Cordoba Route of the Three Cultures

Walking through the narrow streets of the Jewish quarter we can see among many other monuments, churches and convents, the statue of the Jewish philosopher and physician Maimonides and near this, the Mosque. We will then realize that we are in a place where people from three different cultures and religions lived together at the same time.

During a long period in the twelfth century of its history, Cordoba lived the coexistence of three cultures, Christian, Jewish and Muslim, with their corresponding religions, leaving a valuable legacy of great cultural importance. Although we must know that this coexistence was not entirely peaceful as there were many punishments from the emirs and kings to the population.

Below you can learn about the history of each of these populations and the routes through their monuments that still remain in the city of Cordoba.

Jewish Cordoba

There is evidence that the Jews existed since Roman times, where the Jewish quarter began to take shape when they began to build a wall to protect the city from external attacks. Due to various altercations over the years the Jewish quarter that we know today has been located in different areas of the city.

History of Jewish Cordoba

We begin in the year 711, with the Muslim invasion the Jewish quarter became the administrative core of the city and the Jews were expelled having to settle in the northern part of the city of Cordoba, between the gardens of La Merced and the church of Santa Marina.

The only Jewish tombstone found in the city, referring to Yehudah bar Akon from the year 845, was found in the neighborhood of Zumbacon. In addition, inside the Church of San Miguel there is a funerary stone, which shows the presence of a Jewish necropolis in that area.

It was not until the arrival of the 10th century that the Jews were able to return to their old district. At this time Christians, Muslims and Jews coexisted in the Jewish quarter, becoming the most important center of Cordoba where important philosophers of the time such as Maimonides and Averroes were born.

In 1406 there was an attack on the Jewish quarter, in which the monarch Henry III had to intervene by fining the citizens of Cordoba.

Years later, in 1473, it is said that a Jewish-converted woman supposedly provoked the Christians during Holy Week, so they again sacked this neighborhood.

In 1478 the corregidor Francisco Valdés moved the Jews to the neighborhood of the Alcázar Viejo, these claimed the transfer to the monarchy, who allowed them to stay where they were.

Finally, on March 31, 1492, Isabella the Catholic promulgated the Edict of Granada decreeing the expulsion of the Jews from the kingdom, in which they had only four months to leave the country. When, after the expulsion decree, the Sephardim left the peninsula, their houses and public buildings, their tombstones and their objects of worship were destroyed or used for very different purposes, which makes it very difficult to locate and recognize the remains of Jewish culture on Spanish soil.

Jewish Cordoba Route

In order to understand the lifestyle of the Three Cultures during those centuries we must get lost in the streets of the Jewish Quarter, a labyrinth of narrow streets, where we will find:

  • The Synagogue, one of the four synagogues that still reside in Spain, its architecture is very marked by the influence of Islamic art but its walls are full of inscriptions in Hebrew.
  • Plaza de Maimonides, a great Jewish philosopher and doctor from Cordoba, whose family was forced to convert to Islam, and who finally had to leave the city during the Almohad persecution.
  • Zoco Municipal, nowadays it is a Cordovan courtyard open to the public where there are workshops of local artisans working in ceramics and leather.
  • Calleja de las Flores is the most famous street in Cordoba where its white facades are mixed with blue pots full of flowers with the bell tower of the Mosque-Cathedral in the background.
  • Calleja del Pañuelo, one of the narrowest streets in Cordoba, as its width is the same as a handkerchief stretched from end to end.
  • Casa Andalusí, this 12th century building perfectly reflects the lifestyle and housing model of al-Andalus.

We will start the route through the Jewish Cordoba from the Mosque where very close we will find the Calleja de la Flores and the Calle del Pañuelo.

After visiting them we head towards the Calle Judíos to continue our route where we will find a small square with the sculpture of the philosopher and physician Maimónides, and following the path is the Synagogue, after visiting it following the Calle Judíos we will arrive at the Casa Andalusí. Finally, in Averroes Street, parallel to the Jewish Street, is the Municipal Souk of handicrafts.

Muslim Cordoba

In the 8th century, an event that will change the history of the entire western world took place in the city of Cordoba.

History of Muslim Cordoba

In the VIII century Arab troops arrived in Spain, disembarking on our Mediterranean coasts. They easily took over the power of the Visigothic Kingdom and Cordoba was taken by Tariq’s lieutenant, Mugit, from that moment the coexistence of Christian and Muslim peoples began.

The Jews, who were already there, suffered a strong repression by the Christians and it was when they supported the Muslim invasion, and these in return allowed them to practice trade and total freedom of worship. In addition, they obtained a great power in the Umayyad court offering them significant positions speaking Arabic as well as Romance and with a great integration in the Muslim society.

