I still remember clearly during first week of global history in my ninth grade year, over half a decade ago now (A long time when you´re just about to hit twnety)… During one of the first classes my teacher introduced a list of terms that were going to be important during the year and foremost among them was cultural diffusion. I don´t think a single week went by without it coming up in class. It was soundly pounded into our skulls… so thoroughly in fact that all these years later as I wandered into the city center of Cordoba, Spain, that word popped up in my mind once again.
I walked through the historical Sephardi Jewish section of the city and then stepped through a Moorish style doorway into a cathedral that used to be a mosque that stood on the ruis of an older cathedral and was just a stones throw from a Roman victory arch. There was more history and cultural diffusion packed into two city blocks than most areas of the world can boast over huge tracts of land. Sure, there had been war and destruction involved in those culturl clashes, but each had taken from the other and some level of cooperation had also existed during some points over the millenia.
Even though Catholic mass is held in the building today, it still looks distinctly Muslim until you reach its Christian heart. Rather than knock the mosque down and build anew, the christians recognized how amazing the building, the Mezquita, already wass and simply expanded on it. And it really is one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever had the pleasure of wandering through. The Muslim style arches are a sharp and foreign reminder of the past, but also convery pure beauty with their gold detail and unique stone structures create a distinctive striped pattern with brick and sandstone (?). Most remarkable were the countless pillars that filled the interior. It´s so easy to imagine Moors from an age past kneeling among the pillars to pray and filling the enormous space with their solemn religious observance. It´s a kind of beauty that doesn´t need to be lavish to take my breath away.
Maybe that´s just an example of modern cultural diffusion… my culture has been touched by enough others that I find so much appreciation in a place so different from “conventional Western architectural beauty”