History - The Catholic Monarchs: Fernando III to the Hapsburgs

Spain under Christian rule


Fernando III started the Christian reconquest of Spain from the Moors in 1248, by taking the city of Seville. But changing rulers from Moorish to Christian rule didn't remove the Arabic influence: one of Rey San Fernando's successors, Pedro the Cruel, was a lover of Moorish culture, and used Islamic craftsmen from the cities of Granada and Toledo to build the Mudejar Alcazar in the city in 1364.

In the meantime, the rest of Andalucia remained under Moorish occupation - Muslims from Seville fled to Granada after the city was recaptured - until the Reyes Catolicos (Catholic Monarchs) reconquered Granada from the Nasrids in 1492. This was the same year Columbus sailed to the New World.

Isabel and Ferdinand, the Catholics Monarchs, were a marriage which united medieval Spain: the great houses of Castile and Aragon, which between them controlled vast tracts of the peninsula. You can see references to the Monarchs all over Andalucia, as their reign marked a key turning point in Spain's history, its fortunes and its power. They are buried in the Royal Chapel of Granada Cathedral. A few years before the Reconquest, the Inquisition had started in Christian-ruled Seville, and the Jews were expelled from Spain (or forced to convert to Christianity if they chose to stay).

The 1500s were a period of great wealth for Andalucia, with riches - gold, silver, spices, new exotic foods - brought back from the newly conquered colonies in South America. Andalucia became an important trading area, with Seville being Spain's largest city. Seville held the monopoly on trade from the New World for two centuries; Cadiz (sacked by the English in 1596), Malaga, and Almeria were also key ports.


The rulers of Spain during this period were the Hapsburgs: Carlos I (the Monarchs' grandson) was the first Holy Roman Emperor -his rule encompassed Flanders, the Netherlands, American colonies, and parts of France, with his empire's capital in Seville.

The 1600s were the Golden Age, with great painters such as Velazquez and Murillo achieving fame and status, and Cervantes spending time in Seville before he published Don Quixote. A century after the Moorish uprising in 1502, all remaining Moors were expelled from Spain in 1609. With the exodus of the Jews in addition, a labour and professional gap was created.

The succeeding monarchs used wealth from the colonies to fund various European wars against Protestants - losing their properties in northern Europe - and the Ottoman Turks in the Mediterranean. But as the flow of riches from the New World decreased, Spain and Andalucia sank into economic decline. Many Andalucians emigrated to the colonies to seek their fortune.

In the late 17th century, as British monarchs William and Mary were fighting the French King, Louis XIV, an English warship was sunk off Gibraltar; see HMS Sussex shipwreck.


Important buildings from this period include Mudejar, Gothic and Renaissance masterpieces: