Plaza de la Corredera from Córdoba, Spain

Soon after the Plaza Mayor is built in Madrid, its model is taken up by other cities, even those most distant from the capital. The Plaza de la Corredera in Córdoba is the only quadrilateral square in the south of Spain and Andalusia. Its aspect is owed to the architect Antonio Ramós Valdés of Salamanca. In 1683, on the spot of an esplanade, where, throughout time, one found a Roman circus, and then a trading area in the Muslim period of the city, he builds a giant, semiregular quadrilateral, yet somewhat smaller than the one in Madrid.

After being built, the square was used for various purposes, from temporary trade fairs to arena for corridas, from where the current name originates. In the shops beneath the arches on the ground floor lie the so-called esparterías shops that traditionally sell objects braided from vegetal fibres. For almost a century now, antique shops can also be found here.

Sultanahmet Meydanı from Istanbul, Turkey

This square bears some of the ambiguity of the meeting point of the Orient and Europe. This is not a single square, but rather two squares brought together and identically named. Between the Hagia Sophia and Sultan Ahmet Camii, known as the Blue Mosque, lies a square with a fountain at its centre, often called Ayasofya Meydani, although the official name is Sultanahmet Meydani. It is a market-garden, built on the spot which held the Augusteion, the Roman forum of Augustus. Paradoxically, the long square between the Blue Mosque and the Museum of Islamic Art keeps the name Sultanahmet Park, although it is less of a park than the neighbouring square. There is no place in the world that brings together so much history. The obelisk of Theodosius the Great is, in fact, Egyptian, and was brought here in 390, from Luxor. Sculpted in Aswan granite, it was built in 1490 B.C. for the Egyptian pharaoh Thutmose III. The serpentine column was brought in 324 to the temple of Apollo at Delphi, where it celebrated the victory of the Greeks against the Persians. Cast from the alloy of the Persian weapons and melted down by the Greeks, it is now 2500 years old. Another obelisk was built in the 10th century by Constantin VII. One must also add the “German fountain” built in 1900 to mark the visit of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Then, there is the Art Nouveau façade, with the Oriental features of the building, which is now houses the rectorship of Marmara University. The Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia define a side of the square. On the opposite side, the Museum of Islamic Art is found in the palace of Ibrahim Pasha, the vizier of Suleyman the Magnificent. A marble column marks the kilometre zero of the Eastern Roman Empire, still visible in the north-eastern corner of the square. And that is not all. The square is, in fact, the arena of the Roman hippodrome.

Trg Peristil from Split, Croatia

Seen from above, the old town of Split appears like a rectangular box in which someone has placed buildings, streets and markets. Two of the markets in the citadel are large and, starting with the Middle Ages, had a key role in the history of the city, called Spalato in Italian, Narodni trg. The People’s Square, simply Pjaca for the locals, is mentioned already in the 13th century and has a number of superb gothic buildings. A bit further on, at the entrance in the citadel, lies Trg Braće Radić, called Voćni trg by the locals, meaning fruit market, in remembrance of her old, colourful role. Just outside the medieval walls there is the third great square, Republic Square. Newer, its architecture reminds one of the Venetian San Marco. It was built in a historicist style in the middle of the 19th century, in order to show that Split, long under Venetian rule, carries on the tradition. There are beautiful squares, each with a marked individuality, but the oldest and most interesting of the Split squares is by far Trg Peristril, smaller, yet seen by the locals as the historical heart of the area. Its history is special. In the beginning, the square was the interior courtyard of the palace built for the Roman emperor Diocletian in 305, on a huge, 300 square meter surface. In fact, half of the old city of Split lies within the palace walls, the best preserved Roman palace to survive to our time. After the Romans abandoned it, it will remain uninhabited for centuries, until the people of Salona take refuge from the Slavs, turning the former palace into a settlement. And a settlement it shall remain henceforth. John of Ravenna, the first local archbishop, decides the transformation of Diocletian’s mausoleum into a church. It is the moment when the palace courtyard officially becomes the cathedral square, with all the functions of a medieval square. Changes take place, but some features are kept, including the red porphyry columns.