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It is definitely a date for celebrations! A few days ago the good news arrived: the Minaret of Saint Juan will be restored. And I shall take the opportunity to go through the minarets that as of today remain in the city. Despite what one might think, there are not that many Arab buildings in Córdoba.

It was a common custom to recycle buildings from previous civilizations, for instance, most of the new churches built from the XIIIth century onwards were made out of Muslim mosques and using their location too; but so did the Muslims with the Visigothic constructions: the  Mosque replaced a previous Visigothic church. Hence the lack of Arab constructions in the city.

The Minaret of Saint Juan

The minaret of Saint Juan was part of an old mosque dating from the Caliphate. After the Christians retook the city in 1236, the mosque was given to the Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem or Order of Saint John, hence the name of this church.

The minaret was not known to be one until a restoration was undertaken in the church in 1927 by Félix Hernández. It is a 3,70x3,70 meters square built using a Flemish bond for the walls with twin arches resting on marble Visigothic columns. The tower had a second wall but was replaced by the plaster that you see today. The tower was originally higher and had a different roof: the tower had a crenelated parapet with a lantern. A piece of this battlement was eventually found, thus confirming the theory. In its interior there is a circular set of stairs reinforced with a pier built at the same time as the exterior wall of the minaret even though it had some later modifications, done between the XIIIth and the XVth centuries.

The minaret of Saint Juan is one the most representative examples of Córdoba Caliphate architecture in the city.

The Mezquita Tower

It is the main tower, also its 54 meters makes it the highest building in the city too: in order to reach the top of the tower one must climb a 203-steps stairs. Its insides safeguard, like an almond does with the sweet inner fruit, a second minaret, one built by the great Abd al-Rahman III. However one must reach the top of the tower to notice some features of the old minaret.

We know for a fact that the three great Almohad minarets, among which we find the Giralda, were built imitating this one in Córdoba. We could easily do the exercise of imagining how did the city look like with these type of minarets before the reforms undertaken by Hernán Ruíz.

The Almohads were great builders of minarets. They employed them, alongside with the Mezquita, as a symbol of their power and also of the Muslim triumph over the Christian Kingdoms. In other words these construction symbolized the victory and served as excellent propaganda. The minaret of the Mezquita meant their first success, hence a way of gaining power and also of presenting themselves as legitimate heirs of the great Western Umayyad Caliphate. The Koutoubia in Marrakesh, the Giralda in Sevilla and the Assouna in Rabat were mosques and symbols of their power.

In the picture you can appreciate an old sketch in which one can see the first Tower Bell built on top of the minaret, before the modifications of Hernán Ruíz.

The Minaret of Saint Lorenzo

It was built on top of the old mosque of Al-Mughira around the Xth century, during the Córdoba Caliphate. This rock-solid minaret was turned into a Renaissance tower by Hernán Ruíz. One can, today, still enjoy the interior and the exterior of the church.

During the later restoration works, at the beginning of the current century, a window of Caliphate fashion was discovered with an Umayyad column and capital: both still showing characteristic features.

The photograph reveals that the base where the church was built was that of the old minaret’s. Then there is the recently discovered window and to its right a blocked door that opened the way into the minaret.

The Minaret of the Convent of Santa Clara

The Convent of Santa Clara is located in Ray Heredia street. It was the first monastery for women in Córdoba after the Christians took the city from the Muslims: it dates back from the year 1256 and it opened its doors with merely eight nuns. It was built where and old Xth mosque used to be, the new church recycled its minaret –the mosque had been built where the Visigothic basilica of Santa Catalina used to be.

The minaret did not suffer any major modifications as did the other mosques, although its upper body was dismantled and adjusted to the new tenants. Up until 1990 one could still notice the original structure of the minaret: a battlement similar to that of the outer wall of the Mezquita.

The Minaret of Santiago

The tower bell of the church of Santiago preserves most of its original Arab fashion, although certain added features makes it look like a Christian construction. It was built between the last two thirds of the IXth century. Thus it is the oldest Andalusian minaret as of today. It is also extremely close to hotel Viento10.

The Minaret of Saint Nicolás

Last but not least we find the minaret of Saint Nicolás. There is some misunderstanding regarding this minaret as many believe that the whole tower is of Arab design and construction but in truth only the base is. This church was built replacing an old mosque and the XVth century tower bell used the minaret’s base.

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