The next day while we were still in Seville we had a day trip to Córdoba, where the Catholic Spanish did keep a very nice mosque, and built a cathedral inside the mosque to boot. I have been lucky enough to have seen the Haig Sofia in Istanbul a couple of years ago (which was fantastic- I saw Viking graffiti! ‘Sven was here’, carved in marble by a mercenary Viking while he was bored during a long religious service he had to attend with his lord) so now I’ve seen a mosque turned cathedral and a cathedral turned mosque turned museum (I wish more modern Turks shared Atta Turk’s secular views). The Mesquita was a true highlight of my trip – it was so extensive and beautiful and had such a varied history of extensions and reuse and oh my! There is nothing else like it in the world! I absolutely loved it.
Below you can see Jesus on the cross in amongst all the Islamic archways, and further below there is the old minaret which had a steeple finished on top when the Catholics took over. It’s such an amazing mixture of religious cultures!
Then there’s the cathedral inside. The mosque part of it is much larger than the cathedral itself – I think the tour guide said there were thousands of Muslims that could fit inside and all pray to Mecca at once. The brochure said in 2004 the local Muslims had requested whether they could resume praying in the mosque, since it’s still got all its archeticure and hirab so all they need is acceptance of the Catholics to pray. But the Pope said no. Our tour guide further explained that the reasoning was that there were canonised people and bishops buried under the mosque floors. So it makes sense that the Pope wouldn’t want people walking on the graves. Having said that, the tourists walk all over them. There aren’t that many graves and it wouldn’t take much to just barricade the graves off. In an ideal world, Christians and Muslims praying side by side would be a huge, monumental statement of compassion towards each other. But we don’t live in an ideal world, and even if the Pope said yes, trying to put the masses and prayers into practice might have just caused tensions to rise further. The crusades and the Inquistion might have been a long time ago, but have cultural attitudes changed enough? My cynical nature rears its head at the mere thought of it. To paraphrase a wise man, “People are idiots.” (Agent K, Men In Black).