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Columns are not mere things standing straight. They are keystone to every building, they have always been valuable and demanded objects. History is full with testimonies that tell us how they were precious presents among kings, and ambassadors would carry them in their ships when sailing too far away lands as gifts.

Never a column is thrown away, much less if they are made of granite or exotic marbles brought from all over the Mediterranean Sea. Columns are always put to new use, moreover in ancient time were construction labor was scarce and time-consuming.
What happened to the Mezquita in Córdoba is a textbook example of it. The great forest of columns was built using materials coming from old abandoned buildings in the city. I think it is more than likely that the materials came from the enormous arcaded patio of Cercadillas, today quasi-buried under the tracks of a train that arrived much too fast, around 1992.
The forest of eight hundred and fifty marble, jade and granite columns on which three hundred sixty five arcs rest, also suffered the later transition to a Christian basilica.

The first removal came at the end of the XVth century. The new Christian Cathedral needed stronger foundations and a bigger space for the Main Chapel, so, in 1489, the Cathedral was built right were the old XIIIth century chapel was. In order to carry out the construction, 12 columns of the original Mezquita were removed.

Years later, in 1523, the town-hall ordered, the full construction of the Cathedral. To that end 68 columns were removed. The Cathedral was built right in the middle of the Mezquita. 80 columns lost in total, an approximate 10% that disrupted the remaining space of the Islamic temple.

Where did those 80 columns go?

It is certain that they were not disposed of in some junkyard. Fortunately, there are no records of the first column removal being discarded. It is very likely that the columns ended up as parts of other new buildings in the city. As for the second removal, we know that the columns were stacked in the opposite side of the river, in Campo de la Verdad (The Truth Field), waiting for a new use.
Next to this pile of columns there was a little chapel, dating from the XIIth century, that in 1564 begun the process to become a church. I am referring of course to the church of San José, that “modern” Parrish behind the Calahorra Tower, a church of little interest to the city and its inhabitants.

In 1952, sponsored by the bishop Fray Albino, the church underwent a remodeling process that lengthened the length of the nave and ruined its original appearance. If you have never set a foot inside, I recommend you take the time to visit it any chance you get. In the interior, besides some interesting stained-glass by Antonio Povedano, you can see 8 columns that came from the Mezquita with roman and visigothic capitals. I believe it is the only place where there is a certain knowledge that those columns came from the Mezquita. I am, nonetheless, sure that the remaining 72 are holding history together.

Some examples.
It would be very interesting to find out where the other surviving columns of the Mezquita are. I think this is an academic task yet to be carried through; I, for one, have exhausted my curiosity and found nothing of relevance. I have seen, however, some candidates in many of the old buildings of the city.
The house of the bells, very close from Viento10, has two columns that judging by their general appearance and capitals match the profile seamlessly.
The church of San Nicolás has a back portico, three columns with roman capitals and moldings, that I suspect came from the Mezquita.
The Mezquita Hotel next to the gate of Santa Catalina brags about having columns from the temple. And it may very well be as they meet all the requirements, except from the height; but they could have been adjusted to fit the building.
The extinct Swiss Inn (the Swiss Hotel) of the Puzzini brothers, is known to have had big columns in the patio from a previous building. Those too look like good candidates. Where might they be now?
The patio of the Capuchinas Convent, behind the Osio square, has not only columns but capitals and moldings that could have come from the Mezquita.

Do you know of any other hot spot? Have you seen a remote old patio with marble columns that reminded you of the forest of columns inside the Temple? Share it with us if you have, write down a comment with the information, please.


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