Most Famous Mosques in Spain | Beautiful Islamic Architecture
Mosques, or masjids, in Spain are a common enough sight. There are over 1,000 modern examples scattered throughout the country today, but only a handful of these gorgeous religious buildings are truly worth their fame.
They vary in size and grandeur, but one thing is for certain: they’re a must-see for a full cultural experience of the country. Take a look at our favorite famous mosques in Spain to visit on your next holiday.
Islamic Architecture in Spain | Mosques
In Spain, Islamic architecture stands apart with its gorgeous use of magnificent arches, carved columns, and geometric patterns. Traditionally they contain a courtyard of ablutions, a minaret, a prayer room or hall, and a mihrab, which is a niche that indicates the direction of Mecca.
Before we delve into the incredible mosques themselves, though, let’s take a brief look at the country’s history and how this gorgeous Islamic architecture came to exist there.
The Roman Empire ruled over Spain until the Middle Ages, when it was taken over by the Muslim dynasty, Umayyad Caliphate, from the 8th century until the 15th century. It was during this time that these beautiful homages to the Islamic faith were constructed in the country.
However, there was much unrest between the Muslim and Christian factions within its borders throughout this medieval period. As the religious wars flared in Spain, mosques were either destroyed or appropriated into Catholic cathedrals, and by the 15th century, overt Christian rule was established. Muslim worship was outlawed, and the Mosques were architecturally altered to include chapels and knaves and rededicated as Catholic cathedrals or churches.
Quick Tip: If you want to immerse yourself fully in Islamic architecture in Spain, Granada is the place for it. Take a tour of the Palace of Alhambra to see this architectural style at its best.
Famous Spanish Mosques
Although most of the old mosques are now churches, the integrity of the gorgeous Islamic architecture stands true to this day. We’ve put together a list of some of the most unmissable mosques to see on your next holiday to Spain.
The Great Mosque of Córdoba
Easily the most famous mosque in Spain, the beautiful Mosque of Córdoba is a jewel that bedazzles the eye and the soul alike. This particular mosque is so important to the Islamic community because Córdoba City was the Umayyad capital, and the Great Mosque was its heart. It also happens to be the oldest mosque in Spain, having been commissioned in 785 and completed in 988.
We adored the seemingly endless rows of columns that hold up the distinctive striped archways, delicately adorned with all manner of riches. You’ll see ivory, jasper, gold, silver, copper, and brass in these magnificent facades.
The mihrab is perhaps the most striking in wealth and design. Light flows in gossamer strands through the opening to the mihrab in front of the rows of archways where believers would prostrate themselves and offer their prayers.
At its heart sits a baroque Catholic cathedral constructed in 1236, the soft flowing lines of which are a beautiful contrast to the geometric designs of the surrounding Islamic Mosque. The original minaret was also converted into a bell tower which you can climb for breathtaking views of Córdoba. The Mosque is such a feast for the eyes that it’s also one of our favorite famous monuments in Spain.
Mosque of Cristo de la Luz
The Mosque of Cristo de la Luz is one of the smaller mosques in Spain, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in historical significance and beauty. Constructed in 999, it’s the only prevailing Moorish Mosque in Toledo to remain mostly unchanged since it was first built, except for the qibla wall and mihrab, which were lost.
Gazing at its intricate bare-brick exterior will transport you to the past and have you in awe of the skills of ancient architects. Once you enter the Mosque, you’ll encounter white horseshoe arches rising above you on time-battered columns. Peeking from beneath the peeling paint you’ll see Kufic inscriptions on the walls and glimpses of the original paintings that adorned the mosque before its conversion to a church.
You’ll need to look up to experience the almost hidden white geometric ceilings and upper walls bathed in light. The gardens outside have beautiful views of the city, as well as a piece of ancient Roman road preserved under a glass floor surrounded by other Roman relics.
The Mosque of Almonaster la Real
Gazing down from a hill, the castle and Mosque encased within it watch benevolently over the village of Almonaster la Real. It’s one of the few surviving rural mosques in Spain, and as such it’s a relatively famous mosque within the archeological community.
The building may seem like a haphazard construction of brick and stone, but the architecture reveals a glimpse into the rich Moorish history. Inside the Mosque you’ll find spacious areas filled with rudimentary columns and brick archways.
There are three parts of the religious building, namely the prayer hall, courtyard of ablutions, and the minaret tower. The brick and mortar of the mihrab is still intact, although the paint has long since peeled away over the intervening centuries.
It’s a little dark in there, but it only adds to the rustic authenticity of the place. It’s not a tourist-packed location, so no need to worry about holiday makers clogging up the gorgeous views of both the Mosque and its scenic surroundings.
Mosque at Alcazar of Jerez de la Frontera
Long ago there were a total of 18 mosques that stood in Jerez, and today the Mosque at Alcazar is the only one remaining. Alcazar de la Frontera was primarily constructed as a fortress with a personal mosque on the left built in the 11th century.
The signature horseshoe arches in pale whitewashed bricks are a counterpoint to the floors of the Courtyard of Ablutions. Here a bright red fountain lies in the center with tiled floors of warm cream and vibrant bluegreen encircling the courtyard.
Once you’ve seen the last Moorish Mosque in Jerez, climb to the top of the fortress for a gorgeous view of the city, or immerse yourself in the delightful Islamic-style gardens.
King Abdul Aziz Mosque
Currently the only active mosque on this list and the most modern, the King Abdul Aziz Mosque (also known as the Marbella Mosque) is somewhat iconic in its architecture.
Constructed in 1981, the building is white from top to bottom with what seems like rows of turreted teeth along its walls. The tall pointed archways seem to reach ever upward, giving the entire building a feeling of height.
It’s one of the first modern mosques built in recent times in Spain and holds enough room for 800 people, as well as housing a library, the imam, and gorgeous gardens. The architectural features are distinctly Andalusian, and are offset by the large palm trees dotting their perimeters. It has separate areas for men and women, and the azan is repeated from loudspeakers five times a day.
Which Spanish Mosque Will You Visit?
The Mosques of Spain provide an interesting glimpse into the country’s distant past, and still recognize to this day the religious impact of its historical wars. Whether you are a traveler with an aptitude for architecture or on a personal religious journey, we can heartily recommend Spain to be your next pitstop on the path to enlightenment.
Be dazzled by the pathways of light created in the infinite space of the Great Mosque of Córdoba, and humbled by the plain brick walls of the Mosque of Almonaster la Real. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.