Anyone spending time in my Europe galleries will know that I favor churches in my subject matter, and for good reason. In Europe, and in many places in North America, the architecture presented is compelling. One is going to see everything from classical to art nouveau styles. But in Spain there is something else, that is Moorish (Mudejar) architecture. Spain, except for the north, was ruled by the Moors from ~711 a.d. until the Reconquista in 1236 when Ferdinand III of Castile reconquered Spain for Christianity and expelled the Moors. But the evidence of their art and architecture remains. There are at least three notable examples where Islamic architecture at its finest can be seen, the Alhambra in Granada (built in 889 a.d. as a fortress), the Alcazar (Royal Palace) in Seville, and the Grand Mosque of Córdoba, now the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, all World Heritage sites. Basilica El Pilar in ZARAGOSA might also be included with this group as it has definite elements chararistic of Mudejar architecture, for instance, its pillars. Indeed, remnants of Islamic architecture are to be seen elsewhere but these in particular are must see places in Spain.
I know very little about architecture but I do know what is appealing through the lens of my camera and these places were so different from the usual fare of the Classical, Romanesque, Gothic, & Baroque I was used to seeing that I was immediately impressed that here was something very different. Where I found most European ecclesiastical and secular architecture bold and masculine, embellished with iconic art, this was almost feminine in quality, delicate and highly decorative with floral and geometric designs to be sure, but totally devoid of iconic images of any kind. This lack of iconic art is of course consistent with the mandates of the Qur'an which specifically forbids statues and icons. Much use is made of arches in Islamic architecture just as in western architecture but their's is in the shape of a horseshoe as opposed to an inverted U. In the case of the Grand Mosque double arches are utilized; I haven't seen those anywhere else. Gardens and water are also important elements incorporated into Islamic architecture, and this is especially true at the Alhambra (and the Seville Alcazar) where a sophisticated irrigation system carries water directly from the Sierra Nevada to the Alhambra and operates to this day. The gardens, fountains, and pools in the Alhambra and the Alcazar are exquisite. In addition much use is made of decorative tile in pools, flooring, and wall wainscoatings. Taken together the experience is far different than visiting say a gothic cathedral such as that at Seville.
The history of the Grand Mosque of Córdoba reflects the push and pull throughout history between Christianity and Islam. The church was originally built by the Visigoths who first occupied Spain. It came under control of the Moors in 711 a.d. and was shared by both religions for a time (784 a.d.) until demolished in toto by 'Abd al-Rahman I and rebuilt as the Grand Mosque. It reverted to the Catholic Church after Reconquista and converted back to a Christian Church when a Renaissance style cathedral nave was incorporated in the 16th century. Today it reflects artistic elements of both religions, each beautiful in its unique way. But the "push and pull" between the two religions continues. Spanish Muslims have petitioned the Catholic Church to allow them to pray in the cathedral, a campaign rejected on multiple occasions by both church authorities in Spain and the Vatican.
I was so taken by the beauty of these places that I'm devoting dedicated galleries to the Alhambra and the Grand Mosque of Córdoba, what is now the cathedral church of the Diocese of Córdoba. Photographing in both places was very challenging and demanding due to bad lighting and crowds. Tripods were of course out of the question. In Córdoba especially I needed to increase the ISO to >1000 at times to get acceptable shutter speed to avoid blurring. This introduced predictable "noise" which in most cases I was able to deal with in post production. Of more consequence was the crowds of people. The only thing one can do is use them as props and try to wait until they were positioned in some kind of compositional sense. This was somewhat successful but is secondary to the beauty of the architecture itself. These are truly incredible places well worth visiting.