Top Events in the History of Medieval Spain

Medieval Spain – Learn about the History and Most Important Events of Medieval Spain

Spain spans over most of the Iberian Peninsula in southwest Europe. The history of Spain in the Middle Ages is significant as it brought various conquerors with varying cultures to the Iberian Peninsula.

The history of medieval Spain started after the passage of Vandals and Alans down the Mediterranean coast of Hispania from 408.


It started with the Iberian kingdom of Arianist Visigoths from 507-711. In 711, Umayyad Caliphate conquered most of Spain arriving from Northern Africa.

The period of conflict between the Muslim and Christian states of Spain was known as Reconquista or Reconquest.

Medieval Spain – Visigoth Invasion 415

Visigoths were Germanic people who established and flourished throughout the Roman Empire in Late Antiquity. After establishing their kingdom in Southern Gaul, they extended their authority towards Hispania.

They established the Visigothic Kingdom in Hispania in 415 and maintained their kingdom from the 5th to 8th century AD.

During their reign in Hispania, they built various churches and also left many artifacts. Their reign ended in 711 or 712 when Arabs defeated Visigoths in the Battle of Guadalete.


The Great Legal Code 653

The Great legal Code was the set of Visigothic laws set forth by the Visigothic king Chindasuinth in the second year of his rule (642-643).

His son, King Recceswinth published a new law code in 653 that applied equally to Goths and the general population with the majority of the laws having Roman roots.

This code was introduced to abolish the old tradition of having different laws for Romans and Visigoths. All subjects of the Kingdom came under the same jurisdiction, hence eliminating the social and legal differences.

Umayyad Conquest of Spain 711

The Umayyad conquest of Spain started in 711 and continued until 788. The Muslims under Tariq ibn Ziyad began the conquest of the peninsula.

They were successful in defeating a Visigothic army under King Roderick and subduing the Visigothic kingdom, effectively establishing a firm foothold in Hispania.

From this foothold, they established many new principalities and continued to expand their territories.

Moorish History Regions Conquered

Moorish conquest areas of Spain highlighted in green

The new independent Emirate of Cordoba started under the Muslim ruler Abd al-Rahman I. This conquest proved to be the expansion of the Muslim rule in Europe. By 714, Muslim forces crossed the Pyrenees into Septimania and further in Gaul until 759.

Moorish Rulers Abd ar Rahman

Battle of Covadonga 722

The Battle of Covadonga took place in the early 8th century in Northwestern Iberian Peninsula between Muslim and Christian forces in 722.

It was fought near Covadonga and resulted in the victory of Christian forces led by Pelagius.

Pelagius was the Visigoth monarch who refused to pay the Jizya (tax on non-Muslims) and started to assault small Umayyad garrisons. He set his forces against Muslims in 712 and won the battle.



Emirate of Al-Andalus is Established in 756

The Umayyad Caliphate was established after the conquest of Hispania in 711-718. In 756, the prince of deposed Umayyad royal family, Abd al Rahman, refused to accept the authority of the Abbasid caliphate and became an independent ruler of Cordoba.

In 750, Umayyads had lost their position of authority to the Abbasids. Abd al Rahman defeated the Muslim ruler but the unification of Al-Andalus took more than twenty-five years to complete.

For the next century and a half, his descendants had control over Al-Andalus and in some parts of Western South Africa.

File:Second Fitna Territorial Control Map ca 686.svg

Battle of Roncesveaux Pass 778

The Battle of Roncesveaux Pass was between the forces of Basques and Charlemagne’s army near Roncesveaux Pass. This battle was vengeance by Basques for Charlemagne’s destruction of city walls.

Charlemagne had given orders to tear down the walls of Basque capital, Pamplona. After securing the region, he and his army marched to the Pyrenees Mountain where enraged Basques sent their warriors and army for avenging the destruction of the city.

The Franks retreated back to Francia where they were defeated. The Frankish commander, Roland was killed. Roland and the death of paladins, who were the warriors of the Charlemagne court, became legend.



The Kingdom of Leon is established in 910

The Kingdom of Leon was an independent Kingdom in the northwest region of the Iberian Peninsula. The Asturian king, Alfonso the Great, divided his realm into three parts.

Leon was one of the three parts which were inherited by Garcia I. The Kingdom was established in 910 when the capital of the northern coast of the Peninsula was shifted from Oviedo to the city of Leon by the Christian princes of Asturias.

