ME: in Times Lit Supp

Cordoba’s mosque-cathedral

published June 18 2021
In her review of A History of the Church through Its Buildings by Allan Doig (June 11), Alison Shell writes that “He is especially interested in how sacred space has been contested and appropriated by those of different religious and ideological convictions”, and goes on to say that “Both the Cathedral at Cordoba and Hagia Sophia in Istanbul have been turned into mosques at various points in history”. Hagia Sophia may have been, but the cathedral at Cordoba has never been turned into a mosque. The splendid mosque was started in the eighth century and enlarged by successive Moorish leaders when they ruled Al-Andalus. Some accounts say that it was built on the site of the Visigothic church of St Vincent but there is considerable academic doubt about this. In any case, this doesn’t alter the fact that after the Christian Spanish vanquished the Moors, they claimed the mosque as their own by building the cathedral in the middle of it (and for good measure they banished the Moors as well, along with the Jews). It squats there still, a baleful presence, with all its worldly, materialistic and stupendously wealthy splendour, amid the simple serenity of the mosque. And, despite the ownership of what is now officially known as the Mosque-Cathedral being in dispute, the Catholic bishop has nevertheless banned Muslims from praying in the mosque.

F. W. Nunneley
Beckley, East Sussex