Many of the houses have beautiful Mudejar designs and wonderful wrought iron grills on the windows. The doors of the houses are very elegant because they have brass knockers, round brass eyeholes, and brass kick plates at the bottom of the doors, with elegant designs. The Carrera de las Monjas also has these beautiful buildings.

3. History Museum

The History Museum is based on archaeology and was created in 1995. The exhibits contain many archaeological remains from the Paleolithic and Neolithic times, times of the Romans and the Moors, including coins, sculpture, pottery and tools. The museum is located in the Adolfo Lozano Sidro Cultural Center. This man was a local artist who reached fame and his museum is located on the second floor. There is a beautiful patio that is typical of Andalusia, with columns. At the back of the building is an exhibition space that contains many modern abstract landscape paintings.

4. Church of San Francisco

The construction of this church was started in 1510 under the patronage of Don Pedro Fernandez de Cordoba, the first Marquis of Priego, and was finished in 1548. The original style was late Gothic, with Mudejar touches. In the 18th century it was reconstructed using the Baroque style by the architects Jeronimo Sanchez de Rueda and Juan de Dios Santaella. The church has cross-vaulted ceilings, segmented cupolas, and an abundance of Baroque plaster decorations. The altar was created by Juan de Dios Santaella in 1781. It contains a shrine to the Virgin with a sculpture of the Virgin by the school of Jose de Mora. There is a niche with the figure of Saint Stephen.

There is a beautiful Chapel of Jesus of Nazareth that was constructed by Jeronimo Sanchez de Rueda and Juan de Dios Santaella. The statue of Jesus of Nazareth was done by Pablo de Rojas in 1592. There are sculptures of Our Lady of Sorrow and St. John the Evangelist on each side, carved by the school of Pablo de Rojas around 1600. Jose Risueño carved the images of St. John the Baptist and Jesus as children. The Chapel of the Scourging Jesus has the statue of Christ being scourged and was done by Alonso de Mena in 1640.

5. Church of La Aurora

The Church of Our Lady of Dawn was built on the site of the shrine to St. Nicasio, the patron saint of Priego and it was completed around 1528. Juan de Dios Santaella reconstructed the church in the 18th century. The church has a rectangular plan and an arched ceiling in five sections with windows. There are plaster figures of St. Peter, St. Paul, and the Evangelists. There is an exuberant Baroque plasterwork that covers the cupola, ceiling, and windows. The designs are geometric, and has designs of plants and flowers. There are also designs of angels. The main altar has the figure of St. Nicasio. The Chapel of the Virgin has a sculpture of the Virgin by Diego de Mora. There is a bell tower of Baroque design and the main door was completed in 1772 and is decorated with plenty of marble. There are two levels and the lower has Corinthian columns, while the upper part has spiral pillars that frame the niche of the Virign.

6. La Asuncion Church

The Sagrarium Chapel of the La Asuncion Church was declared a National Monument in 1932. It was constructed by Francisco Javier Pedrajas between 1772 and 1784. The chapel has an octagonal floor plan and is completely covered with Rococo plaster decoration and is a masterpiece of the Spanish Baroque. There is a tabernacle by the sculptor Manuel Garnelo that was finished in 1921. The church was constructed by the Marquis of Priego in 1525 and the original design was Gothic and Mudejar, with three naves and pointed arches, with a Mudejar roof. The Door of Santa Ana has elaborate Plateresque design and came from Martin de Bolivar. There is a tower from 1541. The side chapel of Christ Crucified has a figure of Christ by Alonso de Mena from 1635. The main altar dates from 1567 and has paintings by Pedro de Raxis and Gines Lopez. There is a beautiful chapel to the Virgen de la Soledad, whose saint day is celebrated on May 16.

7. Priego de Cordoba Castle

This Moorish fortress dates from the 12th century and was declared a National Artistic/Historic Monument in 1943. The fort has an austere appearance and has a quadrangular design with several square towers, and with a tower in the middle. The entrance of the castle has two horseshoe pointed arches that are framed by a frieze. The castle was rebuilt in the 13th and14th centuries. At one time the castle belong to the Order of Calatrava. The castle is currently under restoration.

8. Balcon de Adarve

The Balcon de Adarve is a balcony with a view. It is set on the edge of a cliff and forms a natural balcony that used to be used for the town's defense. There is a wonderful view of the Andalusian countryside from this point. There is a beautiful statue of a nude youth with an eagle that is dedicated to the creators of the artistic patrimony. Another small statue of a boy represents the actor and singer Joselito, who filmed the famous movie "Saeta del Ruiseñor" in the town in 1957. There are three fountains with potable drinking water.

9. The Barrio de la Villa

The Barrio de la Villa is the original Moorish center of the town and was designated as the Historic Center of Priego in 1972. It has narrow and winding streets with small squares with whitewashed walls. The walls of the streets are adorned with flowerpots full of colorful geraniums. The ambiance of this barrio is that of the romantic past, and is a blend of peace and beauty. It is called the Little Albaicin, alluding to the quarter in Granada. The area contains the Plaza Santa Ana, the Plaza de San Antonio, the Calle Real and Calle Jazmines.

10. Carnicerías Reales

The Carnicerias Reales is the building that was the abattoir and market in the 16th century. It was designed by Francisco del Castillo. The main front has a Mannerist architecture influenced by Italian design, with columns that have a triangular pediment. There is a beautiful patio with half-rounded arches resting on stone pillars. There is an impressive spiral staircase made of stone that goes down to the basement, where the abattoir was located.

11. House Museum of Niceto Alcala Zamora y Torres

The Calle Rio contains the mansion where Niceto Alcala Zamora was born. He was the president of the second Spanish republic and he was the one who gave the vote to women. After the Civil War, he was exiled to Argentina, where he died. The two lower floors have the personal effects, documents, photographs and paintings of Don Niceto. There are furniture and accessories of that period. There is a patio and garden in the back with the bust of Don Niceto.

12. Fuente del Rey

The King's Fountain is the emblematic National Monument of Priego. It was began in the 16th century, rebuilt several times after the 16th century and finally completed in 1803 with a Baroque design by Remigio del Marmol. There are three ponds on different levels, containing 139 water spouts that emerge from the faces of stone gargoyles. The first level has the figure of a lion battling a serpent, created by Alvarez Cubero, a neo-classical sculptor. The second level has the figures of Neptune with his wife Amphtitrite, riding on a chariot pulled by horses. The third basin contains the mouth of Clero where the water disappears. Clero is a humorous reference to the clergy who funded the monument.

13. Fuente de la Salud

Just above the Fuente del Rey is the Fuente de la Salud, the Fountain of Health. The legend is that it was the site where King Alfonso XI once pitched his tent. The fountain was used to channel the spring which served the town. It was built in the 16th century by Francisco del Castillo, with the help of the local mason, Alonso Gonzalez Bailen. The facade has a Mannerist style, with a lattice of polychromed marble. The center is a niche with the sculpture of the Virign. The rocks below have bas-reliefs that show a mythological theme containing the figures of Neptune, Amphitrite, and Medusa. There is a religious bas relief of a shepherd with his flock. This fountain is also a National Monument.