Iglesias Fernandinas

The Iglesias Fernandinas are a group of twelve Cordoba churches that were constructed in the thirteenth century to more or less mark the city's return to Christianity. For more than 500 years, Cordoba was under Arab control, and during this period, it actually rose to become one of the most important cultural centers in all of Europe. Alas, Spain wanted its Arab-controlled lands back, and this caused the rise of the Spanish Reconquest. In 1236, King Ferdinand III of Castile arrived in Cordoba with his royal army and reclaimed the city for the Spanish Crown.

After capturing Cordoba, King Ferdinand III of Castile divided the city into fourteen different neighborhoods, or districts. Around the same time, work on a series of churches began, and these churches are the Iglesias Fernandinas. Found around town, these churches, which are known as the Fernandine Churches in English, were predominantly built on sites that were formerly home to Moorish mosques. In part, this helped to lessen the Moorish influence and was a general show of power marking the return of settlements such as Cordoba to Christianity.

In the case of the Fernandine Churches in particular, the aim was also to attract Christian subjects to highly unpopulated parts of Cordoba. Such was the case with the Iglesia de San Pablo, which was founded on the very day that Ferdinand III conquered Cordoba. This day was June 29, 1236. You can find the lovely Iglesia de San Pablo on Capitulares Street. Close by is the Roman Temple, which figures among the highlights when it comes to the Roman ruins in Cordoba.

Romanesque was one of the main architectural styles of Medieval Europe, and it is the style that helps to distinguish the Fernandine Churches. These old structures blend Western Roman and Byzantine styles of architecture while mixing in a bit of the oncoming gothic style. Known traditionally as the Norman architecture style in England, Romanesque is a somewhat simple style that manages to come across quite elegantly nonetheless, especially when it is combined with other architectural styles. Groin vaults and round arches are common and add beauty. Large towers are also typical calling cards.

The Fernandinas Churches in Cordoba are often referred to as the Reconquista Churches, and they are all wonderful structures to behold. Among the major examples is the lovely Iglesia de San Miguel. This more than 700 year old structure stands on the site of a former mosque, and as is common of old European churches, it consists of three naves. The district of San Miguel, which is near the City Center of Cordoba, is where you can find this wonderful church.

Many of the Fernandine Churches were modified over the centuries, so they exhibit various different styles. Such is the case with the Iglesia de San Lorenzo on Capitulares Street and the Iglesia de San Andres at San Andres Square. One of the most interesting things when it comes to the Iglesia de San Lorenzo is its bell tower. It used to be a minaret for a Moorish mosque and looks similar to other Moorish towers, such as the famed Giralda in Seville. As for the Iglesia de San Andres, it has been extremely modified over the years and is an interesting patchwork of architectural styles. The tower, for example, was constructed in the Renaissance style.

For those who are interested, special tours of the Iglesias Fernandinas can be enjoyed while in Cordoba. These tours are walking tours that see visitors taking to one of three different routes with pertinent info in hand. At some of the churches, audio tours can add to the overall depth of a visit. More information about these tours is available at Cordoba's tourist information centers. The main tourist information center is found at Calle Torrijos 10 and is open every day of the week.

Image: Grauke/O (flickr)

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