The origins of this Benedictine abbey in Alet remain unknown: its foundation is attributed to Béra, the count of Razès, and his wife, Romille, in 813 A.D. but the documentary source of this information is not sure.
The history of the abbey has been one of a succession of quarrels and conflict due to its strategic location: for example, in the 11th century the abbey was ravaged by the Count of Carcassonne, then, in 1119, Alet abbey's rights over the abbey of Saint-Polycarpe were recognised to the detriment of the Lagrasse abbey.
The 12th century marked the peak of the abbey's history. It was very influential and attracted many pilgrims who came to see the abbey's relics of the Holy Cross.
The abbey was greatly weakened by the Crusade against the Cathars because of the ensuing conflicts with the Archbishop of Narbonne and the confiscation of property.
The Diocese of Alet was one of several bishoprics created in 1317 in the wake of the suppression of the Cathars. In Alet the bishops were also the abbots of the already existing monastery there and the cathedral of Our Lady was built next to the abbey.
In 1577 the cathedral was largely destroyed by the Huguenots during the Wars of Religion and was not subsequently rebuilt. The immense Gothic quire was demolished by order of the last bishop, Charles de la Cropte de Chancerac in 1776. The diocese of Alet was not restored after the French Revolution and by the Concordat of 1801 its parishes were added to the Diocese of Carcassonne.
The cathedral ruins remain a spectacular sight. As the main cathedral was for so long in ruins, part of the monastic buildings were used as an emergency substitute. These premises were known as St. Benedict's Cathedral.References:
The Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba, also known as the Great Mosque of Córdoba and the Mezquita is regarded as one of the most accomplished monuments of Moorish architecture.
According to a traditional account, a small Visigoth church, the Catholic Basilica of Saint Vincent of Lérins, originally stood on the site. In 784 Abd al-Rahman I ordered construction of the Great Mosque, which was considerably expanded by later Muslim rulers. The mosque underwent numerous subsequent changes: Abd al-Rahman II ordered a new minaret, while in 961 Al-Hakam II enlarged the building and enriched the Mihrab. The last of such reforms was carried out by Almanzor in 987. It was connected to the Caliph"s palace by a raised walkway, mosques within the palaces being the tradition for previous Islamic rulers – as well as Christian Kings who built their palaces adjacent to churches. The Mezquita reached its current dimensions in 987 with the completion of the outer naves and courtyard.
In 1236, Córdoba was conquered by King Ferdinand III of Castile, and the centre of the mosque was converted into a Catholic cathedral. Alfonso X oversaw the construction of the Villaviciosa Chapel and the Royal Chapel within the mosque. The kings who followed added further Christian features, such as King Henry II rebuilding the chapel in the 14th century. The minaret of the mosque was also converted to the bell tower of the cathedral. It was adorned with Santiago de Compostela"s captured cathedral bells. Following a windstorm in 1589, the former minaret was further reinforced by encasing it within a new structure.
The most significant alteration was the building of a Renaissance cathedral nave in the middle of the expansive structure. The insertion was constructed by permission of Charles V, king of Castile and Aragon. Artisans and architects continued to add to the existing structure until the late 18th century.
The building"s floor plan is seen to be parallel to some of the earliest mosques built from the very beginning of Islam. It had a rectangular prayer hall with aisles arranged perpendicular to the qibla, the direction towards which Muslims pray. The prayer hall was large and flat, with timber ceilings held up by arches of horseshoe-like appearance.
In planning the mosque, the architects incorporated a number of Roman columns with choice capitals. Some of the columns were already in the Gothic structure; others were sent from various regions of Iberia as presents from the governors of provinces. Ivory, jasper, porphyry, gold, silver, copper, and brass were used in the decorations. Marvellous mosaics and azulejos were designed. Later, the immense temple embodied all the styles of Morisco architecture into one composition.
The building is most notable for its arcaded hypostyle hall, with 856 columns of jasper, onyx, marble, granite and porphyry. These were made from pieces of the Roman temple that had occupied the site previously, as well as other Roman buildings, such as the Mérida amphitheatre. The double arches were an innovation, permitting higher ceilings than would otherwise be possible with relatively low columns. The double arches consist of a lower horseshoe arch and an upper semi-circular arch.