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Córdoba: A general Overview

Córdoba is a city with an enormous heritage of culture and monuments. Due partly to its strategic position on the River Guadalquivir and partly to the wealth of remains left by the different peoples who inhabited the city, Córdoba has become a privileged city in the very heart of the history of the Western World: its vast Caliphal (Arabic) civilization, during the Middle Ages, was the most brilliant in the Europe of its day and forged lasting links between East and West.

For tourists, it is one of the most frequently visited of all Spanish cities, mainly because of its enormous historical interest and artistic heritage. Such influential figures in Roman civilization as the philosopher Seneca or the poet Lucan were born here, and in the 10th century Caliphal (Arabic) Córdoba became the most refined and advanced civilization in Europe where scholars, poets, doctors, philosophers and mystics lived, some of whom achieved world-wide fame, such as the philosopher Averroes or the Jewish doctor Maimonides. The heritage dating from after the Christian conquest is equally impressive: churches, convents, hospitals, palaces and numerous stately homes surround the marvellous, unique building that is the MosqueCathedral and make Córdoba one of the greatest monumental cities in Europe . In 1994, the UNESCO recognised the universal importance of the historic buildings in Córdoba , by extending the limits of the World Heritage Site beyond the Mosque itself to include the whole of the historic quarter.

A Brief History of the City of Córdoba

The first proper settlement was established in Córdoba in the late Bronze Age (8th/9th century B.C.). After the arrival of the Phoenicians and Greeks on the peninsula, Córdoba became known as an important mining and commercial centre, since the River Guadalquivir was then navigable as far as this city.

In the 2nd century B.C . , the general Claudius Marcellus founded the city of Corduba as the capital of the Roman province Hispania Ulterior . Córdoba thrived under Roman rule, and a great number of monumental and public buildings were raised, such as the recently-discovered amphitheatre. After Hispalis became the provincial capital and as the final dismemberment of the empire drew closer, Córdoba sank into cultural and economic stagnation, which lasted through the whole period of the Visigoth occupation .

In the 8th century, Arabic troops landed on the Mediterranean coast and and easily took over the weakened Visigoth kingdom . Muslims settled in Córdoba , where they lived in harmony with their Christian counterparts. In the year 756, Córdoba was proclaimed the capital of the independent Emirate of Al-Andalus, and Abd al-Rahman I carried out the first major enlargement of the Great Mosque of Cordoba and rebuilt the city walls and the Alcazar (castle). With Hisham I and Abd al-Rahman II, the mosque was enlarged further, but it was in the rule of Abd al-Rahman III that Córdoba really came into the limelight. In the year 929 Córdoba was proclaimed Capital of the independent Caliphate thus creating a schism with Damascus , and converting Córdoba into the religious, political and administrative centre of the entire Islamic kingdom in the west. One of the Caliph's first acts was to build the dazzling, but short-lived, royal residence of Medina Azahara outside the city walls. The rule of Alhaken II, son of Abd al-Rahman III, heralded an era of stable government and the period of greatest cultural splendour in Córdoba . Alhaken II and Almanzor, vizier of Hixam II, were responsible for further enlargements of the mosque. The Caliphate finally collapsed in 1013, and the city became one of the interim Taifa kingdoms.

In 1236, the troops of Fernando III "the Saint" arrived Córdoba , and after the conquest of the city, it was resettled with Christians . Fernando III had 14 new churches built, all of which became known as Fernandine Churches in the king's honour. During the 14th century, the massive death rate, as well as chronic shortages of food and money, plunged the city into a severe economic and social crisis. In the 15th century, the Christian Monarchs mustered their troops in Córdoba before making the final move against the kingdom of Granada , and they received in this city Christopher Columbus, who showed them his plan to travel to "the Indies ". During the 16th century, Cordoba went through a period of economic splendour thanks to the textile, jewellery and leather industry, and King Felipe II built the Royal Stables and the Gate of the Bridge. However, the city entered into complete decline under the Borbon rule. At the beginning of the 19th century, Córdoba suffered under the weight of the French occupation, and the Carlist disputes impoverished the city's economy even further.

