Crusades Spain and Islam

While technically not called a crusade until the mid-1100s, the reconquest of Spain by Christians, the Reconquista , is considered part of the expansionist policy of a resurgent Christian Europe.


In 711 CE, Muslim warriors crossed the Straits of Gibraltar and in less than 10 years had conquered the Visigothic Kingdom of Spain, pushing the Christian kingdoms to the Atlantic Coast and had crossed the Pyrenees Mountains and seized a swath of what is now France; along the Mediterranean Coast including the city of Narbonne. In 732 CE Charles Martel turned back a Moorish invasion of Central France at the Battle of Tours. In 759 CE, Charles Martel’s son, Pippin I, King of the Franks, finally captured Narbonne and pushed the Moors back into Spain proper.

The Reconquesta:

In the Year 1000 CE, the Christian Kingdoms of Leon, Castile, Navarre, Aragon and Barcelona formed an arc form west to east along the Atlantic Coast through the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean Coast and together occupied about a third of the territory of modern Spain. A number of small Muslim states occupied the remainder.

In 1085 CE the Kingdom of Castile took the lead on the reconquest by taking the Muslim city of Toledo. The reconquest proceeded slowly because the Christians spent as much time fighting each other as they did the Muslims. Often the Christian princes would form temporary alliances with Muslim leaders to gain some advantage over other Christian kings. However, in 1118 the Kingdom of Aragon managed to capture Saragossa and absorbed the Christian Kingdom of Barcelona.

The slow pace of the wars picked up when Pope Innocent the Third declared a formal crusade against the Moors in Al Andulus. Backed by a huge army made up of knights from all over Europe the King of Castile advanced from Toledo and defeated an equally large Muslim army at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa. This battle broke the back of Muslim power in Spain. In 1236 the great Muslim capitol of Cordoba fell to Castile. In 1238 the King of Aragon occupied Valencia and then overran the Balearic Islands.

By 1264 the Moors were confined to the small southern enclave of Granada. The Moors hung on to this sliver of territory until the combined forces of Aragon and Castile, lead by Ferdinand and Isabella finally defeated them in 1492. This was also the same year that the combined Spanish monarchy dispatched Columbus on his famous voyage.


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