Córdoba

Córdoba is a city in Andalusia, southern Spain, and the capital of the province of Córdoba. It was a Roman settlement, then colonized by Muslim armies in the eighth century. It became the capital of the Islamic Emirate, and then of the Caliphate of Córdoba, including most of the Iberian Peninsula. Córdoba consisted of hundreds of workshops that created goods such as silk. It was a center of culture and learning in the Muslim golden age.

Caliph Al Hakam II opened many libraries in addition to the many medical schools and universities which existed at the time, making Córdoba a centre for education. During these centuries it became the center of a society ruled by Muslims, in which all other groups had a second-class status. It was recaptured by Christian forces in 1236, during the Reconquista. Today it is a moderately sized modern city; its population in 2011 was about 330,000. The historic centre was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Córdoba has the highest summer temperatures in Spain and Europe, with average high temperatures around 37 °C (99 °F) in July and August.

History

The first traces of human presence in the area are remains of a Neanderthal Man, dating to c. 42,000 to 35,000 BC. In the 8th century BC, during the ancient Tartessos period, a pre-urban settlement existed. The population gradually learned copper and silver metallurgy. The first historical mention of a settlement dates to the Carthaginian expansion across the Guadalquivir, when general Hamilcar Barca renamed it Kartuba, from Kart-Juba, meaning “the City of Juba”, a Numidian commander who had died in a battle nearby. Córdoba was conquered by the Romans in 206 BC.

In 169 Roman consul M. Claudius Marcellus, grandson of Marcus Claudius Marcellus, who had governed both Further and Hither Spain, founded a Latin colony alongside the pre-existing Iberian settlement. Between 143 and 141 BC the town was besieged by Viriatus. A Roman forum is known to have existed in the city in 113 BC. The famous Cordoba Treasure, with mixed local and Roman artistic traditions, was buried in the city at this time; it is now in the British Museum.

It became a colonia with the title Patricia, between 46 and 45 BC. It was sacked by Caesar in 45 due to its Pompeian allegiance, and settled with veterans by Augustus. It became capital of Baetica and had a colonial and provincial forum and many temples. It was the chief center of Roman intellectual life in Hispania Ulterior (Further Spain). Its republican poets were succeeded by Seneca and Lucan.

At the time of Julius Caesar, Córdoba was the capital of the Roman province of Hispania Ulterior / Baetica. Great Roman philosophers such as Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger, orators such as Seneca the Elder, and poets such as Lucan came from Roman Cordoba.

In the late Roman period, its bishop Hosius (Ossius) was the dominant figure of the western Church throughout the earlier 4th cent. Later, it occupied an important place in the Provincia Hispaniae of the Byzantine Empire (552–572) and under the Visigoths, who conquered it in the late 6th century.

Islamic rule

Córdoba was captured in 711 by a Moorish army. Unlike other Iberian towns, no capitulation was signed and the position was taken by storm. Córdoba was in turn governed by direct Moorish rule. The new Moorish commanders established themselves within the city and in 716 it became a provincial capital, subordinate to the Caliphate of Damascus; in Arabic it was known as قرطبة (Qurṭubah).

Different areas were allocated for services in the Saint Vincent Church shared by Christian and Moors, until construction of the Córdoba Mosque started on the same spot under Abd-ar-Rahman I. Abd al-Rahman allowed the Christians to rebuild their ruined churches and purchased the Christian half of the church of St Vincent. In May 766 Córdoba was chosen as the capital of the independent Muslim emirate, later caliphate, of al-Andalus. By 800 the megacity of Cordoba supported over 200,000 residents, 0.1 per cent of the global population. During the apogee of the caliphate (1000 AD), Córdoba had a population of about 500,000 inhabitants; estimates range from 350,000 to 1,000,000. In the 10th and 11th centuries Córdoba was one of the most advanced cities in the world, and a great cultural, political, financial and economic centre. The Great Mosque of Córdoba dates back to this time. After a change of rulers the situation changed quickly. The vizier al-Mansur–the unofficial ruler of al-Andalus from 976 to 1002—burned most of the books on philosophy to please the Moorish clergy; most of the others were sold off or perished in the civil strife not long after.

In the ninth and tenth centuries, Córdoba was “one of the most important cities in the history of the world.” In it, “Christians and Jews were involved in the Royal Court and the intellectual life of the city.”

Córdoba had a prosperous economy with its “skilled artisans and agricultural infrastructure,” The manufactured goods for sale included “leather and metal work, glazed tiles and textiles.” The agricultural produce included fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs, and raw materials such as “cotton, flax and silk.”

