The most incredible legends of the Great Mosque of Cordoba

There have always been numerous legends, sayings and popular traditions surrounding the Great Mosque of Cordoba, inspired by the halo of mystery and exoticism that the monument emits.

The centuries of history and the great historical figures that have passed through the Mosque have enriched this popular knowledge, forming a part of Cordoba and its Mosque's own history. If you want to learn which legends are the most popular, keep reading the collection that we've prepared for you.

The Legend of the Angel

One of the most widespread legends about the construction of the Great Mosque of Cordoba is the Legend of the Angel. According to the tale, the Mosque was built after an angelic vision that Abderraman I had while sleeping peaceful y in the al-Rusafa Palace.

It is said that an angel appeared to the Emir in his dreams, admonishing him for all the help that Allah had offered him: Abderraman I was the only survivor of his bloodline who emigrated from Damascus to al-Andalus, and after victorious battles, declared himself emir of the magnificent Cordoba.

For this reason, the angel asked him, "What have you done for Allah? What have you given Him in return?" The next morning, the Emir awoke with the idea of building one of the grandest mosques in the world.

The Legend of the Captive

The Legend of the Captive is one of the most famous stories told about the Great Mosque of Cordoba. According to this legend, a young Christian who worked as a market gardener fell in love with an Arab girl who would come to shop at his stand. The boy asked her to marry him, and she promised that she would convert to Christianity to become his wife.

Thus, the girl had everything prepared to celebrate the wedding, but the night that she was to be baptised, some Arab soldiers killed her and threw her body into the river. The also captured the market farmer and tied him to one of the columns of the mosque.

During his captivity, so as not to lose his faith, the enchained man carved a cross with his own fingernails into the marble column, which you can still see today if you take one of our guided tours of the Great Mosque of Cordoba.

The Legend of Saint Mary's Fountain

According to popular tradition, Saint Mary's Fountain, situated in the Great Mosque of Cordoba's Orange-tree Courtyard, has surprising properties.

Legend has it that single women who drink water from the spout of Saint Mary's Fountain nearest to the olive tree that flanks it will be married. So, it is a tradition amongst the single women of Cordoba to drink from the fountain when they wish to be married.

The tunnel between Medina Azahara and the Mosque

A very widespread legend about Cordoba is that of the existence of a secret underground tunnel connecting the palatial city of Medina Azahara with the Great Mosque of Cordoba. However, no evidence of this has ever been found.

Scholars have referred to Medina Azahara, located about 8 km from Cordoba, as the Versailles of the Middle Ages. It was the new city, symbolic of the Caliphate, thanks to which, along with the Mosque and other works within the city, the Caliphate of Cordoba displayed its power. The city was destroyed just 100 years after its establishment, however, in a civil war that brought an end to the Caliphate of Cordoba.

According to the legend, the tunnel that connected Medina Azahara and the Great Mosque of Cordoba was built under the dynasty of the Caliph Abderraman III and allowed him to travel directly from the palatial city of Medina Azahara to the Great Mosque of Cordoba on horseback to complete his daily prayers.

The Column of Hell

Amongst the Great Mosque of Cordoba's thousands of columns, there is one protected by a partition that encloses another of the most popular traditions that circulates about the Great Mosque of Cordoba. According to the story, when people scratch the column's surface with a coin, an unpleasant odour of sulphur is released.

Thus, the rumour amongst the Cordoban populace was that the column had been carved in the bowels of Hell itself. This legend was later found to have a scientific explanation: According to researchers, the odour released by the column is actually the product of the chemical reaction produced when rubbing a metal object with sulphuric acid.

Healing Columns

Another legend that circulates about the columns of the Great Mosque of Cordoba is in reference to its healing properties.

Amongst the Cordobans, it was said that the columns could cure illnesses, which motivated some citizens to even break off pieces of them to take to their homes.

The Legend of the Ox

One of the few legends of the Mosque with an animal as its protagonist is the Legend of the Ox. Although there is no proof to authenticate its veracity, it is a very widespread rumour amongst the people of Cordoba.

According to the legend, the sculpture of an ox located next to the pulpit of the Main Altar comes from Muslim times and was sculpted in honour of a beautiful white ox used to transport the columns from the Mosque's construction.

Upon unloading the last of the columns, the ox, exhausted, died in the act. This is why the famous sculpture was built in its honour, at the petition of its owner.

The Legend of the Golden Chain

In the Great Mosque of Cordoba's mihrab, there is a large golden chain that hangs over its ceiling. It is said that, in the times of greatest splendour, the golden chain was so long that it even wrapped around itself.

According to the tale, it is much shorter now because of the bishops who later occupied the temple. Every time the Catholics needed to do some repair or buy something, they would cut off a piece of the chain. This is why nowadays the golden chain does not even reach the floor of the temple.