Our Spain holiday in 2011 focused on Madrid and Andalusía, the area of Southern Spain in which Islam existed for over 700 years. Córdova was the capital of Islamic Spain. Its Islamic scholars were receptive to new ideas, and Catholics and Jews, the People of the Book, were able to reach high levels of influence in the various seats of power. This was truly a golden age, until fundamentalist soldiers from North Africa were brought in by warring city states to assist with battles between them. The fundamentalists stayed and, in the 11th century, gained enough power to cause problems for the enlightened liberals.
- Seneca the Younger, the Roman Stoic (d. 65 C.E.), teacher of Nero,
- Hosius (d. 359 C.E.), a bishop who advised Constantine
- Averroés, (d. 1198 C.E.), an Islamic scholar who considered Greek philospohy to be compatible with Islam
- Maimonides (d. 1204 C.E.), a Jewish codifier of Talmudic law
I found statues of Seneca, Avveroès and Maimonides but Hosius’ is in Alexandria.
A huge and beautiful mosque still stands there today. It is called the Mezquita, the Great Mosque. Córdova was reconquered by the Catholics in 1236. A cathedral was built inside it by Charles V in the 16th C. Many Catholic dignitaries and royalty chose to be buried in the Mezquita. It is now a truly unique World Heritage site.
Another World Heritage site only a short bus ride from Córdova is Madinat al-Zahara, the royal city built outside Córdova by Abd ar-Rahman III in the 10th C. to increase his prestige against rival caliphates. It was a place of great beauty. Art was fully appreciated; even art that contained representations of the animal form, anathema to the stricter sects of Islam. It was sacked ca. 1010 by North African soldiers during a civil war. The site is being busily excavated and rebuilt, largely through funding from the Aga Khan. A large, modern museum has been built to house treasures from the excavations and there is a wonderful computer-generated film that describes what courtly life was like there in the 10th C..