Medieval Life

Medieval History of Spain

Medieval Spain was a battlefield where Christians attempted to regain control from the Moors, who had invaded the country before the 8th century. The Moors were intent of conquering all of Western Europe, but they were stopped in the Pyrenees by Charles the Hammer. This defeat left the invaders settling in the lower parts of the country. The early years of Moorish influence in medieval Spain were marked by infighting amongst the Muslim kingdoms. The Basques, who were traditionally fiercely independent, sided with French forces to expel the Moors.

The Moors' influence on Spain during the Middle Ages is still very evident. More than 4,000 words of Arabic origin are used in modern Spanish. Moorish architecture can be found throughout Spain, with its slender columns, horseshoe arches, cupolas, and airy, colorful buildings. Geometric designs and patterns can be found in surviving religious buildings, as the Koran forbade depicting human figures in places of worship.

Medieval Jews in Spain who had found themselves to be victims of northern invaders were held in high esteem by many of the Moorish leaders. They were valued as merchants and ambassadors and were often taken into the leaders' confidence. However, as the crusaders returned home, much of the hatred felt by these knights and soldiers was taken out on Jewish populations. The plague of 1391 led many to believe it was the work of Jews, and this led to a wave of anti-Semitism and the burning of Jewish villages and ghettoes.

The reconquest of Spain lasted nearly 800 years, and the story of these holys wars can be found in such medieval literary masterpieces such as El Cantar del Mio Cid (El Cid) and France's La Chanson de Roland (The Song of Roland).

A dark era in Spain's medieval history took place with the establishment of the Spanish Inquisition in 1480. Inquisitors tortured and killed those they suspected of being heretics and false converts from the Jewish and Muslim faiths. The guilty faced imprisonment, hanging, beheading, and burning at the stake. The inquisition lasted until the 19th century, when Protestant heretics faced the same fate.

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