Córdoba was also famous as “a centre of learning.” Education was “taken seriously.” Al-Hakam II had a large library. Knowledge in the fields of “medicine, mathematics, astronomy, botany” exceeded the rest of Europe.

In 1002 Al-Mansur was returning to Córdoba from an expedition in the area of Rioja when he died. His death was the beginning of the end of Córdoba. Abd al-Malik al-Muzaffar, al-Mansur’s older son, succeeded to his father’s authority, but he died in 1008, possibly assassinated. Sanchuelo, Abd al-Malik’s younger brother succeeded him. While Sanchuelo was away fighting Alfonso V of Leon, a revolution made Mohammed II al-Mahdi the Caliph. Sanchuelo sued for pardon but he was killed when he returned to Cardova. The slaves revolted against Mahdi, killed him in 1009, and replaced him with Hisham II in 1010. Hisham II wore a veil, used makeup, kept a male harem, and was forced out of office. In 1012 the Berbers “sacked Cardova.” In 1016 the slaves captured Cardova and searched for Hisham II, but he had escaped to Asia. This event was followed by a fight for power until Hisham III, the last of the Umayyads, was routed from Córdoba in 1031.

After 1031, Córdoba lost its prosperity and fame and became an isolated city. The “ruling elite” were well known for their “disinterest in the outside world … and intellectual laziness”.

Modern history

During the process known as the Spanish Reconquista, Córdoba was captured by King Ferdinand III of Castile on 29 June 1236, after a siege of several months. The city was divided into 14 colaciones, and numerous new church buildings were added. The centre of the mosque was converted into a large Catholic cathedral.

The city declined, especially after Renaissance times. In the 18th century it was reduced to just 20,000 inhabitants. The population and economy started to increase again only in the early 20th century.

With the most extensive historical heritages in the world declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO (on 17 December 1984), the city also has a number of modern areas, including the districts of Zoco and the railway station district.

The regional government (the Junta de Andalucía) has for some time been studying the creation of a Córdoba Metropolitan Area that would comprise, in addition to the capital itself, the towns of Villafranca de Córdoba, Obejo, La Carlota, Villaharta, Villaviciosa, Almodóvar del Río and Guadalcázar. The combined population of such an area would be around 351,000. The Plano de Córdoba was also known for its books and how they created it.

Main sights

Historic architecture

Córdoba has the second largest Old town in Europe, the largest urban area in the world declared World Heritage by UNESCO. The most important building and symbol of the city, the Great Mosque of Córdoba and current cathedral, and the Roman bridge, are the city’s best-known features. Other Roman remains include the Roman Temple, the Theatre, Mausoleum, the Colonial Forum, the Forum Adiectum, an amphitheater and the remains of the Palace of Emperor Maximian in the Archaeological site of Cercadilla.

Near the cathedral is the old Jewish quarter, which consists of many irregular streets, such as Calleja de las Flores and Calleja del Pañuelo, and which is home to the Synagogue and the Sephardic House. In the extreme southwest of the Old Town is the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, a former royal property and the seat of the Inquisition; adjacent to it are the Royal Stables, where Andalusian horses are bred. Near the stables are located, along the walls, the medieval Baths of the Caliphate. In the south of the Old town and east of the great cathedral, in the Plaza del Potro, is the Posada del Potro, a row of inns mentioned in literary works including Don Quixote and La Feria de los Discretos, and which remained active until 1972. Both the plaza and the inn get their name from the fountain in the centre of the plaza, which represents a foal (potro). Not far from this plaza is the Arco del Portillo (a 14th-century arch).

Along the banks of the Guadalquivir are the Mills of the Guadalquivir, Moorish-era buildings that used the water flow to grind flour. They include the Albolafia, Alegría, Carbonell, Casillas, Enmedio, Lope García, Martos, Pápalo, San Antonio, San Lorenzo and San Rafael mills.

Surrounding the large Old town are the Roman walls: gates include the Puerta de Almodóvar, the Puerta de Sevilla and Puerta del Puente, which are the only three gates remaining from the original thirteen. Towers and fortresses include the Malmuerta Tower, the Belén Tower and the Puerta del Rincón’s Tower, and the fortress of the Calahorra Tower and of the Donceles Tower.

Palace buildings in the Old Town include the Palacio de Viana (14th century) and the Palacio de la Merced among others. On the outskirts of the city lies the archaeological site of the city of Medina Azahara, which, together with the Alhambra in Granada, is one of the main examples of Spanish-Muslim architecture in Spain.

