Catholic-Muslim Turf War Still Resonates at Cordoba Cathedral

March 28, 2007

Author: Tracy Wilkinson

Source: Los Angeles Times,1,3375989,full.story?coll=la-news-religion

CORDOBA, SPAIN — Mansur Escudero knew the answer before he asked.

Approaching the guard at Cordoba's majestic once-a-mosque, now-a-cathedral, Escudero posed the question: May I say Muslim prayers inside?

The slightly startled Spanish guard gave an emphatic no. This is a Catholic church, he said, and as such it is absolutely prohibited to pray in any other faith. Escudero persisted, but the guard was firm.

This is a cathedral, the guard repeated, growing more agitated: "A CA-THO-LIC CHURCH."

The 1,200-year-old architectural wonder that is one of Spain's most renowned landmarks is at the center of a turf war over religious space, cultural recognition and rivalries that are both ancient and contemporary.

Known as La Mezquita in Spanish and the Great Mosque in English, its spectacular forest of striped arches and jasper-and-marble columns constitutes one of ancient Islam's most iconic legacies. But La Mezquita has served as a consecrated Catholic church for nearly 800 years — ever since Spain's Catholic monarchs ejected Islamic forces that had ruled most of the Iberian Peninsula for more than five centuries.