That means The Crossing.
One of the most remarkable buildings
in the world would have to be the Mezquita in Cordoba. (Mezquita is Spanish for
mosque. It’s pronounced something like meth-kita.)
Interestingly, although the building
has been a Roman Catholic cathedral for centuries, having ceased to be a mosque
from the conquest of Cordoba by King Ferdinand III of Castille in 1236, it’s
still universally known as the Mezquita. And with good reason. Its structure is
still that of the mosque it was in 987AD. That was after a number of enlargements
and enhancements that were made to the original mosque of 784AD. Under
Christian rule, chapels were built within the structure of the mosque,
culminating in the building of a Renaissance cathedral nave and a Baroque choir
in the 15th and 16th centuries. Both these features are virtually in the middle
of the mosque structure and have become central features, but still do not
detract from the magnificent and well preserved mihrab of 987, which dominates
one of the walls.
All in all, a truly wondrous monument
not only to Cordoba’s rich cultural history but to Spain’s – and, indeed, the
world’s – Muslim and Christian heritage.
The interior of the Mezquita is a series of long corridors
(or naves) formed by rows of columns. Between the high altar of the cathedral
and the choir – the centre part of the cathedral’s nave – there is wide
corridor that, in effect, joins the mosque’s original columned corridors on
each side of the cathedral’s nave. It forms a cross-over from one side of the
mosque to the other, running through the centre of the cathedral. That’s the
Crossing – El Crucero.
Walking around Cordoba, I ventured
into a small house in a narrow street billed as ‘Al Andalus Museum’. It was a
house whose architecture and furnishings were typical of the houses of Al
Andalus during Muslim rule. It was very interesting. But even more interesting
was a quiet conversation I had with its owner, Salma, a very sincere and
dignified lady in her late 60s – maybe early 70s. She was French but a
long-time devoted Muslim. She told me about another museum and slide
presentation her historian/philosopher husband, Roger, had assembled in the old
Roman bridge tower. I had already been there and had been impressed but had not
been aware of the slide show.
I subsequently revisited the tower but
had to ask to see the slide show. The attendant actually rang up to get
approval to let me see it. It turned out to be a very
philosophical/religious/even a touch ideological exposition of aspects of
Islamic, Jewish and Christian developments, stemming principally from the
unique contribution that leading figures of all three religions had made during
Muslim rule in Al Andalus. But the subliminal theme of the presentation was
essentially that both Judaism and Christianity had betrayed their followers by
moving far from their original ideals and objectives; and only Islam remained
as the way forward to prosperity and peace.
I returned to visit Salma to tell her
I had seen the presentation and to talk about it. We sat and yarned in her
courtyard as the afternoon light dimmed into darkness. I ventured my thoughts
on Roger’s assessment of historical and religious evolution, as set out in his
presentation. Basically, my message was that, while I could agree with a lot of
the criticism of the performance of Christian churches, mostly the Roman
Catholic Church, over the centuries, I thought Roger had let Islam off far too
lightly. I suggested that, sadly, many elements of Islam, not least of all at
the imam level, had also wandered far from the precepts of the Koran. Selma
didn’t demur. In fact, she expressed her grief that that so many imams have
become more interested in their own political ideals than in the messages of
the Koran. But that hadn’t shaken her faith in Islam.
That night, while pondering over a
local red wine in a small bar looking onto the outside walls of the Mezquita, I
penned a short poem for Salma. I didn’t get it to her until I was in Morocco.
Here is the poem and our email
Pour Salma – bis millah
A crossing of race and religion
Of culture and learning
Of people and belief
Of centuries apart
One God – invoked differently
One Message – heard differently
One faith – practised differently
A mosque, a church
11 March 2009
Our email exchange:
al farouki [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, 17 March 2009
Subject: RE: El Crucero
I did appreciate your poem a lot with ist clear simplesity, I hope Allah will
open you doors of His Love & Light "Nour"
To become Allah´s prey, one must make oneself worthy of HIS REGARD
& FAVOR. The first step in the direction is to seek & desire HIM. The
Beloved will not ignore sincere devotion & need.
May Allah showers you with His blessings.
Date: Sun, 15 Mar
2009 04:08:20 +1100
RC 7 June 2009
Subject: El Crucero
This is Robert from Australia (but in Morocco at the moment).
I would like to say how much I enjoyed meeting you and talking with you when in
Cordoba this week.
I have written a short poem for you. It is attached.
I hope you enjoy it.
It was inspired in part by how taken I was with the Mezquita and the concept of
the crucero (or transept, as one brochure called it); and in part by the ideas
that Roger and yourself were espousing.
Go to Fireside