Cordoba

Yesterday was a big day and a late night. This morning I had a late start. I spent the rest of the morning in the Mesquita, the famous former Omayyad Mosque which is now the Catholic Cathedral of Cordoba.

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The Bell Tower is constructed around the former Minar

I admit I was initially underwhelmed. The building did not have the clarity that I had seen in photos. When I entered the Hagga Sophia in Istanbul I was immediately transported in awe at the way this ancient church/then mosque/now museum lifted the spirit towards Transcendence. Not so the Mesquita. It is a much humbler, more spread out place of worship. Also, it is totally surrounded by the old city, so it is hard to get a perspective on the enormous size of the building, not so much in height, but in area. It can hold literally thousands of worshippers. Also, it is a composite building, with different rulers adding different parts, including, most controversially, a Gothic Cathedral in the middle of the building, so it can seem a bit confusing, cobbled together. But the longer I stayed there, the more it grew on me. It certainly is a magnificent building.

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The mihrab, the niche in the front of the mosque which gives the direction of Mecca for the Muslim congregation, is one of the remaining mosque features in the Cathedral.

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I noticed that there was a scheduled Mass at 12.30 which I was able to attend. In such a place which is drenched in history and Christian-Muslim Relations, for better and for worse, one could not help but pray for better mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims in our contemporary world.

Later I visited the Jewish Synagogue, one of only three in Spain, after the expulsion of the Jews in 1492! Nearby was a plaza and a statue of Maimonides, the famous Jewish scholar. I wondered whether there was any similar commemoration of Ibn Rushd, better know as Averroes. In their time, Cordoba was a place of Jewish, Christian, Muslim cooperation, translating the Greek philosophy from Arabic into Latin, making it available to Christian scholars such as Thomas Aquinas, who used that heritage for his magnificent theological opi.

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Later I visited some Christian Churches, in particular that of Santiago (St James), to whose grave the pilgrim camino path supposedly leads. In the porch of the church was an image of St James, Matamoros (Moor Slayer!), which indicates the more conflictual side of Christian-Muslim Relations in the history of the Iberian Peninsula.

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There were other pilgrim items too, a pilgrim staff, the Jacobean cross (as on the shield) and the conch shell, traditional sign of the pilgrim. Incidentally, one of the Friends of the Camino whom I had met the night before happened across me in the Mesquita. He took me to a grave. As far as I could make out from his Spanish, he was showing me the grave of the person who first did the pilgrimage from Cordoba to Santiago and back and initiated the tradition.

Cordoba is hot and crowded. There are lots of tourists. I am not a good tourist! Also, tourism is expensive too! Besides, I pay for accommodation and food whether I am at rest or on the move, but the longer I tarry the more expensive the enterprise becomes. Today I have seen what I really wanted to see in Cordoba. Tomorrow I will resume the walk.

Incidentally, much to my surprise, Cordoba is flat!! It is not on the brow of a hill, though there are hills in the background (which I will have to traverse!). The old city retains its ancient character. It is a labyrinth of narrow paved streets, with little squares. Restaurants ply their trade on the street. There are lots of shops, with courtyards, people sitting out sipping beer or wine and nibbling on food and engaged in conversation. It really is an elegant setting and a relaxed life style, but I have learned that the pilgrim motto is ā€œultreia et susteia!ā€ (“onwards and upwards”!).

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