The Patios of Córdoba

Flower pots in a Córdoba patio

In the spring and summer Córdoba's streets and famous patios are a riot of colour
as blue pots hang from the walls overflowing with blooms. I doubt that very few, if any, tourists return from Córdoba even in the winter without a picture, or ten dozen, of the city's renowned floral displays.

On our second day in Córdoba we headed from the railway station, where we had stashed our case in a locker for a very reasonable €3, to the district of San Martina and the Palacio de Viana, a palace that dates from at least the 14th century and boasts 12 courtyards and a garden. From the station we headed along Avenida de America and its central recreation area with fountains, playgrounds, benches for the old men of the town to gather on and discuss the state of the world.

Merced Palace

On the right was the the Palacio de la Merced, once a convent now home to the provincial government of Córdoba. Its two parts are separated by the church which was closed (as I found most churches to be - whatever happened to them always being open for prayer and contemplation?) so we popped into the open doors and into a large inner courtyard, the Patio Barroco. An exhibition was taking place of the works of a local artist. There would be no mistaking Carmen López Rey's heritage with her paintings all reflecting different aspects of Córdoba from close detailing of some of the Islamic artwork in the mosque to the recurring theme of the mosque's arches. Naturally I was taken by the most expensive pieces of artwork available.

Mafia man?
Looks like Il Padrino has found
his natural habitat - pizzeria
From the palace we crossed the Plaza del Colon, through the narrow back streets and into the Plaza de Santa Marina where orange trees lined the edge of the square which was dominated by the statue of Córdoba's favourite bull-fighter, Manolete.

On 4th July 1917, Manuel Rodríguez Sánchez 'Manolete' was born in the traditional district of Santa Marina. He came from a long line of bullfighters and held his qualifying ceremony on 2nd July 1839 in the Sevillian bullring La Maestranza. From then on there was no stopping him: he toured all the major Spanish and international bullrings and was acclaimed by the public in Mexico, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela. He was remembered by his friends as a sober, serious person who won the public's respect wherever he went.     His personal style of bullfighting, of approaching the bull side-on, brought him world-wide acclaim in the bullring. However, on 28th August 1947, when Manolete was topping the bill in Linares alongside Gitanillo de Triana and Luís Miguel 'Dominguín', the second bull of the six he was to fight, a superb specimen of Mihura, caught him with its horns and left him mortally wounded. Statues of this man (with his tight little butt, you can't help but notice) are to be found in many places in Córdoba.
Statue of Manolete
Manolete with the church of Santa Marina in the background

Once again the parish church, Santa Marina which stands opposite the Plaza de Santa Marina but in its own square, Plaza del Conde de Priego, was closed to us. One of the Fernadine churches, so-called because they were built under the reign of King Fernando III "the Saint" after the conquest of Cordoba in 1236, it combines the late Romanic style with Gothic and Mudejar. Many of the Fernadine churches were built on top of former mosques, showing a clear intention to wipe out the Islamic influence so visible in the city, as well as to repopulate various areas of the city with Christian subjects.
Viana Palace

A few hundred metres on we found the Palacio de Viana. €8 euros each for unaccompanied wanderings around the courtyards and a timed, accompanied visit around the Palace was excellent value for money. The Palace was declared a National Monument of Historical and Artistic Interest and with good reason.

The courtyards, so well known in Andalucía and particularly in Córdoba, offered outdoor living rooms with different functions, shade and space for contemplation. Built and designed by different owners during their stays at the Palace the courtyards reflect the need to display social and economic status.  In the winter the greenery comes mainly from the orange trees and evergreen hedges and shrubs and my only wish was to have seen them in full bloom. But with the sun streaming through the barred, glassless windows of the Courtyard of the Bars - built in the 17th century so that the garden could be seen from outside through the Mannerist bars, thereby exhibiting prestige and power - and casting long shadows on the ground to the sparkling water in the Courtyard of the Columns it was still an impressive sight to behold.
Courtyard of the Bars

As each courtyard was different we did not tire from wandering around all 13 (one is technically a garden) and enjoying the views. Viewing them from the windows of the palace when we took the tour of the inner rooms (it is carried out in Spanish with leaflets in native languages available for non-speakers) added to the experience.

El Jardín

Patio de la Capilla

Córdoba has confirmed one thing - I really want an internal courtyard in my next house. It will be filled with citrus trees, a water feature and jasmine with quiet Moorish music drifting through the hot still summer air. In the meantime I am going to have to revisit this interesting city as there is still so much to see.

Palacio de Viana (English version)
Córdoba Tourism (English version)

I visited Córdoba on 27/28 December 2012


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