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27 Jul

Reconquista (718 – 1492)

The Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula commonly known as the Reconquista was fought between the Christian Kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula and the Moors who conquered the Iberian Peninsula except for the Kingdom of Asturias north from the Cantabrian Mountains between 711 and 718. The Battle of Covadonga in 718 in which the legendary Pelagius or Pelayo of Asturias achieved the first major victory over the Muslim Moors is commonly regarded as the beginning of the Reconquista. The Christian re-conquest of the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors lasted until the fall of Granada in 1492.

The Kingdom of Leon was established during the Christian expansion southwards and within Leon emerged Castile as virtually independent duchy in 950. The Kingdom of Navarre and the County of Barcelona arose in the Pyrenees and ceased to recognize the French rule in 987. However, the Reconquista had its ups and downs. The kingdoms of Christian Spain struggled with each other almost all the time and the initial Christian success was temporarily halted at the end of the 10th century by Al-Mansur Ibn Abi Amir whose rule marked the peak of the Moorish power in the Iberian Peninsula.

Sancho III of Navarre or Sancho the Great joined Leon and Castile with Kingdom of Navarre and created an opportunity for united Christian action against the Moors but his kingdom was divided among his sons into three kingdoms after his death in 1035: Navarre passed to Garcia Sanchez III, Castile and Leon to Ferdinand I, Ramiro I became the first king of Aragon, while the fourth brother was made Count of Sobrarbe and Ribagorza. The Christian re-conquest of the Iberian Peninsula was in full swing when the Caliphate of Cordoba fractured into a number of independent states (taifas) after 1031. Alfonso VI of Castile captured Toledo and plundered Al-Andalus, while Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar (El Cid) captured Valencia in Alfonso’s name although he practically ruled the city as independent ruler. However, Alfonso’s achievements were annihilated by the African Almoravids who landed in Iberia on a call of the Moors in 1086. The Almoravids were defeated by El Cid at Valencia in 1094 and subdued the Taifa Kingdoms over the following years.

Alfonso VIII and his wife Eleanor

Alfonso VIII of Castile (center)

The Almoravids ruled the Muslim Iberia until 1174 when they were overthrown by the Almohads, another Berber dynasty. The Kingdom of Aragon meanwhile continued its expansion southwards and was united with Catalonia under Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona in 1137. Aragon and Castile reached an agreement in Cazorla in 1179 dividing their areas of interest on line Logrono-Alicante ending the conflict which has been weakening both kingdoms and hindered every major action against the Moors. The turning point in the history of the Reconquista was the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212 when Alfonso VIII of Castile in alliance with Sancho VII of Navarre, Peter II of Aragon and Alfonso II of Portugal decisively defeated the Almohads. His successors conquered most of Al-Andalus over the next decades but the Moors held Granada until 1492 when it was captured by the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile and Leon. The Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula finally collapsed with the fall of Granada in 1492 and the Reconquista ended with victory of the Christian states.

A part of the Reconquista was also the so-called Portuguese Reconquista which ended in 1249 with the conquest of Algarve.

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