History - The Catholic Reconquest


The Reconquista is the period of the Iberian Peninsula's history between the Battle of Covodonga (c.718), the first victory of Christian military forces since the Islamic Invasion, and the eventual fall of the Islamic kingdom of Granada in 1492.

Umayyad caliphate collapsed due to civil war in 1031 and the iberian territory was divided up into independent states called taifas. Without a united front they could not defend themselves against incursions by Christian forces. These Christian raids finally became conquests and in the end the taifas had to request help from the Almoravids in northern Africa.

The In the mid-12th century, the Almoravid dynasty in Morocco, which ruled most of Iberian Peninsular, was overthrown by a different dynasty: the Almohads. By 1150, these Berbers from the Atlas Mountains had conquered the Islamic part of the Iberian Peninsula  that was known to the Muslems as Al-andalus and to the Christians by the Castilian translation of La Andalucia.


The Christian kingdoms to the north were too well-established and prepared to be conquered by the Almohads and, despite some minor forays into 'alien' territories, the Almohads made no long-term advances against them. In 1212, Muhammed III (Al-Nasir) was finally defeated by King Alfonso VIII of Castile at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, initiating the rapid decline of Almohad dominance. Alfonso VIII then returned north to confront the Almohads near Toledo, in 1213.


After the death of Yusuf II in 1224, a crisis of succession arose in the Almohad Caliphate ('state'). Claimant Aballah al-Adil declared himself Almohad Caliph and quickly seized Seville, but as he turned his attention to the succession in the African regions of the Caliphate, Fernando III of Castile, heir to Alfonso in 1217, seized his opportunity.

Fernando continued his predecessor's work, ravaging the regions of Jaen and Vega de Granada, and fighting the Almohads in the Guadalquivir Valley. He captured Cordoba in 1236, Jaen in 1246, and Seville in 1248; he then took Arcos, Medina Sidonia, Jerez and Cadiz. His death in 1252 prevented the Castilians from crossing the Gibraltar Straits and taking the war to the African heartland of the Almohad empire.

Meanwhile, the Mediterranean coast of today's Andalucía remained under Moorish occupation. This region approximately comprised the present-day Almeria, Granada and Malaga provinces. Muslims fled to the Taifa of Granada (essentially a Muslim principality) after their towns and cities were recaptured by Christian forces.

The last Islamic rulers of Al-Andalus in Granada were the Nasrids, who controlled the region for the 13th and 14th centuries, and in that time built the Alhambra palace.

The territories captured by the Crown of Castile during the latter part of the Reconquista became known as the Kingdoms of Andalucía (Reinos de Andalucía). These were delineated in line with the former Moorish 'taifas', and comprised the Kingdoms of Cordoba (1236), Jaen (1246), Sevilla (1248) and later Granada (1492). (The Kingdoms stood until the post French reorganisation of Spain in 1833 when the present provinces were created).

Ferdinand III's successor in 1252 was Alfonso X, who fought a successful war with Portugal but had less success against Granada. The end of his reign in 1284 was marred by a civil war with his eldest surviving son, Sancho IV.

In 1293, at the request of the council of the Kingdom of Sevilla, King Sancho constructed castles to fortify an area in present-day Sierra de Aracena against possible Portuguese advances, and to protect the population from bandits. Because this area had been repopulated by people from Galicia and Leon, the defensive line was called the Banda Gallego.


The marriage of Catholic Monarchs (Los Reyes Católicos) Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon in 1469 united medieval Spain by joining their two great houses. Between them, they controlled vast tracts of the Iberian Peninsula. References to these monarchs can be seen across Andalucía today, as their reign marked a major turning point in the history, fortunes and power of Spain. They are buried in the Royal Chapel of Granada Cathedral.

Isabella and Ferdinand lead the Granada War, starting in 1482 and concluding with the siege and Battle of Granada in 1491. On 25 November that year, Muhammad XII (called 'Bobadil' by the Spanish), the last Nasrid ruler of Granada, signed the Treaty of Granada; by January 1492 the city had been relinquished to Christian rule. This signalled the end of Islamic power on the Iberian Peninsula.

This was the same year that Christopher Columbus sailed to the New World.


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