The Great Mosque of Cordoba was constructed in 784 AD and expanded on over the next two centuries The interior of the mosque is famously colorful, containing piggy-back arches with horseshoe arches containing alternating brick and stone voussoirs, creating a red and white striped effect. The use of banded arches, spoliated columns with Corinthian capitals and hypostyles arches recalls the architecture of the Dome of the Rock as well as the Great Mosque of Damascus. In 962 AD Al-Hakam II built a new mihrab and an entire room created as a special area for him to pray. This room, or maqsurah, was the first of its time of its type. Constructed to not only emphasize the location of the mihrab, it was intended for Al-Hakam II only, as a special place for him to pray. The maqsurah sets the mihrab apart more clearly from the rest of the mosque. The maqsurah contains the same themes as the rest of the mosque, however it embellishes on them. The red and white piggyback horseshoe arches are elaborated on by using polylobed versions which alternate white plain voussoirs and gold intricately carved voussoirs. These arches serve as two screens to the mihrab, signaling its significance through their opulence and detail The main mihrab of the Great Mosque of Cordoba, located through the maqsurah, is brilliantly illuminated by a dome built above it also commissioned during the rule of Al-Hakam II. This mihrab is inlaid with Byzantine-style mosaics and gold covering the entirety of the horseshoe arch. Outlined by gray marble carved with delicate spiral motifs, the horseshoe arch is composed of voussoirs of alternating stone colors, red, black and grey, all inlaid with lustrous spiraling vegetal gold patterns. Two small black marble columns with grey vegetal capitals support the large round arch entrance. The patterns of the voussoirs alternate dark black, red or gray vines and leaves on gold backgrounds, and gold vines on dark backgrounds. These inlaid motifs are highly Byzantine in style and were produced by Byzantine artists hired by Al-Hakam II, who at the time were considered to be more skilled than the artisans in Spain. Above the arch, inlaid gold spirals into the corners of the marble and a band of kufic script outlines the entire entrance of the maqsurah declaring thanks to God as well as to Al-Hakam II himself. The inscription reads, “Praise be to God, master of the worlds who favored Al-Hakam II, the servant of God, the prince of the faithful…for this venerable construction and helping him in the building of this eternal palace, with the goal of making this mosque more spacious for his subjects, both something he and they greedily wanted”. This script, written in gold inlaid on a black background, is illuminated by the light of the dome above, which gives the highly lustrous arch and its surroundings an ethereal quality, announcing its importance.
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