Corduba and Qurtuba

Visigoth and Muslim Córdoba

By Museo Arqueológico de Córdoba

Museo Arqueológico de Córdoba

Visigoth brick crismón (500 - 550) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

Corduba: between Rome and islam

The city of Córdoba saw significant changes to its appearance with the spread of Christianity. The crisis of the institutions of Rome meant that the Roman emperors relied on bishops to manage and govern their cities. The outskirts were Christianized first, with the construction of basilicas outside the city walls, in the places where Cordoban martyrs (such as Saint Acisclus, Saint Eulalia, and the Three Saints) were buried or executed. Others, such as the Basilica de San Vicente, were later built in the city itself. The city center was next to the old Roman bridge, and that is where the palace of the bishop and governor was built—now the Palacio Episcopal (Episcopal Palace).

Visigoth cancel (500 - 550) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

Historical documents, as well as the architectural and sculptural pieces that have survived from the Visigoth period, reveal a Christianized city whose classical, although not decadent, appearance was transformed with great basilicas, monasteries, palaces, and artisanal districts. This object, decorated with Christian motifs, comes from one such building. Crosses, trefoils, and rosettes are symbols of the Christian faith's triumph over Arianism and other heresies.

Cimacio relief (500 - 550) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

Fragment of a cymatium with a representation of a colonnade or arcade with canopy. It may have occupied a prominent position in a religious or secular building.

Sarcophagus fragment (500 - 550) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

The scene depicted in this fragment of a late Roman relief appears to be a procession of senior officials. The aesthetic is Roman in style, emphasizing the lack of secular themes compared with religious ones. It is comparable to a scene in the reliefs of the Arch of Constantine, and could have formed part of a triumphal arch over the road from Corduba to Emerita, or another public monument.

Visigoth fuste (500 - 550) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

Fluted, grooved column shaft with geometric patterns that may have been reclaimed from a Roman building, given the existence of large quantities of marble imported to Visigoth Córdoba during the time of the High Roman Empire.

Capital of the Evangelists (500 - 550) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

Capital with the figures of the 4 Evangelists on each of its faces, represented symbolically as the tetramorph, with the head of an animal and the body of a human. There is Saint Luke with the head of a bull and wings, but no halo; Saint Matthew with completely human features; Saint Mark, whose symbol is a lion; and Saint John, depicted with the head of an eagle. It would have belonged to a church and is an early version of later Romanesque capitals that depict figures in religious scenes.

Caliphate capital (929 - 1000) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

Qurtuba

In the year 711, Islamic armies began their conquest of the divided Hispanic Visigoth kingdom, forming a new geopolitical entity: Al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain. Following a short period under the protection of the Eastern Islamic Empire (711–56), the Umayyads' reign began. This dynasty governed Al-Andalus for almost 300 years (756–1031) and presided over its golden age, culminating in the splendor of the Caliphate (929–1031). 

Emiral capitel (S. VIII - S. IX) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

The Emirate of Córdoba

During the period of the Emirate (714–929), the old center of Córdoba was gradually transformed. Repairs to the bridge and walls were followed by the progressive Islamization of the city. This included the building of mosques and other infrastructures, as well as urban development outside the city walls, with various suburbs emerging near the medina (old town). Both processes were the result of a state program driven by the emirs.

Tombstone emiral (881 - 900) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

The old walled Roman city became Medina Azahara. It was here that the Umayyads built the great Aljama Mosque. Suburbs grew up all around it, including one in the southern part of the city that was destroyed during a revolt in the 9th century. This gravestone commemorating the death of one of Muhammad I's concubines comes from there.

Caliphate capital (950 - 1000) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

The Caliphate of Córdoba

As the capital of Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain), Córdoba underwent a profound process of Islamization in its urban development. This process can be seen in the creation of an artistic style that was common to the whole territory, and which developed more quickly and extensively during the Caliphate. It was during this period that the state created the most obvious symbols of integration and territorial control: the expansion of the Aljama Mosque, where a large minaret was built as a symbol of the Umayyad's Sunni orthodoxy; the construction of Medina Azahara; and the planning of large residential neighborhoods to the west of the city. 

