Muslim groups in Spain are campaigning to turn a Catholic cathedral which has operated for more than 800 years into a “shared worship space”.
Campaigners in Cordoba, southern Spain, argue that the religious site should be shared between Islam and Christianity – and have been backed up by local authorities.
Their claim stems from the fact that the building was a mosque from the 8th to 13th century, the period during which time the Islamic Umayyad caliphate conquered and ruled over large chunks of Spain.
An early Christian church was knocked down to make way for the mosque.
This in turn was retaken in the 1200s and converted into a Roman Catholic cathedral, which involved structural and cosmetic changes.
Since 2000, Cordoba’s Muslim population have petitioned the local government, asking for the site to be turned into a “shared worship space”.
In 2010 a fight broke out between security guards and Muslim tourists when the visitors started a round of Islamic prayers, which is banned under cathedral rules.
In 2013, a group called Platform for the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba handed a petition of 35,000 signatures to the government, calling for the building to be repossessed.
In 2014 UNESCO, controversially, officially started calling the building “The Great Mosque of Cordoba”.
Most recently, the left-wing local authority in Cordoba issued a report claiming that the church does not actually own the building – potentially paving the way to reposession.
The Bishop of Cordoba, Demetrio Fernandez Gonzalez, told the Wall Street Journal that though he thought state repossession “would be impossible”, and that he had already secured the support of the Pope should a legal battle ensue.