Spain in the Middle Ages
Created on May 2, 2020
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Spain in the Middle Ages
416 Arrival of the
476 Fall of the Roman
507 Kingdom of
711 Moorish Invasion
1031 Taifa kingdoms
conquest of Granada
The break-up of the Roman Empire
In 476, the Roman Empire fell, marking the beginning of the Middle Ages.
From the 6th century onwards, three major civilisations dominated the former Roman Empire:
- The Eastern Roman Empire: Byzantium.
- Germanic tribes who created feudal kingdoms. The Visigoths settled in Hispania.
- The Muslims (followers of Islam).
The Visigothic kingdom of Toledo (507 – 711)
In 507, the Visigoths founded a kingdom in Hispania with Toledo as its capital.
The Visigoths conquered most of the Iberian Peninsula.
- Government: the king made the laws, but sometimes he had special meetings, called the Council of Toledo, with nobles and bishops.
- Economy: most Visigoths lived in small rural communities dedicated to arable and livestock farming. People were poor.
- Religion: King Recaredo converted to Catholicism in 589 and this united the Visigothic kingdom under one religion.
- Culture: Visigoths learned to speak Latin. Saint Isidoro of Sevilla was a bishop and an important thinker, the first Christian to write an encyclopedia.
In 711, the Muslims, who already dominated North Africa, defeated the Visigoths at the Battle of Guadalete.
Within seven years, the Muslims had occupied almost all of the Iberian Peninsula.
Al-Andalus became part of the powerful Islamic empire. Córdoba became the capital of Al-Andalus.
In 756, Al-Andalus became an independent emirate.
In the 10th century (929) Emir Abderramán III proclaimed himself Caliph of Córdoba. This made Córdoba a caliphate. Al-Andalus was one of the main centres for trade and culture in the Mediterranean.
After the fall of the caliphate in the 11th century (1031), Al-Andalus broke up into several taifa kingdoms.
The life in Al-Andalus
Life in Al-Andalus were peaceful, except for the battles at the borders with the Christian kingdoms.
- Government: cities were ruled by a governor who lived in the alcazaba -a fortress-.
- Economy: many people were merchants –they bought and sold things in the souk-. There were also farmers and experts in irrigated farming –rice, wheat, oranges… were introduced in Spain by Muslims-.
- Religion: many people were Muslims. Some people were Christians and Jews.
- Culture: people spoke Arabic.
People of different origins and religions lived side by side in Al-Andalus:
- Muslims: the conquerers
- Mozarabs: Hispano-Visigothic followers of Christianity.
- Jews: Followers of Judaism.
Christians and Jews could live where they wanted to and practise their religion, but they couldn’t have authority over a Muslim or carry weapons. They had to pay special taxes, wear a special badge and obey Muslim laws.
The legacy of Al-Andalus
Al-Andalus became an important centre for economic, scientific and cultural developments.
The Muslims introduced new irrigation techniques: water wheels, wells and ditches. The fields were filled with new crops: fruit (pomegranates, melons, oranges), vegetables (aubergines, artichokes), rice and cotton.
Andalusi mathematicians introduced Arabic numerals (including number zero). They also introduced paper-making, chess…
Many words in Spanish come from Arabic: aceite, alcalde, jinete, cero, ojalá, hola…
Caliphate of Córdoba
Christians – Mozarabs
817 County of Aragon
854 Astur-Leonese Kingdom
830 Kingdom of Pamplona
897 Catalan counties
1035 Kingdom of Castile
1137 Crown of Aragon
1150 Kingdom of Navarre
1139 Kingdom of Portugal
Expansion of the Christian kingdoms
From the 8th century, small areas of Christian resistance to the Muslims became counties and kingdoms in the north of the Iberian Peninsula: the Kingdom of Asturias, established by Don Pelayo, who was a Christian leader in the Battle of Covadonga (722), which became part of the Kingdom of Castile in 1035), the Kingdom of Navarre, the county of Aragon, the Catalan counties.
In the 11th century, the Christian monarchs started to conquer Al-Andalus.
In the 13th century, following the Christian victory at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212), Al-Andalus was reduced to the Kingdom of Granada. Four major Christian kingdoms were established: the Kingdom of Castile, the Kingdom of Navarre, the Crown of Aragon and the Kingdom of Portugal.
The Iberian Peninsula in the 11th century
The Iberian Peninsula in the 13th century
Between the 8th and the 15th centuries, the Christian kingdoms expanded in to the south of the Iberian Peninsula, conquering lands from Al-Andalus, in a process called The Reconquista.
- Alfonso VI was king of Castile. In 1085 he conquered Toledo.
- In 1212 the Christians won the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, and Al-Andalus was reduced to the Kingdom of Granada.
- Jaime I was king of Aragon. In 1229 he conquered the Balearic Islands and in 1244 he conquered parts of Valencia.
- Fernando III was king of Castile and Leon. He conquered Córdoba in 1236 and Sevilla in 1248.
- Granada was the las Muslim Kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula. Christians conquered Granada in 1492.
There were three social groups in the Christian kingdoms:
- The nobles fought wars. They were the king’s vassals and provided him with men and weapons.
- The clergy worshipped God. The monks and nuns wrote manuscripts and cultivated the land. Priests looked after people and churches.
- The peasants worked the land.
The Muslims who remained living in Christian territories were called Mudejars.
The nobles and the clergy
To defend their territory, the nobles built castles and organised large armies.
Castles were fortified and located in high places.
The nobles lived in castles and trained for combat. The lady of the castle gave orders to the servants.
The Medieval Castle
The lands of the fiefdom
Most of the population were peasants, serfs, who worked for a feudal lord. They had to give him part of their harvest.
The peasants’ living conditions were very difficult, they were often hungry.
They grew cereals, pulses, vegetables, vineyards and orchards.
Their tools and agricultural techniques were very simple.
The lord’s domain
The lord lived in a castle. The peasants had to pay to him to use the forest and windmill.
The serfs worked the land. They got firewood from the forest. Cows grazed on the pastures.
Peasants lived in small villages, with a church in the centre.
Peasant houses were made of adobe walls, thatched roofs and dirt floors.
A medieval fiefdom
A Castilian city
The most important buildings (city hall and cathedral) were in the main square. The city’s festivals and religious celebrations took place here.
The wall protected the city. Its gates were closed at night.
Cities were divided into districts, made up of narrow streets (made of mud), that formed different neighbourhoods.
People who lived in the city were free and did not depend on a feudal lord. They worked in trade or as artisans (forming guilds), they made up a new social group: the bourgeoisie.
Church of San Martin de Frómista (Palencia), 11th century.
Cathedral of Zamora, 12th century.
Palma de Mallorca Cathedral, 13th century.
Cathedral of Burgos, 13th century.
The Christian kingdoms
(9th - 14th centuries)
the first Christian areas
2 social groups