Hispanomusulmana stack (929 - 950) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

In the 10th century, Córdoba o Qurtuba becomes a large metropolis of the western mediterranean area. The Caliph Abd ar-Rahman III drove this first great expansion of the city, based on city planning in a grid (orthogonal) layout. Within this large urban complex were "almunias" or leisure homes, reflecting the aristocratic tastes of the wealthiest people. This fountain basin comes from one such house: Al-Rummaniyya, and its decoration with animal figures is particularly interesting.

Caliphate capital (900 - 1000) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

Capitals from Al-Andalus were based on classical and Visigothic models. The diversity of forms and decorative designs in the Emirate was refined under the Caliphate. The design of this leaf-patterned capital was directly influenced by the Visigoths, who imitated classical designs, tailoring acanthus leaves into a simple leaf design. The Arabs redesigned this type of capital, adopting shapes derived from the Corinthian order, which they turned into simplified, abstract designs.

Geminado capitel (929 - 1000) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

During the Caliphate, 2 main types of capital were established: Corinthian and Composite, either carved using a trepan drill or smooth. Later, their proportions were elongated and their decoration became stylized. This double or twin Composite capital demonstrates the decorative style of the Caliphate era. The Islamization of Al-Andalus was apparent in the creation of an artistic style that was common throughout the territory.

Caliphate capital with registration (900 - 1000) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

Capital bearing the signature of the sculptor (Safar) on the top, and inscriptions in praise of Allah and the Prince of the Believers on the sides. This capital has the features of a Composite capital from the hall of Abd ar-Rahman III. Its composition, decoration, and cubic proportion, as well as the way in which its different parts are joined together and its leaf patterns carved, are exactly like one of these models.

Basa caliphate (929 - 1000) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

Caliphal base inspired by Islamic examples that were, in turn, influenced by Attic bases. These were common during the Byzantine period, and in Mudejar and Romanesque styles.

Ataurique board (900 - 1000) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

Buildings under the Caliphate displayed a rich ornamental style, especially in the Mosque of Córdoba and Medina Azahara. These designs are based on very simple themes and motifs: intertwining and chequered patterns, palmettes, lotus flowers, rosettes, and inscriptions in Kufic. They were combined and repeated to create complex, unique designs.

Andalusí registration (929 - 1000) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

Buildings under the Caliphate displayed a rich ornamental style, especially in the Mosque of Córdoba and Medina Azahara. These designs are based on very simple themes and motifs: intertwining and chequered patterns, palmettes, lotus flowers, rosettes, and inscriptions in Kufic. They were combined and repeated to create complex, unique designs.

Decorative board (929 - 1000) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

Object decorated with one of the most common designs in Hispano-Islamic art: the tree of life.

Green amphora manganese (929 - 1000) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

Green and manganese ceramics originated in the Caliphate. The white background contrasts with the rich green and black decoration, which identifies the ruling dynasty. Green represents Muhammad, white represents the Ummayyads, and black represents the high status of the Caliphate. The design was therefore used by the Cordoban Umayyads as a propaganda tool to emphasize the legitimacy of their Caliphate.

Bowl lustreware (1088 - 1092) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

Lusterware basin with a metallic sheen, partially restored. It is decorated with plant-like motifs and inscriptions. Found next to the sewers of the Caliphal Alcázar or palace, it may have been for the personal use of the sovereign or other members of the Caliphal house. This type of decoration was used by Mesopotamian ceramicists, and much used throughout the eastern world. It is a difficult technique and was used only in large cities, becoming more widespread from the mid-11th century.

Bronze oil lamp (929 - 1000) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

Not that many bronze objects existed in Muslim Córdoba. Among them are items produced in official workshops during the Caliphate era, and particularly oil lamps. Some bear the signature of the official who was in charge of the workshops.

Bowl with registration (929 - 1000) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

There is evidence of workshops in Muslim Córdoba that used bronze and brass (an alloy of copper and tin) to make items such as fountain spouts, braziers, oil lamps, and pitchers, revealing how affluent the population was during the Caliphate.

