Travel Date 28th 2013.
Let me tell you a story...
Once upon a time, long, long ago, there was a Prince of Araby who was a member of the ruling Umayyad family, who ruled almost all of Araby. His name was Abd al-Rahman and he lived in the region we now know as Syria. There was a revolt and the new rulers, from the Abbassid tribe, decided to wipe out the usurped ruling family.
The Prince was given warning and fled from the assassins with his brother and a faithful Greek freeman. After a perilous journey, including a river crossing where the pursuers falsely persuaded his brother to return to safety, only to execute him, the Prince crossed Mesopotamia, Palestine and Egypt before finding safety in his mother's country, Libya.
But safety was only temporary as the Libyan ruler, who was friendly at first, started to fear the popularity of the new arrival. After several close calls Abd al-Rahman and his supporter moved on, reaching some family supporters in Morocco.
Not long before that the Visigoths of the Iberian Peninsula (the region we now know as Spain and Portugal) had lost most of their territory to the invading Arabs who arrived across the Straits of Gibraltar from Morocco. The new rulers of that region called it Al-Andalus. Although no members of Abd al-Rahman's family had ever set foot in Al-Andalus, he saw it as his to take. He was fortunate to arrive at a time when control by the Abassids was distant and weak and the local rulers were disunited; they were also having difficulty quashing internal rebellions.
Abd al-Rahman, with a tiny band of followers, crossed into Iberia and quickly attracted new supporters. He was a brilliant charismatic leader and warrior with diplomatic and political skill. He had escaped Syria with a single supporter in 750 AD. By 757, using all those skills, he was ruler of Al-Andalus. His family ruled as his successors for over 250 years.
One of his strengths was recognition and acceptance of the many religions in his conquered land. He imposed his will on the people, but not his religion. When he arrived in Cordoba a Christian Church stood on a site which had been sacred since it was a temple to Janus in Roman times.
He wanted to display his power to all of Araby and decided to build a great mosque. He wisely included the Christian church within the structure. Rather than confiscate the church, he bought it from the Christians.
He wanted his mosque to approach the sanctity of Mecca and to rival the great mosques of Baghdad, Damascus and Jerusalem in the East. The Mezquita took thousands of artisans decades to complete. Over the centuries there have been enlargements and additions, such as more and higher minarets.
Centuries later the re-conquering Christians in 1236 wisely allowed the mosque to stand when it was converted back to their faith, although significant alterations were made to expand the cathedral section and more chapels were included.
I'll let my pictures tell the rest of the story.
I believe Abd al-Rahman succeeded in his aim for the Mezquita. The Cathedral Mosque truly rivals the mosques of the East.