Tourists threatening survival of Cordoba’s Great Mosque

Wednesday 08th December 2021 07:37 EST

Cordoba (Spain): Tourists are threatening the survival of the Great Mosque of Cordoba, one of the world’s most celebrated Islamic monuments, with the condensation they cause. The danger posed by sightseers has been highlighted in a report submitted to the government recently.

Historians believe that there had first been a temple to the Roman god, Janus, on this site. The temple was converted into a church by invading Visigoths who seized Córdoba in 572. Next, the church was converted into a mosque and then completely rebuilt by the descendants of the exiled Umayyads - the first Islamic dynasty who had originally ruled from their capital Damascus (in present-day Syria) from 661 until 750. It has up to two million visitors a year.

Condensation has damaged several areas, including its horseshoe arched mihrab, the prayer niche indicating the direction of Mecca. The lack of ventilation poses a great risk because the body heat emitted by each visitor contributes to the evaporation of water in the architectural structures of the cathedral-mosque. This] causes the disintegration of these materials and contributes to their rapid deterioration.

The danger is heightened because Cordoba is the hottest city on the Iberian peninsula. In summer, when it reaches almost 47C, conservationists detected the highest levels of condensation. “When the moment of greatest evaporation converges with the moment of greatest influx of tourists . . . the absolute humidity indices of the environment rise very noticeably, which poses a risk to . . . the materials most sensitive to moisture,” the report said.

One of these materials is wood, from which the roof is largely made. The report said it was “fundamental to implement all measures that improve the ventilation . . . to control the flows of visitors, avoiding agglomerations and spreading them out during visiting hours”. The risk has caused concern among heritage experts. During the Islamic period in Spain it was the second-biggest mosque by surface area after the Holy Mosque in Mecca. Famed for its prayer hall’s forest of columns and doubletiered arches, it has been influential on western Islamic art.

comments powered by Disqus

to the free, weekly Asian Voice email newsletter