Other sights are the Cuesta del Bailío (a staircase connecting the upper and lower part of the city) and the Minaret of San Juan, once part of a mosque.

Religious structures

Fernandine churches

The city is home to 12 Christian churches that were built (many as transformations of mosques) by Ferdinand III of Castile after the reconquest of the city in the 13th century. They were to act both as churches and as the administrative centres in the neighborhoods into which the city was divided in medieval times. Some of those that remain are:

San Nicolás de la Villa.
San Miguel.
San Juan y Todos los Santos (also known as Iglesia de la Trinidad).
Santa Marina de Aguas Santas.
San Agustín. Begun in 1328, it has now an 18th-century appearance. The façade bell tower, with four bells, dates to the 16th century.
San Andrés, largely renovated in the 14th and 15th centuries. It has a Renaissance portal (1489) and a bell tower from the same period, while the high altar is a Baroque work by Pedro Duque Cornejo.
San Lorenzo.
Church of Santiago.
San Pedro.
Santa María Magdalena. Like the others, it combines Romanesque, Mudéjar and Gothic elements.
San Pablo. In the church’s garden in the 1990s the ruins of an ancient Roman circus were discovered.

Other religious structures

San Hipólito. It houses the tombs of Ferdinand IV and Alfonso XI of Castile, kings of Castile and León.
San Francisco
San Salvador y Santo Domingo de Silos
Shrine of Nuestra Señora de Linares
Tower of Santo Domingo de Silos
Shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Fuensanta
Chapel of San Bartolomé
Convent of Santa Clara
Convent of Santa Cruz
Convent of Santa Marta

Sculptures and memorials

Scattered throughout the city are ten statues of the Archangel Raphael, protector and custodian of the city. These are called Triumphs of Saint Raphael, and are located in landmarks such as the Roman Bridge, the Puerta del Puente and the Plaza del Potro.

In the western part of the Historic Centre are the statue of Seneca (near the Puerta de Almodóvar, a gate of Islamic origin, (the Statue of Averroes (next to the Puerta de la Luna), and Maimonides (in the plaza de Tiberiades). Further south, near the Puerta de Sevilla, are the sculpture to the poet Ibn Zaydún and the sculpture of the writer and poet Ibn Hazm and, inside the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, the monument to the Catholic Monarchs and Christopher Columbus.

There are also several sculptures in plazas of the Old Town. In the central Plaza de las Tendillas is the equestrian statue of Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, in the Plaza de Capuchinos is the Cristo de los Faroles, in Plaza de la Trinidad is the statue of Luis de Góngora, in the Plaza del Cardenal Salazar is the bust of Ahmad ibn Muhammad abu Yafar al-Gafiqi, in the Plaza de Capuchinas is the statue to the bishop Osio, in Plaza del Conde de Priego is the monument to Manolete and the Campo Santo de los Mártires is a statue to Al-Hakam II and the monument to the lovers.

In the Jardines de la Agricultura is the monument to the painter Julio Romero de Torres, a bust by sculptor Mateo Inurria, a bust of the poet Julio Aumente and the sculpture dedicated to the gardener Aniceto García Roldán, who was killed in the park. Further south, in the Gardens of the Duke of Rivas, is a statue of writer and poet Ángel de Saavedra, 3rd Duke of Rivas by sculptor Mariano Benlliure.

In the Guadalquivir river, near the San Rafael Bridge is the Island of the sculptures, an artificial island with a dozen stone sculptures executed during the International Sculpture Symposium. Up the river, near the Miraflores bridge, is the “Hombre Río”, a sculpture of a swimmer looking to the sky and whose orientation varies depending from the current.

Gardens & parks

Jardines de la Victoria. Within the gardens there are two newly renovated facilities, the old Caseta del Círculo de la Amistad, today Caseta Victoria, and the Kiosko de la música, as well as a small Modernist fountain from the early 20th century. The northern section, called Jardines of Duque de Rivas, features a pergola of neoclassical style, designed by the architect Carlos Sáenz de Santamaría; it is used as an exhibition hall and a café bar.

Jardines de la Agricultura, located between the Jardines de la Victoria and the Paseo de Córdoba: it includes numerous trails that radially converge to a round square which has a fountain or pond. This is known as the duck pond, and, in the centre, has an island with a small building in which these animals live. Scattered throughout the garden are numerous sculptures such as the sculpture in memory of Julio Romero de Torres, the sculpture to the composer Julio Aumente and the bust of Mateo Inurria. In the north is a rose garden in form of a labyrinth.

