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Scott's Crusades cameras banned from cathedral
(Filed: 14/01/2004)

The Catholic Church in Spain has refused to allow the filming of a new epic in a former mosque, writes Isambard Wilkinson

The Catholic Church has refused to allow a major film to be shot in the former Grand Mosque of Cordoba, which is now a Christian cathedral, causing a row over Spain's Islamic past.

Church authorities said the plans of Ridley Scott, the British director of Gladiator and Thelma and Louise, would "interfere with religious life".

Scott wanted to use the cathedral, known as the Mezquita, in his £54 million adventure Kingdom of Heaven, which is based on the Crusades.

But a church spokesman said: "The 200 people and the false door and walls and all the props would interrupt the religious life of the Mezquita for roughly a month, which would be disorderly and excessive."

The row has also assumed political overtones, with politicians of the traditionally communist-run city strongly criticising the Church and the Right wing for not seizing the opportunity to promote Cordoba.

Carmen Caldo, the local culture official, and the mayor, Rosa Aguilar, have made private petitions to the bishop to reconsider while strongly attacking the Church for not allowing filming.

"It seems we are losing a great opportunity and I am surprised the Church will not lend the city a helping hand," said Ms Caldo.

Scott has cut back his demands, saying he could manage with four days in the cathedral. He began shooting the film, which stars Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson and Eva Green, on Monday in Huesca in northern Spain.

The Right-wing newspaper La Razon accused Scott and the Socialist Andalusian government of "a gaffe of gigantic proportions knowing the mess they would make of one of the great heritage jewels".

The editorial suggested that the director should make a mosque "out of cardboard" as he would not know the difference.

Sensitivities over the building have existed for centuries: it was there that the Spanish-Islamic state reached its peak during the 10th century reign of Caliph Abd al-Rahman III, but it was built on the site of a Christian church.

After the expulsion of Jews and Muslims from the peninsula that began in 1492, the mosque underwent some heavy-handed Christian remodelling, with a 16th century cathedral stuck in the middle of the tiers of brick and stone arches.

Two years ago, women Muslim worshippers were thrown out of the Mezquita for attempting to pray there.

Scott's film promises to portray the brotherhood that Christians, Muslims and Jews once enjoyed in the country that lays historical claim to the "harmonious coexistence of three cultures".

8 July 2003: After 500 years, Granada's Muslims get their mosque
31 December 2002: Ridley Scott is 'truly humbled'

External links
Ridley Scott quería levantar paredes y meter a 200 técnicos en la Mezquita [13 Jan '04] - La Razon

Ridley Scott - Internet Movie Database

Kingdom of Heaven - Movies.com