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!