Seventy Three

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A Year of Yoga: March 14, 2014

Pose: Reverse Triangle

Sanskrit: Parivritta Trikonasana

Location: The Mezquita in Cordoba. Today we went on a field trip to Cordoba. This was our first major excursion with the study abroad students. We got to the rendezvous plaza a bit early and got some café americanos, churros, y chocolate. FYI, if you’re ever in Spain, churros y chocolate, does not mean churros with chocolate. It means the restaurant serves churros and hot chocolate. They look like this.

The bus ride to Cordoba was about an hour and a half and was very beautiful. One thing we discussed on the ride was how in Spain there are no suburbs and no sprawl. A few minutes outside the city and the only thing to see was rolling hills and farmland. We did pass through a few small towns on the way but there is not much between Sevilla and Cordoba.

Like most towns in Andalucia, buses really can’t just pull up in front of your final destination because of how narrow the streets are. In Cordoba, there was about a half a mile of buses lined up down by the river full of tourists there to see the Mezquita…which of course, is why we were there too.

The Catedral de Cordoba (aka the Mezquita) was our first stop. As a part of the program we were provided with a private tour guide. The bummer was that the cathedral was unable to provide us with whispers. This meant if we wanted to hear Ana’s lecture we really had to try hard to stand close and pay attention. This proved difficult so I ended up only catching snippets here and there. But here are some things I learned about Cordoba and the cathedral:

1)   The Muslims arrived in Cordoba and proceeded to build the largest and most impressive mosque in the West. They used recycled materials from the Roman ruins to build. Mostly they took the old columns and reused them. If you look closely at photos, you will see that the columns are all different from each other. They are slightly different in height and design. Also important to note, (I think) is that the Muslims did not destroy the Roman architecture and buildings. The Visigoths had already done so by the time the Muslims arrived in Andalucia.

2)   Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived together peacefully in this area under Muslim rule. Over a period of about 100 years, the Catholic Spanish monarchy took over more and more of the Muslim Empire. Ferdinand III re-conquered Cordoba in 1236 but thought the mosque was so beautiful that rather than destroy it he had it preserved and expanded. Newer parts of the building reflect renaissance, gothic, and boroque styles while integrating the existing Muslim structures.

3)   We also toured the Jewish Quarter of Cordoba and visited a Jewish Synagogue. All the synagogues were destroyed after the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492. We visited a synagogue that became a hospital. During the conversion they just built a wall over the Jewish parts of the building and they remained preserved for centuries. Centuries later, the hospital was being renovated and builders discovered the well-preserved synagogue underneath. It is one of only 3 medieval synagogues to survive in Spain.

So what I learned during my visit is that it is possible for multiple religions to live peacefully and respectfully together. I mean we are talking about the 3 major religions that have warred against each other for most of history.  The result of this kind of tolerance is an incredibly beautiful building that reflects all the beliefs and aesthetics of every group that has contributed to it.

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