Parque de Miraflores, located on the south bank of the river Guadalquivir. It was designed by the architect Juan Cuenca Montilla as a series of terraces. Among other points of interest as the Salam and Miraflores Bridge and a sculpture by Agustín Ibarrola.

Parque Cruz Conde, located southwest of the city, is an open park and barrier-free park in English gardens style.

Paseo de Cordoba. Located on the underground train tracks, it is a long tour of several km in length with more than 434,000 m². The tour has numerous fountains, including six formed by a portico of falling water which form a waterfall to a pond with four levels. Integrated into the tour is a pond of water from the Roman era, and the building of the old train station of RENFE, now converted into offices of Canal Sur.

Jardines Juan Carlos I, in the Ciudad Jardín neighborhood. It is a fortress which occupies an area of about 12,500 square metres.

Jardines del Conde de Vallellano, located on both sides of the avenue of the same name. It includes a large L-shaped pond with a capacity of 3,000 m3 (105,944.00 cu ft) and archaeological remains embedded in the gardens, among which is a Roman cistern from the second half of the 1st century BC.

Parque de la Asomadilla, with a surface of 27 hectares, is the second largest park in Andalusia. The park recreates a Mediterranean forest vegetation, such as hawthorn, pomegranate, hackberry, oak, olive, tamarisk, cypress, elms, pines, oaks and carob trees among others.

Balcón del Guadalquivir

Jardines de Colón’

Sotos de la Albolafia. Declared Natural monument by the Andalusian Autonomous Government, it is located in a stretch of the Guadalquivir river from the Roman Bridge and the San Rafael Bridge, with an area of 21.36 hectares. Host a large variety of birds and is an important point of migration for many birds.

Parque periurbano Los Villares

Bridges

Córdoba has seven bridges.

Roman Bridge, over the Guadalquivir River. It links the area of Campo de la Verdad with Barrio de la Catedral. It was the only bridge of the city for twenty centuries, until the construction of the San Rafael Bridge in the mid-20th century. Built in the early 1st century BC, during the period of Roman rule in Córdoba, probably replacing a more primitive wooden one, it has a length of about 250 m and has 16 arches.

San Rafael Bridge, consisting of eight arches of 25 m span and a length of 217 m. The width is between parapets, divided into 12 m of cobblestone for four circulations and two tiled concrete sidewalks. It was inaugurated on 29 April 1953 joining the Avenue Corregidor with Plaza de Andalucía. In January 2004 the plaques reading “His Excellency the Head of State and Generalissimo of all the Armies, Francisco Franco Bahamonde, opened this bridge of the Guadalquivir on 29 April 1953”, which were on both sides of each of the entrances of the bridge, were removed.

Andalusia Bridge, a suspension bridge.

Puente de Miraflores, known as “the rusty bridge”. This bridge links the Street San Fernando and Ronda de Isasa with the Miraflores peninsula. It was designed by Herrero, Suárez and Casado and inaugurated on 2 May 2003. At first, in 1989, a proposal by architect-engineer Santiago Calatrava was considered that would look like the Lusitania Bridge of Mérida, but this was eventually discarded because its height would obscure the view of the Great Mosque.

Autovía del Sur Bridge.

Abbas Ibn Firnas Bridge, Inaugurated in January 2011 It is part of the variant west of Córdoba.

Puente del Arenal, connecting Avenue Campo de la Verdad with the Recinto Ferial (fairground) of Cordoba.

Museums & Theatres

Archeological and Ethnological Museum of Córdoba
Julio Romero de Torres Museum
Museum of Fine Arts
Dioceses Museum
Baths of the Fortress Califal
Botanical Museum of Cordova
Three Cultures Museum
Bullfighting Museum
Molino de Martos Hydraulic Museum
Museo Palacio de Viana

Theatres

Gran Teatro de Córdoba
Teatro Axerquía
Teatro Góngora

Celebrations

May celebrations

Tourism is especially intense in Córdoba during May because of the weather and as this month hosts three festivals.

The May Crosses Festival takes place at the beginning of the month. During three or four days, crosses of around 3 m height are placed in many squares and streets and decorated with flowers and a contest is held to choose the most beautiful one. Usually there is regional food and music near the crosses.

The Patios Festival is celebrated during the second and third week of the month. Many houses of the historic centre open their private patios to the public and compete in a contest. Both the architectonic value and the floral decorations are taken into consideration to choose the winners. It is usually very difficult and expensive to find accommodation in the city during the festival.

Córdoba’s Fair takes place at the ending of the month and is similar to the better known Sevilla Fair with some differences, mainly that the Sevilla one is private, while the Cordoba one is not.


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