Reconquista History

The Reconquista is a term used to collectively denote the efforts of the Christian kingdoms in northern Iberia to reclaim southern Iberia from Moorish control.

Moorish History Regions Conquered

Map showing Moorish conquest areas of Spain highlighted in green

The Reconquista is historically considered to have begun in the early 8th century and concluded in the late 15th century. It began soon after the Moors launched the conquest of Iberia in 711.

The initial phase of the Reconquista was simply intermittent resistance toward Moorish rule and occasional battlefield defeats for the Moors in northern Iberia which defined the maximum extent of their rule.

Who were the Moors

Moorish Warriors

In time, the independent Christian principalities in the North evolved into kingdoms which then spearheaded the Reconquista effort and gradually reclaimed southern Iberia from the Moors.

Moors *Soldiers

Moors *Soldiers

First Phase of Reconquista

The first phase of Reconquista comprised mainly of resistance to the Omayyad rule of Iberia. In some parts of northern Iberia, this involved rebellions against Omayyad-appointed governors. In other parts, resistance involved an armed struggle against the Moors, either as small bands of warriors or formally on the battlefield.

Battle of Tours

The Battle of Tours

The first instance of any type of resistance was that of Pelagius of Asturias who was a Visigoth nobleman. Pelagius rebelled against the Omayyad taxation system in 722. A sizable Omayyad army followed him into the high passes of Covadonga where Pelagius defeated it with a handful of warriors and established the independent principality of Asturias.

Saracen Armies Battle of Tours

The Saracen armies prepare for the battle of Tours

Another major Reconquista victory during this period occurred at the 732 Battle of Tours where Frankish military leader Charles Martel routed a large Omayyad army. Martel’s defeat decisively halted Moorish advanced into northeast Iberia.

Charles Martel

Charles Martel

Establishment of Border Principalities

The most effective counter to the Moorish advance into northeast Iberia was the might of the Frankish Empire. Charlemagne established many vassal regions in northeast Iberia whereby he permanently blocked the advance of Moors across the Pyrenees Mountains.

These principalities eventually evolved into the kingdoms of Pamplona, Navarre, and Aragorn. These border kingdoms maintained independence from Frankish rule although they enjoyed allegiance with the Frankish rulers. On the other hand, they effectively thwarted Moorish attacks from the south, favoured in this by their difficult geography.

In time, this led to the establishment of many other kingdoms. Over the course of centuries, these kingdoms would expand at the expense of the Moorish territories as well as at the expense of each other. Some of them merged with each other and became larger. They effectively became the most vital military and political element in the Reconquista effort.

Conclusion of Reconquista

The most decisive phase of the Reconquista effort began with the collapse of the Cordoba Caliphate in the 11th century. The collapse of the Caliphate led to the division of Moorish territories into two dozen minor states. The decentralization of power allowed Christian kingdoms to the north to reclaim much of the Moorish land.

The decline of the Moorish might to the south continued in the subsequent centuries. By the 13th century, the Moorish rulers retained the solitary Emirate of Granada which was the last Moorish stronghold in the south. In 1492, the Kingdom of Spain successfully wrested away from the control of Granada from the Moors. This year effectively marked the end of the political might of Moors in Iberia and brought about the conclusion of the Reconquista.