Amid a simmering disagreement over the rights of the Great Mosque of Cordoba in Spain, a committee recruited by the local city council of Cordoba opposed its ownership by the Catholic Church. The site was an ancient Muslim place of worship which was converted to a Catholic cathedral.
The committee, headed by Federico Mayor Zaragoza, a former director of UNESCO, was tasked with determining whether the place should be in public ownership or remain under the Catholic Church. The mosque, a landmark reflecting the religious history of Cordoba, was built in 786 by Muslim ruler Abd al-Rahman I and was expanded over the years. When Christian rule returned in 1236, it was converted to a Catholic church, despite opposition by Muslims, it was registered under the ownership of the Catholic diocese in 2006. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the mosque should not be registered to any church or other organizations, an earlier report by experts has stated.
The latest report says the case should be taken to the Constitutional Court in order to cancel its registration to the church and return it to public ownership, saying the 2006 decision has no legal validity. It adds that the situation is "unjust" and "against the interests of Cordobans." In 2013, thousands signed a petition, calling on local authorities to manage the site instead of the diocese, to preserve the place as a cultural heritage site. The row over the status of the mosque/cathedral further escalated when Muslims were banned from performing prayers and scuffles broke out in 2010 when a group of Muslims tried to pray inside. The place, one of the outstanding legacies of Muslim rule in Spain's Andalusia region, has long been among world's biggest mosques in terms of the surface it covers, after a mosque in the sacred city of Mecca and Istanbul's Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque). It is only among a few Muslim places of worship preserved in its entirety in Western Europe. Sprawling over an area of 24,000 square meters, the mosque's interior fascinates visitors with hundreds of delicately decorated columns made of marble, onyx and granite and with red and white arches.