Local authorities in Córdoba have dealt a blow to the Catholic church’s claim of legal ownership of the Spanish city’s mosque-cathedral, declaring that “religious consecration is not the way to acquire property”. It lies on the site of a Visigothic Christian church built in the early 9th century and was given to the local bishop by Fernando III in 1236 when the city fell to Christian forces. In 2006 the Catholic diocese of Córdoba, making use of a law dating back to the dictatorship of General Franco, paid €30 to register ownership of what it calls the cathedral-mosque or sometimes just the cathedral. In recent years the word mosque has been removed from the monument’s website, leaflets and tickets; a move that might make it more difficult for visitors to appreciate the site’s history as a place of worship for Muslims and Christians. While mass is held in the building, the local bishop has banned Muslims from praying there. The council’s approved name is the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba. In 2013, hundreds of thousands of people signed a petition for the building to be managed by the local authority rather than the church in order to conserve its cultural heritage. It was in response to an inquiry into whether the city of Córdoba could ever claim ownership that the report was published.
The council’s report says the building does not belong to the church nor to any other organisation or individual. Lavela writes that the church’s acquisition has no legal basis and cannot confer ownership. This, he adds, is not just because the site has since 1984 been a Unesco world heritage site “of exceptional universal value” and therefore cannot be owned by anyone. Citing Roman law, Lavela argues that the site’s true owners “are each and every citizen of the world from whatever epoch and regardless of people, nation, culture or race”. That would be an appropriate description of common ownership as advocated by the World Socialist Movement