The Moorish Invasion of Spain and

the Christian Reconquest

By Daniel Medley


The Moors were a nomadic people from North Africa; originally they were the inhabitants of Mauretania. They invaded Spain, taking their Islamic religion and culture with them, in 711, where they overran the Visigoths. They spread northward across the Pyrenees into France, but they were turned back by Charles Martel and his Frankish knights in 732.

In Southern Spain,the Moors established the Umayyad caliphate in Cordoba. The court grew in wealth, power, and culture. Other cities full of Moorish culture were Toledo, Granada, and Seville. The Moors never established a stable central government. In the 11th Century the caliphate fell, and Moorish Spain was captured by the Almoravids, who were supplanted in 1174 by the Almohads. During this period, Christian rulers continued efforts in Northern Spain to recapture the south. In 1085 Alfonso VI of Leon and Castile recaptured Toledo. Cordoba fell in 1236, and one by one the Moorish strongholds surrendered. The last Moorish city, Granada, was captured by Fernidad V and Isabella I in 1492. Most of the Moors were driven from Spain, but two groups, the Mudejares and Moriscos, remained.

Seven hundred years of Moorish influence left an unmistakable mark on Spain, making it markedly different even today from the rest of Western Europe. The Moors not only brought their religion, but also their music, their art, their view of life, and their architecture...two of the greatest examples of which are the Alhambra in Granada and the Escorial in Cordoba.



Reconquest Timeline

Pre-Reconquest Spain

711: The Muslim troops cross the Strait of Gibraltar and defeat the Visigoths at the battle of Guadalete.

732: Muslim conquest halted by Charles Martel.

718: Pelayo, a noble Visigoth who had been made king, defeats the Muslim Army in Alcama, beginning of the Christian Reconquest of Spain.

750: The Christians recapture Galicia, which had been abandoned by revolting Berber troops.

Reconquest 750

778: Charlemagne suffers defeat at Roncesvalles to the Vascons.

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

873 to 898: Christian kingdom set up with a declaration of independence from the Frankish kings.

Reconquest 900

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

950 to 951: Foundations laid for the independence of Castile.

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

999 to 1018: Alfonso V 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 forces the Muslims of Toledo, Seville and Badajoz to pay him tribute. Before his death, he shares out 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 power and takes Toledo.

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

Reconquest 1100

1102: The followers of the Cid leave Valencia and the African Muslims occupy the Peninsula as far as Saragossa.

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 who have displaced the Almoravides, retake Almaria.

1162: Alfonso II, unites the kingdom of Aragon and the County of Barcelona.

1195: The Almohades defeat the Castilians at Alarcos.

1212: 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 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 forced to face the 'Mudejar' revolts of Andalusia and Murcia. He seeks election as emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1257.

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

Reconquest 1300

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 creating unity in Spain.

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

Reconquest 1500


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