Tourism: things to see in Córdoba

The Alcazar

The Alcázar (castle) of Cordoba, with its thick defensive walls, served both as a fortress and a palace, and is a perfect illustration of the development of Cordoban architecture through the ages. Roman and Visigoth ruins lie side by side with Arabic remains in this magnificent building, which was once the favourite residence of the different rulers of the city. However, when Cordoba was taken by Fernando III «the Saint» in 1236, the former Caliphal Palace was in a pitiful, ruinous state. Alfonso X «the Wise» began the restoration work, which was finished off during the reign of Alfonso XI. It has fulfilled many different functions over the years, such as Headquarters of the Inquisition, or a prison (first half of the 20th century).

Christ of the Lanterns

The first impression which strikes the visitor on entering the popular square Plaza de Capuchinos is of an austere design, with the plain, uniformly white walls interrupted only by stone doorways of the convent of Santo Ángel.

The square also contains one of the most emblematic images of Cordoba: the statue of Christ of the Lanterns. The white walls which surround it heighten the dramatic effect of the Baroque crucifix, and the four iron lamps (farolas) surrounding it which give the statue its name.

San Pablo

The so-called Fernandine Churches are a group of religious buildings built under the reign of King Fernando III “the Saint” after the conquest of Cordoba in 1236. Many of them were built on top of former mosques, showing a clear intention to wipe out the Islamic influence so visible in the city, as well as to repopulate various areas of the city with Christian subjects.

Fernando III mapped out fourteen parishes, seven in the Axerquia area of the city and seven in the former Medina, whose name was changed “Villa”. These buildings are predominantly Romanesque in style but with Gothic and Mudejar influences.

Medina Azahara

The history of Medina Azahara, the magnificent, enigmatic city palace which was built for Abd-al Rahman III at the foot of the Sierra Morena mountains five miles from the city, is shrouded in myths and legends. According to popular belief, Abd al-Rahman III, after proclaiming himself Caliph in 929 A.D., after eight years in power, decide to build the city-palace in honour of his favourite, Azahara. However, recent research strongly suggests that the real reason for the Caliph founding Medina Azahara was to promote the new image of the recently-created independent western Caliphate as a one of the strongest, most powerful kingdoms in Medieval Europe.

The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba

The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba (World Heritage Site since 1984) is arguably the most significant monument in the whole of the western Moslem World and one of the most amazing buildings in the world in its own right. The complete evolution of the Omeyan style in Spain can be seen in its different sections, as well as the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles of the Christian part.

The site which the Mosque-Cathedral occupies has been used for the worship of different divinities since ancient times. Under the rule of the Visigoths, the Basilica of San Vicente occupied this very site, and later, after the Moslems bought part of the plot of land, a primitive Mosque was built. The basilica was rectangular in shape, and for a while was shared by Christians and Moslems. As the Moslem population increased, the ruler Abderraman I acquired the whole site and demolished the basilica to make way for the first Alhama (main) Mosque in the city. Some of the original building materials from the Visigothic basilica can still be seen in the first section of the Mosque built by Abderraman I.

The great Mosque is made up of two distinct areas, the courtyard or sahn, with its porticos (the only part built by Abd al- Rahman III), where the minaret stands – nowadays, encased in the Renaissance tower – and the prayer hall, or haram. The area inside is made up of a forest of columns with a harmonious colour scheme of red and white arches. The five separate areas of the Mosque correspond to each of the five extensions carried out.

Julio Romero de Torres Museum

This museum, housed in the same building as the Fine Arts Museum, in front of the Posada del Potro, was created in 1931, one year after the painter’s Julio Romero de Torres death. The museum takes us on an illustrated tour of his life and works, from his early beginnings to his best-known and most impressive paintings, such as La Chiquita Piconera (the Little Coal Girl), Naranjas y Limones (Oranges and Lemons), Cante Hondo (Flamenco Song), or Poema a Córdoba (Poem to Cordoba). The museum has been rebuilt three times, the last time being in 2012.

Palacio de Viana

This impressive palace, situated in the plaza de Don Gome, is surrounded by twelve splendid patios and a marvellous garden. A stunning variety of flowering plants decorate and scent every nook and cranny of this splendid museum. The original flavour of this 14th century palace was kept intact by the last Marquis of Viana, Sophia of Lancaster.

Patios de Córdoba

In the list of Intangible Heritage of Humanity of Unesco since December 2012

Due to the hot, dry Cordoban climate, the city’s inhabitants, – first the Romans and later the Moslems – adapted the typical design of the popular house to their needs, making the home centre around an inner courtyard (patio in Spanish), normally with a fountain in the middle and often a well to collect rainwater. The Moslems made further adjustments, giving the house an entrance from the street which passed through a porch, and filling the courtyard with plants to give the sensation of freshness.

Roman Bridge

The view over the Mosque-Cathedral, with the river, the Gate of the Bridge and the Roman Bridge of Cordoba itself, is one of the most wonderful sights of Cordoba, especially at dusk, when the last rays of the sun linger on and make the stone surfaces glow a deep golden red. The bridge was first built in the 1st century A.D., but has been rebuilt many times since then, and in its present form dates mainly from the Medieval period, with the latest changes being made in 1876. There are sixteen arches, four of which are pointed and the rest semi-circular. Halfway along the railing on one side is a 16th century statue of San Rafael by Bernabé Gómez del Río.

The Synagogue

The Synagogue, situated in the heart of the Jewish Quarter of Cordoba, is unique in Andalusia and one of the three best preserved Medieval synagogues in the whole of Spain. According to the inscriptions found in the building, it was built between the years 1314 and 1315, and was in constant use right up until the Jews were finally expelled from Spain. A small courtyard leads to a narrow entrance hall. On the right, a staircase leads to the women’s area and in front lies the main hall, which is rectangular in shape and decorated with Mudejar-style plant motifs. The wall supporting the women’s tribune has three arches with exquisite decorative plasterwork. The Jews were expelled in 1492, and afterwards, the building was used first as a hospital, then as the Hermitage of San Crispin and finally, an infants’ school. It was declared a National Monument at the end of the 19th century.

Roman temple

Next to the Town Hall of Cordoba stands the only Roman temple in Cordoba for which we have archaeological evidence. The sheer size of the building is remarkable: it was dedicated to the cult of the Emperor, and along with the Circus Maximus, formed part of the Provincial Forum. It originally stood on a raised podium and had six free-standing Corinthian columns in the entrance. In front of this was the ara or altar. The present reconstruction was carried out by the architect Félix Hernández, and has left Cordoba yet another reminder of the splendour of the city in Roman times. Some of the original pieces from the museum are on display in the Archaeological Museum or in unusual but attractive places dotted around the city, like the fluted column lying in Plaza de la Doblas.

Reopened in December 2013 with new lighting, the Roman Temple of Cordoba is open to visitors and offers a range of different activities. All the information can be found at: www.temploromanodecordoba.com