Medieval Spain started with the arrival of the Visigoths in the late 5th century to the end of the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella in the 16th century.
However, its roots can be traced back to the medieval countries and kingdoms including Galicia, Leon, Castile, Aragon, Navarre, Catalonia, Valencia, Murcia, and Granada. These countries all contributed to what has been known as the Spanish language as well as the country itself.
There was quite a debate whether feudalism existed in Spain or not. Historians believed that feudalism can be traced back to the height of the dark ages, especially when dealing with the history of Spain. However, English scholars had the tendency of downplaying feudalism with its application to the early Middle Ages. This was in contradiction to the more recent trends in Spanish historiography where feudalism was pushed back to the time of the Visigoth Kingdom, which is called protofeudalism. French historians believed that protofeudalism did not exist in medieval Spain as sworn by the public instead of individuals.
Medieval Spain was a Medieval Superpower
Medieval Spain – Daily Life
Medieval Spain was a battlefield between Muslims and Christians. They fought for their lands and this fight lasted through 700 years. This marked the peninsula as a military contended space thereby greatly affecting the lives of the people. Nonetheless, Christians continued to live in Muslim kingdoms and so did Muslims living in Christian areas, all in what was referred to as relative peace. However, violence eventually broke out. Every kingdom had distinct regulations about religion and their faith at varying levels. These regulations intended to prevent interaction between religions and prohibited them from partaking with their food.
Medieval Spain – People
The rest of the Iberian Peninsula was under Islamic rule and the population was predominantly Muslim. Their Arabic as their primary language. Muslim Spain was called “al-Andalus" in Arabic. Alongside the Christians and Muslims, there were also a significant number of Jews living in medieval Spain in both Christian and Muslim kingdoms and thereby, medieval Spain was known as the land of three religions (tres culturas).
How Rich and Powerful was Medieval Spain?
Medieval Spain was considered a battle for Christians who attempted to regain control from the Moors ever since they conquered Spain in 711 AD. The Moorish influence was prevalent during the early years in medieval Spain and it was marked by fighting among different Muslim Kingdoms. However, the Spanish people eventually and gradually conquered more and more of Spain back, starting with the northern part of the country close to France, and fighting little by little towards the southern part of the realm.
However, there was an organizing principle called Reconquista that prevailed in medieval Spain. This was a period of 780 years after the Islamic conquest in 711 until the fall of Granada in 1492. This ended before the discovery of the New World that preceded the Spanish colonial empires. The territories which were once Christian and Visigothic were captured and re-Christianized.
Medieval Spain also had much networked cities. These cities served as cultural and administrative centers, where the bishops, kings and government officials were situated. These cities also had large markets and houses that expanded from a fortified stronghold across the peninsula. Medieval Spain was also known for its great cities such as Barcelona, Leon, Granada, etc.
Medieval Spanish Castle Castillo Javier
Medieval Spain – Castles
Spain has the most formidable castles in the world. Spain has more than 1000 Spanish castles recorded through history. The castles were built for various reasons. However, the primary reason was to stop the Arabs when they invaded Spain in 711. The Spanish built so many of them in fact. These castles were mostly concentrated in the northern part which was where the Arabs advanced when they attacked. And when the Spanish military moved to reconquer the peninsula towards the south, they built additional strongholds to prevent the Arabs from reclaiming Spain. These castles were known as Castilla.
Medieval Spain – Kings & Queens
The Hispanic-Goth monarchy was the known political and legal monarch that succeeded to Rome on the peninsula. This was the first effective independent Kingdom in all of Spanish territories. The crown and leader of the monarch was elected and selected from a particular lineage. However, the collapse of the Hispanic-Goth monarchy gave way to Reconquest, where Christians in the northern part of the mainland founded their own kingdoms and monarchies. They governed spaces and recovered the mainland from the Muslims with the objective of fully restoring power to the Spanish.
Chivalry was already known in Spain when Frankish knights fought to protect the pilgrims at the tomb of apostle James of Campstella in Galicia during the 10th century. This was introduced to the Spanish knights who fought during the 2nd century of the Reconquista. Chivalry among knights flourished to a great extent after. However, chivalry of the Spanish knights cannot be totally associated with Military Orders of Knighthood as it was conflicted that the knights were directed by royalties or by the Pope.
Medieval Spain – Music
Spain had several contrasting cultures that had evidently, one way or the other influenced its music, especially during the medieval period. This coexistence of a varied cultural landscape and musical influences in the peninsula resulted to a unique blend of music. The Visigoths developed their own kind of music which became the very first form of Medieval Spanish Music. The traditions of Spanish medieval music survived long after the fall of the monarchs and the Hispanic Rites in favour of Roman Rites. However, the kind of music which were developed along the parallel lines of the church, the people and literature prevailed.
Medieval Spain – Food
The Arabs had quite an influence on the Spanish cuisine. They had introduced new plants like lemons, pomegranates and eggplants. They also coloured food during the medieval period. The Arabs also passed on other cooking techniques and these techniques were gradually spread to the northern regions. Because of the Iberian Peninsula’s highly diverse geography, several distinct cultures existed in the region, various unique cuisines also existed. Spain has been a great colony of Mediterranean cuisine.
Medieval Spain Spanish Nobility Moroni Don Gabriel de la Cueva
Medieval Spain – Clothing
Like a lot of things in the Middle Ages, clothing was dictated by the feudal system. The clothes worn in the medieval period reflected the status of a person wearing them. The basis for clothing in medieval Spain were regular tunics and loose outer wraps especially for Muslims. However, there may be considerable variations depending on region, ethnicity and class. Spanish peasants wore tunics. Soldiers wore scarlet capes which was similar to the ones Christians wore in the northern part of Spain.
Spanish Peasants and Slaves
Spain was the first Atlantic Empire that established sugar plantations in the Americas. When Spain began to colonize what was known as the Americas, they also aimed to exploit the New World’s valuable resources such as gold and silver. A number of Spanish settlers found dominance in the lives of the peasant class who were primary Indians and Africans. Spain tried to create what they referred to as inclusive society however, this society caused the downgrade of Indians and Africans into much inferior state and eventually down to slavery. Spain forced the people to work in mines granting them only a few rights and very little autonomy. And right after the system had depleted the minerals on the island, Spain sent more explorers westward.
Medieval Spain Spainish Battle Fleet Battle of Lepanto
Medieval Spain Summary
After the last reigning Gothic king, Pelayo become one of the earliest Spanish heroes who reigned after the Muslim role. These refugees had lain the foundation for modern Spain. The second kingdom of Navarre which was founded by Guarcias Iniguez entered and subdued the realm. The Spanish people regained Spain back and conquered even more colonies after. They began with the northern part of the peninsula, close to France moving towards the south. Spain has gone through a lot since. After several years of fighting, Spain has finally reunited under the rule of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella when they united forces and took back Grenada from the Moors in 1492, thereby ending the Reconquista. Right after the Reconquista, the Muslims and Jews who lived in Spain were converted to Christians. Otherwise, they were expelled out of the country.