The first governors of Islamic Cordoba already constituted it as the administrative center of the conquered lands. However, the tribal character of the Arab and Berber peoples soon led to disputes between the different factions that aspired to power.

The arrival of Abd al-Rahman I, the Disinherited, united the followers of the future emir and the factions that did not agree with the prevailing policy.

In 756, Cordoba was taken and proclaimed the capital of the independent emirate of Al-Andalus.

Abd al-Rahman I carried out the first great expansion of the Aljama Mosque of Cordoba and rebuilt the walls and the Alcazar. It was Hisham I, son of the first emir, who finished the works begun by his father in the great mosque and erected the primitive minaret, now disappeared. With the coming to power of Abd al-Rahman II, the second great expansion of the temple took place and the city lived a time of great construction boom.

In the year 929 with Abd al-Rahman III when Cordoba is proclaimed capital of the independent caliphate of Damascus, being religious, political and administrative headquarters of the entire western Islamic kingdom. Under the mandate of the first caliph, Medina Azahara was built, a source of inexhaustible legends due, in part, to the rich materials used in its construction.

Alhakam II, son of Abd al-Rahman III will give way to the era of greatest cultural and building splendor of the town of Cordoba. He carried out the third great expansion of the Aljama, transporting all the wealth of Medina Azahara to the mosque. His successor, Hixam II, dedicated to reign, but not to govern, left the power in charge of the vizier Almanzor, responsible for the third and last extension of the mosque.

After the weak administration of Almanzor and Hixam, the unification of the kingdom did not last long. In 1013 the caliphate collapsed.

Route of Muslim Cordoba

To make the Muslim route in Cordoba we will begin in the Mosque-Cathedral, this faithfully presents the passage of the Umayyads through the peninsula, we can get there on foot or by bus by Aucorsa lines 3 and 16. In it we can visit the Patio De Los Naranjos, La Torre del Campanario or the Mirhab, the holiest place in the whole mosque, where its function is to point the praying to Mecca, although in the Mosque due to the conflict between the Umayyads and the Abbasids was not so.

The Arab Houses are in most of the streets and houses of the historic center of Cordoba have their roots in the Islamic city, they are known as the Patios of Cordoba. A characteristic model of house with a central courtyard, specially adapted to a Muslim inhabitant, which reached its full configuration in the tenth century, under the Umayyad Caliphate. That domestic scheme was largely maintained after the Christian conquest, and still survives today as one of the main hallmarks of the city.

Finally, to visit Medina Azahara, one of the monuments of the period of greatest splendor of al-Andalus, we can go by cab or own car taking the road to Palma del Rio (A-431) to the indication of Madinat al-Zahra, along the road CO-3414.

We can also go by tourist bus or private bus lines by reservation.

Christian Cordoba

The entry of the Christians was a turning point in the life of the city, starting an intense Christianization where from the first moment churches began to be erected, many of them over former mosques and forcing Muslims and Jews to leave the city.

History of Christian Cordoba

In the year 1236 Fernando III conquered Cordoba at the head of the Christian troops, becoming from that moment on the habitual residence of the kings of Castile. From the Caliphate’s past, the Mosque barely remained standing. At the beginning of the 15th century, Cordoba was a completely walled city with a minimal expansion outside the walls, maintaining the Hispano-Muslim urban layout.

This is the almost unchanging image that the city will maintain for five hundred years, until the dawn of the twentieth century.

After the Christian conquest, the Jewish community of the city maintained part of its previous influence. This king promulgated a charter where he gave the same treatment to Christians, Muslims and Jews. The coexistence between Jews and Christians was peaceful until the end of the 13th century, when it began to deteriorate due to the spread of anti-Jewish propaganda and the radicalization of Christian ecclesiastics.

As a result of the preaching of the Archdeacon of Seville, Ferran Martinez, the Jewish quarter of Cordoba suffered a serious assault in 1391, forcing many to convert to Christianity.

The Inquisition, which was established under the reign of the Catholic Monarchs at the end of the 15th century, relentlessly persecuted Jewish converts suspected of practicing their rites in private, with the aim of laying the foundations of a strong and centralized state, without minorities or dissent.

In 1492, the Catholic Monarchs decreed the expulsion of the Jews, who were given four months to leave the country if they refused to convert to Christianity.

Route of Christian Cordoba

The monarch Alfonso XI of Castile ordered its construction in the year 1328 on the old Andalusian Alcazar, which was formerly the residence of the Roman governor and the customs house.

Located in Caballerizas Reales Street and near the Guadalquivir River, we can visit its spectacular gardens and courtyards and its towers.

Our Route of Christian Cordoba will continue with the Fernandine Churches, a group of fourteen temples built by Fernando III during the reconquest.