On this day January 2, 1492

The Reconquista ended when the forces of Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon defeated the armies of Abu ‘abd-Allah Muhammad XII of Granada, the last of the Moorish rulers.

patio_de_los_arrayanesThe Reconquista (a Spanish and Portuguese word for “Reconquest”; Arabic: الاسترداد al-ʼIstirdād, “Recapturing”) was a period of 800 years in the Middle Ages during which several Christian kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula succeeded in retaking the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslims.

The Islamic conquest of the Christian Visigothic kingdom in the eighth century (begun 710 – 712) extended over almost the entire peninsula (except major parts of Galicia, the Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country). By the thirteenth century all that remained was the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada, to be conquered in 1492, bringing the entire peninsula under Christian leadership.

Completed towards the end of Muslim rule in Spain by Yusuf I (1333-1353) and Muhammed V, Sultan of Granada (1353-1391), the Alhambra is a reflection of the culture of the last days of the Nasrid emirate of Granada.

It is a place where artists and intellectuals had taken refuge as Christian Spain won victories over Al Andalus. The Alhambra mixes natural elements with man-made ones, and is a testament to the skill of Muslim craftsmen of that time.

The literal translation of Alhambra “red fortress” derives from the colour of the red clay of the surroundings of which the fort is made. The buildings of the Alhambra were originally whitewashed; however, the buildings now seen today are reddish.

The Reconquista began in the immediate aftermath of the Islamic conquest and passed through major phases before its completion. The formation of the Kingdom of Asturias under Pelagius and the Battle of Covadonga in 722 were major formative events. Charlemagne (768 – 814) reconquered the western Pyrenees and Septimania and formed a Marca Hispanica to defend the border between Francia and the Muslims.

After the advent of the Crusades, much of the ideology of Reconquista was subsumed within the wider context of Crusading. Even before the Crusades, however, soldiers from elsewhere in Europe had been travelling to the Spain to participate in the Reconquista as an act of Christian penitence.

Throughout this period the situation in Iberia was more nuanced and complicated than any ideology would allow. Christian and Muslim rulers commonly fought amongst themselves and interfaith alliances were not unusual.

The fighting along the Christian-Muslim frontier was punctuated by periods of prolonged peace and truces. The Muslims did not cease to start offensives aimed at reconquering their lost territories. Blurring the sides even further were mercenaries who simply fought for whoever paid more.

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