Sunday, December 16, 2007





A pure tinkle like the fountains of long-lost Moorish palaces, so soothing to the ear, so arabsque in its construct, honeyed and elegant as are the arches of the Alhambra. Oh al Andaluz . . . what became of you?

It's the Reconquista, stupid: harsh and brutal and not caring a whit for the feigned purity and elegance of the invaders from the south, from the parched deserts of Africa, yearning for and appropriating what the infidel had wrought. Now losing it all Much sadness for the caliphates . . .

But how did it happen? How was it allowed to happen? What about the battles on the Iberian peninsula, Rodrigo de Vivar, El Mio Cid? How was it done.

"Lessons for Reconquest"

Lesson 1 of La Reconquista
The (old) reconquest of Spain

The Reconquista refers to the medieval Christian conquest of the Iberian peninsula (present-day Spain and Portugal) from the Moslem forces, who had invaded the area in 711. After 1000, the Moslem caliphate of Cordoba began to break into several smaller states divided by warfare. This provided the opportunity for Christian forces to initiate the Reconquista, led by the Kingdom of Castile which captured the important Moslem city of Toledo in 1085.

The kingdom of Aragón also began its own offensive against the Moors in the early twelfth century and the union with Catalonia in 1140 furnished additional military strength. In 1212, Pope Innocent III proclaimed a full crusade against the Moors and the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in the same year provided the Christians with a decisive victory from which the Moors never fully recovered. Castile captured Cordoba in 1236 and Cadiz in 1262. By 1270, the Moors were confined to the small Kingdom of Granada in the south of Spain, which they held until 1492 when Ferdinand V and Isabella I completed the Reconquista by capturing the last Moorish enclave in Spain.

Timeline of the Reconquista

711 to 718: Muslim armies invade Iberia and successfully push inland.

718: Pelayo, a noble Visigoth who has been elected king, defeats the Muslim army in Alcama, thus beginning the Christian Reconquest of Spain.

750: The Christians, under Alfonso I, occupy Galicia, which had been abandoned by revolting Berber troops.

778: The army of Charlemagne suffers the defeat of Roncesvalles at the hands of the Vascons; death of Roland.

791 to 842: Alfonso II conquers a number of strongholds and settles the lands south of the river Duero.

873 to 898: Wilfredo the Hairy, Count of Barcelona, sets up a Christian kingdom with a certain degree of independence from the Frankish kings.

905 to 926: Sancho I Garces creates a Basque kingdom centred on Navarre.

930 to 950: Ramiro II, king of Leon, defeats Abd al-Rahman III at Simancas, Osma and Talavera.

950 to 951: Count Fernan Gonzalez lays the foundations for the independence of Castile.

981: Ramiro III is defeated by Almansur at Rueda and is obliged to pay tribute to the Caliph of Cordova.

999 to 1018: Alfonso V of Leon reconstructs his kingdoms.

1000 to 1033: Sancho III of Navarre subdues the counties of Aragon, Sobrarbe and Ribagorza, takes possession of the County of Castile and makes an arrangement with Bermudo III of Leon with the idea of taking away his dominions from him and proclaiming himself as emperor. However, on his death, he leaves Navarre to his son Garcia III, Castile to Fernando I, and Aragon, Sobrarbe and Ribagorza to Ramiro I.

1035 to 1063: Fernando I conquers Coimbra and obliges the Muslims of Toledo, Seville and Badajoz to pay him tribute. Before his death, he divides his territories between his sons: Castile goes to Sancho II and Leon to Alfonso VI.

1065 to 1109: Alfonso VI unites the two kingdoms under his sceptre and takes Toledo.

1086: The Christian advance obliges the Muslim kings of Granada, Seville and Badajoz to call to their aid the Almoravides.

1102: The followers of the Cid leave Valencia and the African Muslims occupy the peninsula as far as Saragossa (Zaragoza).

1118: Alfonso I of Aragon conquers Saragossa.

1135: Alfonso VII of Leon restores the prestige of the Leonese monarchy and is proclaimed emperor.

1151: The Almohades, another African dynasty that has displaced the Almoravides, retake Almaria.

1162: Alfonso II, son of Petronila and Ramon Berenguer IV, unites in his person the kingdom of Aragon and the County of Barcelona.

1195: The Almohades defeat the Castilians at Alarcos.

1212: Culmination of the Reconquest. Alfonso VIII of Castile, helped by Sancho VIII of Navarre, Pedro II of Aragon and some troops from Portugal and Leon, is victorious in the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa.

1229: Jaime I of Aragon, the Conqueror, reconquers Marllorca.

1230: Alfonso IX of Leon advances along the River Guadiana, takes Merida and Badajoz, and opens up the way for the conquest of Seville.

1217 to 1252: Fernando III, King of Castile and Leon, conquers Cordova, Murcia, Jaen and Seville. Granada remains as the sole independent Muslim kingdom.

1252 to 1284: Alfonso X the Wise continues the Reconquest and is obliged to face the 'Mudejar' revolts of Andalusia and Murcia. He seeks election as emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1257. Alfonso X drafts the 'Fuero de las Leyes', the forerunner of the 'Siete Partidas'.

1284: An assembly of nobles, prelates and citizens depose Alfonso X and hand over power to his son Sancho IV.

1309: Fernando IV takes Gibraltar.

1312 to 1350: Alfonso XI fights the kingdom of Granada for 25 years and in 1340 wins the battle of Rio Salado.

1369: Pedro I the Cruel is murdered in Montiel by his half brother Enrique de Trastamara, who then governs as Enrique II.

1385: The Portuguese defeat the Castilians in Aljubarrota.

1464: Enrique IV of Castile names as heir to the throne his sister, the future Isabel I, the Catholic, and disinherits his daughter Juana, nicknamed 'La Beltraneja'.

1469: Isabel I of Castile and Fernando II of Aragon are married, thus cunsummating the unity of Spain.

1492: The Catholic Monarchs, Isabel and Fernando, take advantage of the rivalry of the last Muslim governors of Spain and complete the Reconquest by taking Granada (January 2nd). Discovery of America (October 12th).

The European Voyages of Exploration /Department of History / The University of Calgary
Copyright © 1997, The Applied History Research Group

Q: So, what do we learn from this, regarding a "Re-Conquest" of lands lost to the Moslems?

A: 1. That it took a hell of a long time from the Islamic incursion until the last Moslems were forced out of Spain: actually, 781 years! So, don't expect a quick fix if our lands fall under Islamic rule.

2. that it never was a one-shot deal, that is, where you defeat them, push them out, and they don't sometimes come right back

Through the eight centuries of warfare, the re-conquistadors liberated Spain and destroyed all mosques, and reconverted them into Churches, they also forcibly re-converted the Muslims who stayed back into Christians, and burnt at the stake all those who refused to embrace the true faith. Thus they wiped out all traces of the eight hundred year long Muslim tyranny in Spain. Muslim rule in Spain became a faint memory, that was overshadowed by the grandeur of Catholic Spain that came later. The Century of Gold that followed with the opening up of the New World and the legendary El Dorado, with the Colonization of the Americas and of the East Indies, all contributed to the Muslim occupation of Spain being forgotten even as an aberration, or a nightmare.

The Christians called Saint James their protector saint (today he is still the patron of Spain) under the rubric of Santiago Matamoros (St. James the Moor-killer)

. . . there were hardly any Moors left in Spain. The re-conquistadors also destroyed all mosques, and reconverted them into Churches

sic semper musulmanes (ojala)

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