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The Great Mosque of Cordoba Research Paper

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Updated: Oct 21st, 2020

The Great Mosque of Cordoba is regarded by many people as an influential artwork in the establishment and evolution of Islamic architecture. The building is also mystifying due to the nature of its features whose origin is still anonymous (Brebbia & Boquera, 2017). This discussion begins by presenting a formal description of this work of art. The paper goes further to give a detailed historical analysis of the mosque. The distinctive aspects defining the building are also described in the discussion. The essay also explains how the mosque can be used as a model for studying the development of Islamic architecture over the past fifteen centuries.

Formal Description

The Great Mosque of Cordoba is a spectacular work of art that portrays numerous features and architectural designs. The first remarkable observation about the structure is that it combines different styles. The magnificent edifice utilizes arches for decorative as well as structure aspects. The viewer observes that different designs and elements have been combined to give it a spectacular appearance. The mosque has a single minaret. It also exhibits spectacular mosaics that are combined intricately (Spahic, 2015). These exterior features make it an admirable and memorable work of architecture.

The interior of the Great Mosque of Cordoba reveals unique attributes to the viewer. The first key observation is the use of 856 columns. Such columns support numerous two-tiered arches that are designed to support the structure’s roof. This architectural style results in a hypostyle hall (Brebbia & Boquera, 2017). The building has poly-lobed, interlacing, and horseshoe arches. These are decorated using brick and stone patterns. Others appear to be covered or designed in mosaic. The structure has rectangular courtyards and prayer halls. The walls are decorated using abstract patterns, thereby making them splendid. Several parts of the mosque are redesigned into chapels. These features show conclusively why people across the globe admire the structure.

Historical Analysis

The Mosque of Cordoba is one of the greatest marvels that have fascinated many people from every corner of the world. The complexity of the mosque explains why it is quite hard to associate it with a specific architectural style. However, many scholars and historians believe strongly that the structure borrows a lot from the Islamic architecture. The technique is seen to combine new aspects from the Renaissance, Baroque, and Gothic styles. Moreover, the masterpiece combines the architectural concepts of Christianity and Islam (Brebbia & Boquera, 2017). The occupation of Roman Empire led to the inclusion of a cathedral in the temple.

Spahic (2015) observes that the Great Mosque of Cordoba was commissioned by Abd al-Rahman I in the year 784. His original design focused on a Great Mosque that would be used as a place of worship. Historians indicate clearly that the original site of this building was occupied by “a small temple called the Catholic Basilica of St. Vincent of Lerins” (Brebbia & Boquera, 2017, p. 48). Historians believe that the ruler who commissioned the mosque also founded an Islamic empire in Iberia. His reign emerged after the destruction of the Umayyad Dynasty in the year 750.

The original building borrowed a lot from various styles embraced in the west during the time such as Baroque and Gothic (Spahic, 2015). These artistic fashions informed the designs, arcs, and designs of the mosque. However, the magnificent structure would later be expanded and redesigned by future Muslim empires in the region. In the late 1230s, Cordoba and the surrounding regions were recaptured by the Roman Empire. This occupation led to the conversion of the mosque to a cathedral. In the 16th century, the Romans inserted a cathedral nave in the mosque (Brebbia & Boquera, 2017). This inclusion was informed by the architectural features of the Renaissance period.

The Islamic architectural style is supported by the placement of different features such as the qibla and the mihrab. It is also notable the qibla is positioned to face South. The design portrays two distinct aspects or parts. The first one is known as a portico sahn. This is the portion that carries the minaret (Spahic, 2015). The portico sahn is also used as a haram (or a prayer room). The distinctive arches and columns constitute the mosque’s bicolor. The inner space is composed of five parts. These elements depict the enlargements that have been done throughout the mosque’s history. The Great Mosque of Cordoba is, therefore, a stunning artwork that borrows a lot from different styles.

Analysis of the Work

The Great Mosque of Cordoba reveals an interesting issue that might have been ignored by many historians and architects. Although the building is described as a product of Islamic architecture, the mysteries and features associated with it cannot be disregarded. To begin with, the structure is characterized by different elements that are extremely unique and ground-breaking (Kaptan, 2013). The fact that it was constructed within the first few years of Islam explains why it is one of the first mosques in the world.

The mosque incorporates a number of deliberate features that have been added over the centuries. The structure has many Christian, Visigothic, and local architectural designs or traditions (Anderson, 2014). The mosque borrows different elements from existing structures such as domes, columns, and arches from different styles. This incorporation of various local elements and artistic styles in the structure is what informed the future of Islamic architecture.

The development of the mosque reveals how an ancient style was influenced by the structural aspects of Medieval, Byzantine, Gothic, and Renaissance architectural styles. From this analysis, it is clear that that the Great Mosque of Cordoba has revealed how human art and architecture continues to borrow numerous elements from different styles.

The incorporation of various building traditions in this mosque would later become a model for designing future Islamic buildings and mosques in different parts of the world (Anderson, 2014). Additionally, the extensive arches and columns inside the building create an illusionary hypostyle hall that appears to be much larger, spacious, and welcoming. The superb mosque can be used by people to portray the harmony existing between different religious groups and their respective architectural designs.


The Great Mosque of Cordoba is a timeless piece of art that represents more than a place of worship. Having been a center of contestation between Muslims and Christians for many centuries, the magnificent structure helps more people analyze the intriguing history of different regions and their relevant architectural styles (Kaptan, 2013). The building can also be used by researchers to analyze the nature and implications of cultural vandalism. Moreover, this work of art remains a significant object in contemporary society. It is agreeable that the mosque’s permutation of different artistic and religious traditions can be echoed in an attempt to promote social peace and tolerance.


Anderson, C. D. (2014). Integrating the medieval Iberian Peninsula and North Africa in Islamic architectural history. The Journal of North African Studies, 19(1), 83-92. Web.

Brebbia, C. A., & Boquera, A. M. (2017). Islamic heritage architecture. London, UK: WIT Press.

Kaptan, K. (2013). . International Journal of Architecture and Urban Development, 3(2), 5-12. Web.

Spahic, O. (2015). . Kemanusiaan, 22(1), 101-126. Web.

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