The local administration in Cordoba recently denied the Roman Catholic Church’s claim of lawful ownership over the Spanish city’s legendary mosque-cathedral, stating how religious consecration is no way to obtain property. The report, penned by Valeriano Lavela, secretary general of the city council, marked an important intervention in the longstanding row over the Moorish structure’s ownership.
The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, also known as the Great Mosque of Cordoba or the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, is located in the Spanish region of Andalusia. Considered one of the most accomplished monuments of Moorish architecture, the structure was first built by Visigoths and named Catholic Basilica of Saint Vincent of Lerins. However, when Muslims seized Spain in 711, the structure was divided into Christian and Muslim halves until the sharing arrangement was done away with in 784, when Emir Abd al-Rahman I decided to purchase the entire property. He proceeded to demolish the entire structure so that it could be replaced with the Grand Mosque of Cordoba. As time would have it, Christians regained control over Cordoba in 1236, after which the mosque was converted into a Roman Catholic church once again.
Since the start of 2000, Spanish Muslims have continually lobbied for the Roman Catholic Church so that they are allowed to pray inside the cathedral. However, this campaign has been rejected multiple times by Catholic authorities in Spain as well as the Vatican. In 2006, the diocese of Cordoba paid €30 to register ownership over what it refers to as a cathedral-mosque or sometimes only cathedral.
The council’s report however states that the structure does not belong to the Roman Catholic Church or any other organization. Lavela stressed that the church’s acquisition has no legal basis and so cannot confer ownership. He also added that the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba has been considered a UNESCO world heritage site since 1984 and so its exceptional universal value disqualifies it from being owned by any one person or organization.
Citing Roman law, Lavela argued, “The site’s true owners are each and every citizen of the world from whatever epoch and regardless of people, nation, culture or race.”
The Vatican is yet to respond to Cordoba’s report.
In 2013, hundreds of thousands of Spaniards signed a petition for the structure to be taken over by Cordoba’s local authority rather than the Roman Catholic Church so that that its cultural heritage can be conserved. The petition stemmed from an inquiry into whether Cordoba could ever claim ownership over the structure. While mass continues to be held inside the building, a local bishop banned Muslims from praying at the structure after a fight broke out in 2010, when a group of Muslim visitors kneeled down to offer their prayers.
The interiors of the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba consist of innumerable red and white stone arches that give visitors the feel of being present inside a serene forest.
Photo Credits: Perfect Building Blogs