A Conversation in Cordoba


Oil on linen, 30 by 48 inches unframed, 35 by 53 inches framed, mounted on aluminum composite panel.  Completed 2019.

Legend has it that the Grand Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba Spain was originally a Christian church, which was divided and shared by Muslims and Christians after the Moors conquered most of Spain. This sharing arrangement of the site lasted until 784, when the Christian half was purchased by the Emir Abd-al Rahman 1. The Emir and his descendants destroyed the existing church and built a mosque the opulence of which rivaled those in Baghdad, Jerusalem, Damascus, and even Mecca.  Around 500 years later Cordoba was conquered by the Christians, and the Grand Mosque was gifted to the Catholic church. The center of the mosque was hollowed out and replaced by a similarly grand Christian cathedral.  The remainder of the building was left intact.  Muslims were not excluded, but were not allowed to pray anywhere in the building.  The ruling is still in effect, in spite of muslim petitions to the Vatican to have it overturned.  As late as 2010 there was a riot inside the mosque-cathedral when Austrian muslims attempted to pray anyway.  Several guards were killed.

So with the weight of history all around them, what are the old imam and the young girl talking about?  I'll leave that part up to you:) 

A Conversation in Cordoba was accepted into the 12th Biennial National Art Exhibit, hosted by the Visual Arts Center, Punta Gorda, FL.  During the course of the show, area poets were allowed to tour the exhibit, examine the 150 entries, and if so moved, write a poem about one of them.  Several poets chose A Conversation in Cordoba.  Below is a wonderful poem written by Sarah Hollenhorst, one of ten chosen to be recited at a special reception during the show.

I first met him in a woods,

the forest of my dreams,

where there is no understory

where I can see the distance

of my future

that of my awake self

the self that can no longer sit

straight, legs folded

on a forest floor.


Sometimes the forest is a museum,

a temple, or ancient ruins

and the trees are pillars, or stones.

Sometimes there are others,

In a shared woods,

explorers, students, or wanderers.


I ask questions, for answers

That I would learn in time.

Sometimes he is Jesus, or Mohammad,

Or a wise man, whose story was lost, unwritten.

We talk, conversations.

He tells me words I keep

In my young girl’s backpack,

carried in my dreams, holding

The answers I would learn

in time.


I search for them now

in the woods of my dreams

where leaves shift in a breeze

And sunlight sparkles at my feet.