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Notes on the Geography of Spain: Cordoba: the Mesquita: Photo 14

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The mihrab, with a horseshoe arch surrounded by an alfiz, that distinctive U-shaped band of trim,in this case ornamented with squarish Kufic script.  This mihrab is unique in that it leads to a small, octagonal room. Jerrilyn Dodds argues in Al-Andalous: The Art of Islamic Spain (1992) that this was an unconscious adjustment by the regime to the flood of recent Spanish Christian converts, whose churches had included liturgical spaces like this.  The room was intended to be dark, and indeed the figures appearing in the room are invisible without a camera flash.

The words in the bar directly above the mihrab specify some of the 99 attributes or names of God.  The lines above the bar and forming the top of the alfiz include Surah 40:14, which urges the faithful to call upon Allah alone and to act for his sake, rather than from vanity.  There is more, though.  Part of the importance placed on attendance at Friday or congregational mosques arises from the need to reinforce the legitimacy of the local ruler. Part of the inscription around the mihrab does just that, with the non-Qur'anic: "Praise be to God, master of the world, who favored al-Hakam II, the servant of God, the prince of the faithful...." 

A new mosque opened in Granada in 2003.  Its mihrab is a simplified copy of this one: the proportions are right, but there's almost no ornamentation.

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