- Explain how the Reconquista led to Spain’s increasing commitment to Catholicism
- The Reconquista is a period in the history of the Iberian Peninsula, spanning approximately 770 years, between the initial Umayyad conquest of Hispania in the 710s and the fall of the Emirate of Granada, the last Islamic state on the peninsula, to expanding Christian kingdoms in 1492.
- By 718 the Muslims were in control of nearly the whole Iberian Peninsula. The advance into Western Europe was only stopped in what is now north-central France by the West Germanic Franks at the Battle of Tours in 732.
- The Kingdom of Asturias became the main base for Christian resistance to Islamic rule in the Iberian Peninsula for several centuries. Medieval Spain was the scene of almost constant warfare between Muslims and Christians.
- By 1250, nearly all of Iberia was back under Christian rule, with the exception of the Muslim kingdom of Granada—the only independent Muslim realm in Spain that would last until 1492.
- Around 1480, Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile (known as the Catholic Monarchs) established what would be known as the Spanish Inquisition. It was intended to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms.
- In the aftermath of the Reconquista and the Inquisition, Catholicism dominated the politics, social relations, and culture of Spain, shaping Spain as a state and the Spanish as a nation.
An edict issued on March 31, 1492, by the joint Catholic Monarchs of Spain (Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon) ordering the expulsion of practicing Jews from the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon and its territories and possessions by July 31 of that year.
Battle of Covadonga
The first victory by a Christian military force in Iberia following the Islamic conquest of Visigothic Hispania in 711–718. It was fought most likely in 722. The battle was followed by the creation of an independent Christian principality in the mountains of Asturias that became a bastion of Christian resistance to the expansion of Muslim rule. It was from there that the return of Christian rule to the entire Iberian peninsula began.
A kingdom that occupied what is now southwestern France and the Iberian Peninsula from the 5th century to the 8th century. One of the Germanic successor states to the Western Roman Empire, the kingdom maintained independence from the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire. During its existence, Catholicism coalesced in Spain.
Kingdom of Asturias
A kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula founded in 718 by the nobleman Pelagius of Asturias. In 718 or 722, Pelagius defeated an Umayyad patrol at the Battle of Covadonga, in what is usually regarded as the beginning of the Reconquista. It transitioned to the Kingdom of León in 924 and
became the main base for Christian resistance to Islamic rule in the Iberian Peninsula for several centuries.
the Catholic Monarchs
The joint title used in history for Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon. They were both from the House of Trastámara and were second cousins, both descended from John I of Castile; on marriage they were given a papal dispensation to deal with consanguinity by Sixtus IV. They established the Spanish Inquisition around 1480.
A Christian belief that asserts that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who was created by God the Father at a point in time, is distinct from the Father, and is therefore subordinate to the Father. Arian teachings were first attributed to Arius (c. 250–336 CE), a Christian presbyter in Alexandria, Egypt. They gained popularity in the Iberian Peninsula before Catholicism became the predominant religion of the region.
The Reconquista (“reconquest”) is a period in the history of the Iberian Peninsula, spanning approximately 770 years, between the initial Umayyad conquest of Hispania in the 710s and the fall of the Emirate of Granada, the last Islamic state on the peninsula, to expanding Christian kingdoms in 1492. Historians traditionally mark the beginning of the Reconquista with the Battle of Covadonga (most likely in 722), and its end is associated with Portuguese and Spanish colonization of the Americas.
The Arab Islamic conquest had dominated most of North Africa by 710 CE. In 711 an Islamic Berber raiding party, led by Tariq ibn Ziyad, was sent to Iberia to intervene in a civil war in the Visigothic Kingdom. Tariq’s army crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and won a decisive victory in the summer of 711 when the Visigothic King Roderic was defeated and killed at the Battle of Guadalete. Tariq’s commander, Musa, quickly crossed with Arab reinforcements, and by 718 the Muslims were in control of nearly the whole Iberian Peninsula. The advance into Western Europe was only stopped in what is now north-central France by the West Germanic Franks at the Battle of Tours in 732.
A decisive victory for the Christians took place at Covadonga, in the north of the Iberian Peninsula, in the summer of 722. In a minor battle known as the Battle of Covadonga, a Muslim force sent to put down the Christian rebels in the northern mountains was defeated by Pelagius of Asturias, who established the monarchy of the Christian Kingdom of Asturias. In 739, a rebellion in Galicia, assisted by the Asturians, drove out Muslim forces, and it joined the Asturian kingdom. The Kingdom of Asturias became the main base for Christian resistance to Islamic rule in the Iberian Peninsula for several centuries.