It was not until the mid 20th century that Cordoba started to recover some of its lost splendour and importance. New artistic and cultural projects started, thanks to which the city of Córdoba finally came to terms with its rich and impressive historical legacy.

Places of Interest

Mosque-Cathedral . It is one of the most amazing buildings in the Western world. 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. Do not miss the chance to admire its forest of columns with red and white arches or to have a walk around the orange-tree courtyard.

Castle of the Christian Monarchs (Alcázar) . In the 14th century, Alfonso XI built the present castle, which mainly had a defensive function and which was later used as a royal residence by Spanish monarchs. The Roman mosaics, the Arab baths, the two courtyards and the renaissance gardens in Arab style count among its most interesting elements.

The historic centre and the Jewish Quarter (“La judería"). The Jewish Quarter, o nce the home of the Jewish community, is the best-known part of Cordoba's historic centre, a labyrinth of winding, narrow streets and flower-filled courtyards that was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994 and that is one of the largest in Europe. Do not leave Córdoba without having visited the picturesque “Plaza del Potro”, “la calleja del Pañuelo” – a narrow alleyway with a delicious small fountain – and “la calleja de las Flores ”, with its wonderful view of the bell-tower of the Cathedral.

Medina Azahara. This magnificent city palace was built for Abd-al Rahman III at the foot of the Sierra Morena mountains five miles away from the city. Today only a small part of the city, including Abd al-Rahman III's palace, has been excavated, but the large archaeological site is certainly worth visiting.

The Roman Bridge and the Calahorra Tower. The view over the Mosque-Cathedral, with the river, the Gate of the Bridge and the Roman Bridge itself, is one of the most wonderful sights of Córdoba . The Calahorra Tower , originally gateway to the city, stands at the south end of the Roman Bridge .

Royal Stables. King Felipe II ordered the Royal Stables to be built and here he bred the Spanish horse, also known as the Andalusian horse.

The Synagogue. Situated in the heart of the Jewish Quarter of Córdoba, it is unique in Andalusia and one of the three best preserved Medieval synagogues in the whole of Spain .

Gates and City Walls. The Roman walls were maintained by the Moors and later Christian rulers, and extensive portions of these walls still stand today, together with several gates, such as the Almodovar or the Seville Gate.

The Fernandine Churches. The so-called Fernandine Churches are a group of religious buildings built under the reign of King Fernando III "the Saint" after the Christian conquest of Córdoba in 1236 . The church of Santiago , of San Lorenzo and of Santa Marina are among the most beautiful ones.

What and where to eat

Some of Córdoba´s traditional dishes are “salmorejo” - a cold, creamy paste made from tomato, bread and olive oil -, “boquerones en vinagre” (pickled whitebait), “rabo de toro” (bull´s tail) and “flamenquín” (serrano ham and pork rolled fritter).

Traditional food

-Casa Pepe de la Judería (Romero, 1)

-Sociedad de Plateros (Deanes; Ambrosio de Morales; María Auxiliadora, 25)

-Almudaina (Campo Santo de los Mártires,1)

-El Churrasco (Romero, 16)

-El Caballo Rojo (Cardenal Herrero, 28)

-Mesón San Basilio (San Basilio, 19)

-Bodegas Campos (Los Lineros, 32)

-El Barril (Concepción, 16)

-Casa Salinas (Puerta de Almodóvar, s/n)

-Mesón Juan Peña (Av. Doctor Fleming, 1)

- San Cristóbal (Rodolfo Gil, 4)

International food

-China Town (Paseo de la Victoria , 23). Chinese food .

-Confucio (Av. Gran Capitán, 46). Asian food .

-Gaucho´s (Avda. de la Libertad , 4). Argentinian food .

-Pizzaiolo (San Felipe, 5 & Av. El Brillante, 97). Italian food and a great variety of dishes .

Fast food

Burger King (Concepción, 12) & Burger King Mezquita (Cardenal Herrero, 42)

Mc Donald´s (Centro Comercial El Arcángel & Av. El Brillante)

Oh La La (Plaza de Colón, 21; Concepción)

Interested Links