CÓRDOBA: JEWEL OF THE WORLD
The Moorish Empire inherited a great city in Córdoba with a unique social mosaic, including Christians and Jews. And the new political elite of Andalusia wanted to stay respectful to the religions and culture of their new found allies. They governed by the law of an open tolerant society, allowing everyone to practise their religious duties without fear of prosecution, but they had to pay a tax for the privilege. Different communities coexisted side-by-side in harmony, with each contributing to the intellectual fabric of the city in their own unique way. In return, this well-developed and integrated culture powered a dynamic economy, and Andalusia became a vibrant metropolis with a rising reputation as the cultural centre of Europe. Viking ships from the North Sea, as well as ships from the east, brought an influx of merchants, scholars and a variety of essential goods to Córdoba. And far from the intensity of power and politics, the ruling aristocracy imported an element of refinement from medieval centres of learning like Damascus and Baghdad.
Their overwhelming passion for science, poetry, literature, music and food proved infectious and offered a mutual dialogue for cultural exchange and integration. The city went on to develop as a powerhouse for science, opening free academies so every child had the right to education. The city council also built libraries which housed millions of volumes of books and scientific manuscripts. And even the very small provinces had functioning public baths, where people enjoyed a refreshing dip in warm pools. Houses had running water, roads were paved, and Córdoba was among the first medieval cities to have gently glowing glass street lamps. This demonstrated that the influx of Greek knowledge devoured back east, was honoured by Moorish scholars and used to develop an ingenious cross-cultural dialogue, long after its ideals had been dismissed in Europe. Eventually, the collision of ideas in Córdoba was the spark that ignited the flames of the European Renaissance.
Hence, as urban development headed in Andalusia the entire southern Spanish peninsula emerged like a canvas adorned with priceless architectural jewels. Following the winding paths of Córdoba the roads thus leads the traveller to unbelievable discoveries. Bustling Andalusian towns till today cradle images of fabled ancient metropolises, docked at the crossroads of civilisations. Their stone-paved roads, mosques, churches, madrasas (schools), souks (markets), palatial homes and courtyard houses, are part of a cultural heritage constructed by Roman, Muslim, Christian and Jewish master builders. If it says anything, it echoes the belief that history can only be built on a pedestal of innovation, collaboration and social integration. Everywhere you turn in Andalusia, hence, the signature of a rich and intellectual past is engraved within full view. Ancient doors - a symbol of wealth and prosperity - are huge and heavy, dabbed with elaborate and intricate motifs. They lead into small workshops while others open onto commercial squares, dotted with a treasure trove of rich heritage.
A symphony of terraced whitewashed houses connected by garden courtyards and winding staircases, come alive with the vibrant shade of hanging flowerpots. The pots are painted in the deep imperial blue of a peacock’s tail. Together with window screens known as mashrabiya, these architectural elements hypnotise the mind into a journey of a thousand miles. It is a labyrinth of intense, yet intriguing tale of a mystical western empire. Carved like a niche on a rock face, Andalusian houses are mainly coloured in a rich palette of blues, oranges, browns and off whites to symbolise man’s connection with the earth.
[Painting (1): Francois-Antoine Bossuet (Belgian, 1800-1889) | Painting (2): John Frederick Lewis, English (1804-1876 | Painting (3): Paul-Albert Girard, French (1839-1920) | Painting (4): Edwin Lord Weeks, American (1849-1903) | Painting (5): Edouard Frederic Wilhelm Richter, German (1844–1913)] ...