The Kingdom of Leon remained one of the most important kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula.

Alfonso jimena

Caliphate of Cordoba collapses in 1031

In 711, the Umayyad conquest of Hispania was launched under the Umayyad Caliphate. It was dominated by the Umayyad Emirate of Cordoba from 756-929.

The Caliphate of Cordoba was ruled by the Umayyad dynasty. The state existed from 929-1031. The death of Al Hakkam II was the beginning of the end of the caliphate.

File:Damascus, Syria, The Umayyad Mosque, The Great Mosque of Damascus 2.jpg

The death of Abd al Rahman Sanchuelo started the Fitna of Al Andalus which was the period of instability leading to the collapse of the Caliphate of Cordoba.

The conflicts and rivals claiming to be the new caliph led to the collapse of the caliphate in 1031 and divided it into independent taifa including Taifa of Cordoba, Taifa of Zaragoza, and Taifa of Seville.

The Kingdom of Aragon is born in 1035

In 1035, the Kingdom of Aragon came into being after Sancho III of Navarre distributed his realm among his several sons.

Although initially a weaker kingdom, Aragon would eventually become one of the most powerful Christian kingdoms in the Iberian Peninsula.


In 1137, Aragon and Barcelona were united under a single monarch and came to be known as the Crown of Aragon. The Crown of Aragon would continue to acquire new territories and eventually became the key state that gave birth to modern Spain.

Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa 1212

The Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa was one of the decisive military confrontations in medieval Spain. It was fought between Christian and Muslim forces. The Muslim side was led by the Caliph Al-Nasir who belonged to the Almohad dynasty.


Knights Templar

Christian forces comprised the armies of King Alfonso VIII of Castile, Sancho VII of Navarre, and Peter II of Aragon. The other two kings were originally Alfonso’s rivals but joined him in a bid to defeat Al-Nasir’s army.

They were successful as the Muslim forces were routed and the attempts by the Almohads to take over the Iberian Peninsula were decisively thwarted.

Fall of Granada 1492

The war of Granada was a set of military campaigns during the reign of Catholic Monarchs, Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon.

These campaigns were launched against the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada. Granada was surrounded by problems after the death of Emir Yusuf III.


The internal fighting and poor economy had weakened the state. Granada’s once world-famous porcelain manufacturing was destroyed and challenged by the Christian town, Manises.


The marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand brought two powerful kingdoms together and began the unification of Spain, freeing the Peninsula from inter-Christian war.

The war resulted in the defeat of Granada hence ending all Islamic rule on the Iberian Peninsula. It was a ten-year war with a series of seasonal campaigns with Grenadians dealing with the internal conflicts while Christians were unified.


  •  415, Visigoth began an invasion of Hispania. In time, this led to the establishment of the Visigothic kingdom of Hispania. The kingdom lasted until the 8th century.
  • Visigothic king Chindasuinth set forth the Great Legal Code in 653. This code defined the laws which governed Romans and the Visigoth subject of the kingdom.
  • 711 – Umayyad Conquest of Spain began under Tariq ibn Ziyad. This marked the beginning of an 800-year period during which Muslims would rule in parts of Spain.
  • 722- Battle of Covadonga was fought. This was fought by a Visigoth leader Pelagius who fought off the Muslims and preserved independence for some Visigoths, an achievement that would lead to the Reconquista. The historicity of this battle is disputed.
  • 756 – Umayyad Emirate of Al-Andalus was established under Abd al Rahman. This Emirate would rule most of the Iberian Peninsula for the next century and a half.
  • 778 -Battle of Roncesveaux Pass was fought between Basques of northern Spain and the forces of Charlemagne the Great. Basques very nearly destroyed Charlemagne’s army, its commander, and its notable warriors, the paladins.
  • 910 – the Kingdom of Leon was established. In time, it would become one of the most important Christian kingdoms in Spain, leading the Reconquista efforts.
  • 1031 – the Caliphate of Cordoba collapsed. This ended a central authority among the Muslim states of Hispania, breaking up the Muslim-dominated areas into several principalities or taifas. Notable taifas included taifas of Seville, Saragossa, and Cordoba.
  • 1492- Fall of Grenada. The last bastion of Muslim rule in Spain fell and Muslim’s presence in the region was brought to an end by the Christian rulers.
  • 1035 – the Kingdom of Aragon was born. It would eventually become the most powerful Christian kingdom in the region, one of the two that led to the formation of modern Spain.