After Hagia Sophia, Cordoba?

July 30, 2020

The conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, as wanted by Turkish President Erdogan, is prompting similar demands for other places. The most emblematic concerns the Cathedral of Cordoba, Spain.

On July 21, 2020, one of the seven princes of the United Arab Emirates called for Muslim worship to be celebrated in Cordoba Cathedral. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi, Emir of Sharjah, was clear: “We demand at least the return of the Mosque of Cordoba,” he stressed in an interview on local television, arguing from the strong Muslim immigrant presence in Spain to support her request.

In 572, the city of Cordoba was taken by the Visigoths. Converted from Arianism, in 584 on the site of a pagan temple, they built the Church of Saint Vincent dedicated to the martyr of Saragossa.

After the Muslim conquest in the 8th century, construction of the Mosque of Cordoba began in 756 to replace the Church of Saint Vincent. All the adjoining churches were destroyed, and reused as building material. Thus, important architectural elements, dating from the Roman and early Christian times, were reused in the new mosque.

It was subsequently enlarged, and covered up to 2.3 hectares to become the largest mosque in the world after that of Mecca.

When Cordoba was taken over from the Muslims by King Ferdinand III of Castile in 1236, the mosque once again became a church, then a cathedral. A few rows of columns were knocked down to clear the square of the Royal Chapel, where Alfonso XI and Ferdinand IV of Castile were buried in 1371.

In the 16th century, the canons demolished an important part of the center of the edifice to build a cathedral which looks as if it were embedded in the mosque. This beautifully decorated monument combines Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles.

Since 1236, the “mosque” of Cordoba has become officially a place of Catholic worship. Property of the Catholic Church, which has the title of the cathedral. The practice of Muslim worship is strictly prohibited there. Catholic worship has been assured there uninterrupted for eight centuries.

In 2004, the Islamic Commission of Spain, “supported by the Spanish Socialist Party,”  demanded permission to pray there. In 2007, the Arab League did the same with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The Islamic Commission of Spain launched an appeal to UNESCO to this effect in 2008. All these requests were rejected by the Bishop of Cordoba, who received support from the municipality in 2019.

Islamic demands are supported by the Spanish left, which is fighting for a separation of Church and State and against the law which allows the Church to become the owner of its places of worship.

In the Arabic version of his speech marking the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque on Friday, July 24, Turkish President Erdogan spoke of the first stage of an Islamic “renaissance” expected to extend from Bukhara, Uzbekistan, in Al Andalus [Cordoba], Spain.

“This rebirth is our duty,” he added. The Turkish president thus follows in the footsteps of all the Arab and Ottoman leaders who have worked to extend the domain of Islam. That at least has the merit of being clear…