The Templar Knight

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Spain and Portugal – battle between Islam and Christianity

Hard to believe that modern Spain and Portugal were once part of a global caliphate (from 711 CE) – ruled by Muslim emirs. It then became a battleground between Islam and Christianity for eight hundred years. Finally, by 1492, the…

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A Portuguese queen and the Templars

The role of Teresa of Portugal in introducing the Knights Templar to the young kingdom and granting them castles and lands

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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…

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Gigantes on procession in Viana do Castelo

Since I was a child, I’ve been captivated by gigantes and cabecudos – as they are called in Portugal. I realise there are variations on those spellings in Spanish and Catalan. In religious processions, they appear and the effect is…

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Being Jewish in the Middle Ages

It must be said that being Jewish in the medieval period was challenging – to put it mildly. The fortunes of Jews at this time varied dramatically but on the whole, things were not good. From the late Roman period,…

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Toledo – former capital of Spain – photos from my visit

I visited Toledo in 2010 and spent a lovely couple of days in this medieval city. Fascinating place because you really sense the Christian, Jewish and Muslim heritage of Al-Andalus in modern Spain. Toledo was once a jewel in the…

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Santiago de Compostela – burial place of Saint James the Apostle

How on earth can a town in Spain claim to have the body of one of the apostles of Jesus Christ? But that’s exactly the assertion made by Santiago de Compostela. For over a thousand years, its cathedral has boasted…

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Abu al-Quasim – father of modern surgery

In the centuries before the Knights Templar were formed, much of Europe was ruled by Muslim emirs. These were Islamic polities prepared to absorb the learning of the Greeks and Romans and become learned civilisations. They produced great surgeons, artists…

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The turning point for Moorish rule in Spain

While the crusades suffered setbacks in the east with the loss of Jerusalem and the advances made by Saladin – all was not well for Muslim rulers in the west.  It’s often forgotten that the crusades were not just waged…

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Is it a mosque or a church?

Toledo in Spain shows how Christians and Muslims lived together and even allowed churches to become mosques and vice versa

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