This brass bowl is decorated with a rich pattern of plants and geometric shapes. It is striped, and has floral and geometric motifs, as well as inscriptions referring to "prosperity." Around the edge, the words "The Empire" are repeated in standardized Kufic Arabic. This is a shorter version of "The Everlasting Empire for Allah," a phrase to which there are numerous references.

Bronze jug (S. XII - S. XIII) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

The end of the Caliphate

The civil war ended the Caliphate and Córdoba experienced a period of decline, losing its role as state capital. The division of Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) into several small "taifas," or small principalities, led to the rise of other cities such as Seville, which took over from Córdoba as the great city of Al-Andalus during the Almoravid and Almohad empires (1095–1250). The city was reduced to just Medina Azahara and part of the eastern suburbs (Axerquía), which were enclosed by a wall in the 12th century. These 2 large neighborhoods inside the walls exist to this day.

Almohad capital (S. XII - S. XIII) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

Hispanic capital from the Almohad period, based on Corinthian and Composite capitals of the Caliphate period but lacking their originality and elegance. It is quite typical for the decoration on columns and capitals to deteriorate, leaving surfaces almost completely smooth with very little in the way of engraving.

Green ceramic jug manganese (S. XII - S. XIII) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

Almohad green and manganese ceramics are very different to those of the Caliphate period, in both shape and decoration. The use of the technique and characteristic colors (white, green, and black) nonetheless has the same propagandistic aim, since the Almohads used the symbols of the Umayyad Caliphate to support the legitimacy of their own.

Brazier (1144 - 1212) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

During the Almohad period, bronze objects continued to be produced and became more diverse, as shown by this brazier, which is part of an extraordinary set from the Plaza Chirinos.

Source supplier (S. XII - S. XIII) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

Animal-like figure identified as some sort of feline, which was probably used as a spout in a fountain or basin. Figurative art featured heavily in domestic and everyday objects found in the palaces and private houses of Al-Andalus, but not in sacred or public places.

Bronze weight (1479 - 1491) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

Early Medieval Córdoba

Córdoba was gradually transformed following the Castilian conquest in 1236. The city fell into decline and was reduced to 2 large areas: Medina and Axarquía which, together with the expanded neighborhood around the Alcázar, would form Córdoba's urban center for several centuries. The city was divided into "collaciones" or parishes—religious and administrative districts centered around churches, which were usually built on the sites of former mosques. Córdoba was divided into 14 parishes, centered around "Fernandina" churches built under Ferdinand III.

Brocal pit glazed (1300 - 1350) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

Mudejar well-curb from the Convent of Santa Marta: one of the most typical examples of the Cordoban Mudejar style of the 15th century.

It is glazed with monochrome green enamel and decorated with relief work based around polygons, grid patterns, and arches. It is prism-shaped and decorated all over with reliefs featuring geometric patterns and unusual animal figures, such as griffins and traditional Persian dogs. Its ornamentation also has a distinct architectural style.

Tiles Capel St. Barthelemy (1400 - 1450) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

This set of tiles was part of the Chapel of San Bartolomé, in what is now the Faculty of Philosophy and Literature. They are lusterware tiles typical of 13th- and 14th-century Nasrid spaces, which are epitomized by the ceramics of the Alhambra.

Their brownish, coppery tones are the result of a technique that made limited use of silver, making this set of tiles particularly distinctive. The figurative scenes have been interpreted as allegories of the senses and everyday scenes of courtly love, hunting, and festivities. An 8-pointed star frames each of the motifs, bringing the whole set together.

Bronze weight (1479 - 1491) by UnknownMuseo Arqueológico de Córdoba

Bronze weight from the period of the Catholic Monarchs, used as a standard for high local patronage. It bears the shield and emblem of the Catholic Monarchs, showing the stripes of the Crown of Aragon, but without the pomegranate, indicating that it is from the period 1479–91. It also features the minaret of the Great Mosque, transformed into the Cathedral of Santa María.

Credits: Story

"Corduba y Qurtuba"

Organized by:
Museo Arqueológico de Córdoba
Consejería de Cultura de la Junta de Andalucía

Commissioned by: Francisca López Garrido
Texts: Francisco J. Morales Salcedo y Francisca López Garrido
Photos: Darío Muñoz Leva
Digital composition: Francisca López Garrido

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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