Warfare between Muslims and Christians
Muslim interest in the peninsula returned in force around when Al-Mansur sacked Barcelona in 985. Under his son, other Christian cities were subjected to numerous raids. After his son’s death, the caliphate plunged into a civil war and splintered into the so-called “Taifa Kingdoms.” Medieval Spain was the scene of almost constant warfare between Muslims and Christians. The Almohads, who had taken control of the Almoravids’ Maghribi and al-Andalus territories by 1147, surpassed the Almoravides in fundamentalist Islamic outlook, and they treated the non-believer dhimmis harshly. Faced with the choice of death, conversion, or emigration, many Jews and Christians left.
The Taifa kingdoms lost ground to the Christian realms in the north. After the loss of Toledo in 1085, the Muslim rulers reluctantly invited the Almoravides, who invaded Al-Andalus from North Africa and established an empire. In the 12th century the Almoravid empire broke up again, only to be taken over by the invasion of the Almohads, who were defeated by an alliance of the Christian kingdoms in the decisive battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212. By 1250, nearly all of Iberia was back under Christian rule, with the exception of the Muslim kingdom of Granada—the only independent Muslim realm in Spain that would last until 1492.
Despite the decline in Muslim-controlled kingdoms, it is important to note the lasting effects exerted on the peninsula by Muslims in technology, culture, and society.
Around 1480, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, known as the Catholic Monarchs, established what would be known as the Spanish Inquisition. It was intended to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms and to replace the Medieval Inquisition, which was under Papal control. It covered Spain and all the Spanish colonies and territories, which included the Canary Islands, the Spanish Netherlands, the Kingdom of Naples, and all Spanish possessions in North, Central, and South America.
People who converted to Catholicism were not subject to expulsion, but between 1480 and 1492 hundreds of those who had converted (conversos and moriscos) were accused of secretly practicing their original religion (crypto-Judaism or crypto-Islam) and arrested, imprisoned, interrogated under torture, and in some cases burned to death, in both Castile and Aragon. In 1492 Ferdinand and Isabella ordered segregation of communities to create closed quarters that became what were later called “ghettos.” They also furthered economic pressures upon Jews and other non-Christians by increasing taxes and social restrictions. In 1492 the monarchs issued a decree of expulsion of Jews, known formally as the Alhambra Decree, which gave Jews in Spain four months to either convert to Catholicism or leave Spain. Tens of thousands of Jews emigrated to other lands such as Portugal, North Africa, the Low Countries, Italy, and the Ottoman Empire. Later in 1492, Ferdinand issued a letter addressed to the Jews who had left Castile and Aragon, inviting them back to Spain if they had become Christians. The Inquisition was not definitively abolished until 1834, during the reign of Isabella II, after a period of declining influence in the preceding century.
Most of the descendants of the Muslims who submitted to conversion to Christianity rather than exile during the early periods of the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition, the Moriscos, were later expelled from Spain after serious social upheaval, when the Inquisition was at its height. The expulsions were carried out more severely in eastern Spain (Valencia and Aragon) due to local animosity towards Muslims and Moriscos perceived as economic rivals; local workers saw them as cheap labor undermining their bargaining position with the landlords. Those that the Spanish Inquisition found to be secretly practicing Islam or Judaism were executed, imprisoned, or expelled. Nevertheless, all those deemed to be “New Christians” were perpetually suspected of various crimes against the Spanish state, including continued practice of Islam or Judaism.
Although the period of rule by the Visigothic Kingdom (c. 5th–8th centuries) saw the brief spread of Arianism, Catholic religion coalesced in Spain at the time. The Councils of Toledo debated creed and liturgy in orthodox Catholicism, and the Council of Lerida in 546 constrained the clergy and extended the power of law over them under the blessings of Rome. In 587, the Visigothic king at Toledo, Reccared, converted to Catholicism and launched a movement in Spain to unify the various religious doctrines that existed in the land. This put an end to dissension on the question of Arianism. The period of Reconquista and the Spanish Inquisition that followed turned Catholicism into the dominant religion of Spain, which has shaped the development of the Spanish state and national identity.