Mihrab of Cordoba Mosque

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The Mihrab of the Cordoba Mosque (Spanish: Mezquita Catedral de Córdoba) is located in the area of the Maqsurah, in the central area of the qibla wall.


Positioned (locate) between the doors to the treasury chamber and the Sabat, it is a focal point for the contribution made by Al-Hakam II to the Aljama. However, it is not only a place indicating the direction of prayer. It is also where the constructive development of this expansion converges, the area where the visitor, amazed by its richness and artistry, directs their gaze.


circa 960 CE

The mehrab in the Cordoba mosque is somewhat exceptional as it does not point towards the south, in the direction of Mecca. As the mihrab does not follow the the qibla direction, it has been proposed that this is because the Mezquita is built in reference to the old Roman Cardo (north-south thoroughfare). Another example of this phenomenon is the the Damascus Mosque, where the Mihrab also points towards the south and towards the south-east.

circa 960 CE

The mehrab traditionally had two functions in Islamic worship, first it indicated the direction of Mecca (therefore prayer) and it also amplified the words of the Imam, the prayer leader. At Cordóba it is particularly magnificent. The chambers on either side of the mehrab are decorated with exquisite Byzantine mosaics of gold as well. This was the third mehrab to be installed in the Mosque. The small structure consists of a small octagonal recess roofed with a single block of white marble that is carved in the form of a shell and has walls inlaid with Byzantine-style mosaics and gold.

circa 960 CE

The entrance to the mehrab is structured through a canted horseshoe arch where we find the mosaic decoration which links to the Byzantium tradition, produced by the craftsmen sent by Emperor Nicephorus II. These mosaics extend along the voussoirs with a geometric and plant-based design, but also in the inscriptions which record verses from the Koran. Added to the richness provided by the mosaics are the boards of stylised plant motifs which display the thematic motif of the "tree of life".

circa 960 CE

The Mihrab is no longer just a simple niche but is created as a place to project, becoming a small octagonal room covered by a scallop shell dome. It rises up from a marble plinth which is surrounded by a quranic surah and an inscription alluding to the creators of the work. At the top, on the wall panels, trefoil blind arches are found along with an abundant decoration of stylised plant motifs.

circa 960 CE

Above the mihrab, is an equally dazzling dome. The Dome of the Cordova Mosque is built of crisscrossing ribs that create pointed arches all lavishly covered with gold mosaic in a radial pattern. This astonishing building technique anticipates later Gothic rib vaulting, though on a more modest scale. As the mihrab is flanked by two chambers, the dome of the Mosque is also flanked by two other domes.

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