Different cultures have marked the city of Córdoba that was the Roman and Moorish capital city, the centre of Western Europe. Situated on the banks of the river Guadalquivir it welcomed great philosophers like the Roman Séneca, Averroes, Maimónides the Jew, writers like Luis de Góngora, or painters like Julio Romero de Torres.
It has great monuments like the Mosque, the ruins of Medina Azahara and a beautiful Jewish quarter have all added to it being declared by the UNESCO to be a World Heritage Site.
A trip through the mountains and the Hermitages
Out of the beautiful mountain landscapes, the mysterious and famous hermitages are worth mentioning. To get there, take the road towards Arruzafa, past the Parador hotel and then take the Co.110 road. Made up of a small, curious cluster of buildings, that are taken care of at present by the Carmelites, after the Congregation of the Hermits of Bethlehem disappeared in 1957.
The different hermitages are joined together round a small bend with a very modest dwelling where each of the hermits lived. These buildings are mentioned as far back as in the fifteenth century, although there are references to them even further back.
These hermitages are associated with the Christian anchorites who lived in the mountains of Córdoba during the first centuries of the Omeyan Caliphate, with the arrival of the almohades and almorávides tribes, much more intolerant with other religions.
From the centre to the suburbs
The Plaza de las Tendillas, in the area around the statue of the Gran Capitán, is the shopping centre of the old city of Córdoba, although it is made up of a mixture of new buildings today. From here walk down the calle de Claudio Marcelo, which soon takes us to the Roman temple, it sheight makes us think that it must have been a great building. At the back of the Town Hall, the church of San Pablo is situated, built in the thirteenth century, in Romantic and Gothic style, founded by Fernando third shortly after taking the city. It is made up of three naves, with an interesting wood panelled ceiling in mudéjar style a Gothic chapel, and beside the vestry an impressive Moorish doom, the only feature remaining from the original Moorish mosque.
Córdoba has an important number of Fernandina style churches like San Andrés, San Hipólito, San Miguel and San Pedro, one that stands out is San Lorenzo because of its filigree rose window in stone, similar to the Romanic-Gothic churches in the North.
The Santa Marina church is also original, with large buttresses on the main façade giving it an air of a castle rather than a church, in its central nave, which is higher than the lateral naves, you can see beautiful Gothic style windows. The church Santiago has kept the minaret of the ancient mosque as its belltower and the church of San Nicolás, in beautiful Renaissance Gothic style, one of the most beautiful and original towers in Córdoba with an octagonal ground plan, and with Mudejar style decorations.
From the Plaza del Potro to the Archaeological Museum
Not far from the Mosque, upstream, you come to the plaza del Potro, one of the centres of urban life in Córdoba. In times gone by it used to be a market garden and a hiding place for rogues, there is an ancient inn within the square which Miguel de Cervantes named in El Quijote, possibly after staying there. There is a fountain in the centre with a colt in the centre which gives the square its name, with reference to the good horses that were bred in the meadows on the other side of the river.
The Museum of Fine Arts is situated in the same plaza del Potro, housed in the ancient Hospital de la Caridad, that the Christiina Monarchs founded. It still has beautiful wood paneled ceilings and magnificent patios. It also has a collection of Renaissance panels, three paintings of Zurbaran and several canvases from the School of Murillo and the workshop of Ribera.
At a short distance from the plaza del Potro you come to the rectangular plaza de la Corredera, with brick houses all of the same height, with three floors of balconies over arcades. It used to be the Plaza Mayor and the Plaza del Mercado or market place. It is a beautiful example of civil architecture from the seventeenth century, where plays were staged, bullfights held as well as autos-da-fe.
Between the plaza de la Corredera and the Mosque you will find the Archaeological Museum, housed in the lovely Renaissance palace of the Páez. It is a compulsory visit for you to get to know the prehistpric past of the area and especially the valuable works of Roman Iberian and Visigoth art that have been found in the city and the province, as well as Moorish art with exhibits from the Mosque and from Medina Azahara.
A stroll along the river past the watermills
On the opposite bank of the Roman bridge you can see the impressive construction of the Moorish tower of Calahorra, which was reformed in 1630 and today it houses a museum dedicated to the three cultures that lived together in the city of Córdoba: Christian, Moorish and Jewish.
In front of this tower, in the Campo de la Verdad, there was a suburb that Al Hakem I razed to the ground after its inhabitants revolted in 818.
The watermills are in the middle of the river, the river Guadalquivir was used for drinking water, water for irrigation and it worked the watermills that ground flour and olives next to the city. The mills are stepped, with their millponds still on the river, they are Moorish constructions that have been restored and used to present days.
By the city walls the foundations of the great waterwheel of the Albolafia, the largest of the waterwheels that transported water. This reached behind the alcázares and watered the gardens there.
The Jewish Quarter, the oldest suburb in the city
Situated beside the Jewish Quarter the Mosque is the most peaceful suburb in the city, the oldest and perhaps the most beautiful. It is not very different from what would have been the rest of the urban Moorish city, with its patios full of flowers and its narrow and white streets.
One of the few Synagogues that have been preserved to date is here, without alterations. Built in the fourteenth century, when Córdoba was under Christian rule, this small composition has the charm and discretion of places made to the requirements of man.
Women were separated from the ordinary service, and they were situated on the upper floor, which was converted after the Jews were expelled and practising their religion was prohibited, in time it was made into a church. The synagogue has a Gothic style ceiling, with walls decorated with Moorish plaster work which were fashionable when Isaac Moheb had it built, his name still appears in the writing on the walls.