Reconquista

The Reconquista (Spanish and Portuguese for reconquest) was the conquest of the Moorishish kingdoms of Spain by Christian rulers, culminating on January 2, 1492 when Ferdinand and Isabella, Los Reyes Catolicos, ("The Catholic Monarchs") expelled the last of the Moorish rulers, Boabdil of Granada, from the Iberian peninsula, uniting most of what is now Spain under their rule (Navarre was not incorporated until 1512).

After the Muslim invasion of Iberia in 711 and the Battle of Guadalete the Moors had conquered most of Iberia within five years. The reconquest begain in 718 with the defeat of the Muslim army at Alcama by the Visigoth Pelayo.

It was not until later centuries that the Christians started to see their conquests as part of a secular effort to restore the unity of the Visigothic kingdom.

The battle against Moors did not keep the Christian kingdoms from battling among themselves or allying with Islamic kings. For example, the earlier kings of Navarre were family of the Banu Qasi of Tudela. The Moorish kings often had wives or mothers born Christians. Also Christian champions like the Cid were contracted by Taifa kings to fight against their neighbours.

In the late years of Al-Andalus, Castile had the military power to conquer the remains of the kingdom of Granada, but the kings preferred to claim the tribute of the parias. The commerce of Granadan goods and the parias were a main way for the African gold to enter medieval Europe.

In the High Middle Ages, the fight against the Moors in Iberia was linked to the fight of the whole Christendom. Military orders like order of Santiago, Montesa, the Temple Knights were founded or called. The Popes called the knights of Europe to the Crusades in the Peninsula. French, Navarrese, Castilian and Aragonese armies united in the massive battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212).

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

The big territories awarded to military orders and nobles were the origin of the latifundies in today's Andalusia and Extremadura.

The mixing of Christians, Muslims and Jews was to cause later crisis and the limpieza de sangre rules of ethnic purity of the Modern Ages.

Social types under the Reconquista

The advances and retreats created several social types:
  • the Mozarabs: Descendants of Visigothic or Romanic dwellers who did not convert to Islam. Some of them migrated to the North in times of persecution.
  • the Muladi: Christians who converted to Islam after the invasion.
  • the Renegade: Christian individuals who embraced Islam and often fight against their former compatriots.
  • the Mudejar: Muslims dwelling in land conquered by the Christians. They were usually peasants. Their characteristic architecture of adobe bricks was frequently employed in churches commissioned by the new lords. Their descendants after 1492 were called Moriscos

Currently, along the Mediterranean coast, the festivals of moros y cristianos ("Moors and Christians") recreate the fights as colourful parades with elaborate garments and lots of fireworks.

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