Muslim Spain in the Middle Ages

For a long time, Spain struggled to suppress or forget the centuries of rule under the Islamic caliphate. In the year 711, only decades after the death of the prophet Mohammed, the Iberian peninsula was invaded right up to the Pyrenees and beyond. In fact, the Muslim army got as far as the city of Tours in France before it was repelled. But from then until the 12th century AD, most of what we now call Spain and Portugal was under Islamic rule. And it’s a fact that the majority of the population – based in the southern half of the peninsula – became or was Muslim.

The high point of the caliphate’s rule was from the 800s to the 1000s when the emirs of Cordoba oversaw the creation of great cities, places of learning and a flourishing culture. Their libraries would transmit lost portions of Greek and Roman literature and learning to the rest of Europe.

The Christian fight back started from 711 and continued until 1492 when the last Islamic foothold in Grenada was dislodged.  It was a slow process called the ‘Reconquista’ and the kingdoms that emerged were hugely different from the Visigoth, Germanic rooted Christian Spain that that had been overrun in the 8th century. For a start, the Islamic influence was everywhere – particularly in the buildings. And if you go to Toledo, Cordoba and Seville – you just can’t avoid it….as my photos from my visits below prove!

Outside the mosque/church

Outside the mosque/church

Started as a Visigoth church, became a mosque, then back to a church

Started as a Visigoth church, became a mosque, then back to a church

A church then a mosque and back to a church

A church then a mosque and back to a church

Formerly a synagogue in Toledo - a city of three Abrahamic faiths in the Middle Ages

Formerly a synagogue in Toledo – a city of three Abrahamic faiths in the Middle Ages

A door in Toledo

A door in Toledo

A sea of arches inside the Great Mosque of Cordoba - converted later to a cathedral

A sea of arches inside the Great Mosque of Cordoba – converted later to a cathedral

The Great Mosque of Cordoba built by Abd al Rahman in the 9th century

The Great Mosque of Cordoba built by Abd al Rahman in the 9th century

A door in Cordoba - the city was once the largest in western Europe

A door in Cordoba – the city was once the largest in western Europe

The Alcazar in Seville - remodelled by Christian rulers who used Moorish builders

The Alcazar in Seville – remodelled by Christian rulers who used Moorish builders

The Alcazar in Seville

The Alcazar in Seville

The Alcazar or ruler's home in Seville

The Alcazar or ruler’s home in Seville

A Moorish tower in Seville

A Moorish tower in Seville

The walls of medieval Seville

The walls of medieval Seville

Now a restaurant but once a Moorish dwelling

Now a restaurant but once a Moorish dwelling

6 Comments on “Muslim Spain in the Middle Ages

  1. As someone who traces much of his ancestry to medieval Spain, this piece is of particular interest to me. One of my father’s maternal ancestors was Queen Isabella who funded Columbus’ voyage to the Americas. My father has done extensive genealogical research and has traced our roots to before Isabella’s time. Thanks for the photos! Those structures are truly magnificent.

  2. Pingback: Muslim Spain in the Middle Ages | The 9th Templar Story

%d bloggers like this: