The Christian armies which spearheaded the Reconquista effort mostly hailed from the Christian kingdoms in northern Iberia. These included the kingdoms of Navarre, Leon, Aragon, Portugal, Asturias and Castile.
Initially, the armies of the Christian kingdoms were smaller and more like raiding parties which would avoid direct confrontations with major Moorish armies.
In time, the Reconquista armies grew in size and became formidable and sophisticated enough to take the Moorish armies head-on. During the 700 years of Reconquista, the evolution of Reconquista armies was directly influenced by the military culture of their southern neighbours, the Iberian Moors.
Formation of Reconquista Armies
Throughout the Reconquista period, the Christian armies as well as their opponent Moorish armies mostly comprised two types of troops: cavalry and infantry. In later Reconquista periods, the cavalry further came to be divided into two distinct types, namely light cavalry and heavy cavalry.
The cavalry of Reconquista armies mostly came from noblemen closely related to the King. Commoner knights who hailed from wealthy families also fought alongside these noblemen. The heavy cavalry was meant for serious and head-on fighting, often directly under the command of the King or one of the most important royal officials.
Reconquista Armies Fast Facts
The Moorish armies were brutal and took very few prisoners, women were usually taken as slaves
The Moorish armies defeated the French Goths in Aquitaine who were forced to retreat
The Christian armies came from the Northern Iberia regions that were not under Moorish control
Many battles over hundreds of years ensued and Reconquista armies became stronger and more skilled
The Reconquista armies grew to have strong armies with a skilled cavalry made up of Nobles
The light cavalry, in contrast, wore lighter armour, carried fewer weapons and relied mostly on spears to harass the opponent army from a distance. The infantry came nearly entirely from the peasant class and often did not engage in direct fighting on the battlefield. The main task of the infantry was to serve as a backup in case the cavalry came in need of reinforcements.
The Saracen armies prepare for the battle of Tours
Weapons of Reconquista Armies
The light cavalry wore a steep cap, a quilted gambeson and used a large shield and two javelins. The Javelin was their main weapon with which they attacked the enemy from a distance or used in close combat. The heavy cavalry which formed the main body of the knights in a Reconquista army were more elaborately armed. They usually carried javelins, spears, a kite shield, a large axe, a long sword and a brace plate for protection.
The spears used by these knights were usually 1.5 meters in length and culminated in an iron tip. The swords were double-edged and made of steel. The infantry, in contrast to the cavalry, was rather poorly armed. Infantrymen in Reconquista armies carried spears, short swords and different kinds of bows for archery.
Moorish Warriors *Sword *Spears *Shields
Tactics of Reconquista Armies
In the early period of Reconquista, the military might of the Reconquista armies was not as formidable as their Moorish opponents. Consequently, Reconquista armies relied on different tactics to turn armed conflicts in their favour. A notable example of this is the 722 Battle of Covadonga where a small Christian army used its elevated position to rout a larger Moorish army.
Map showing Moorish conquest areas of Spain highlighted in green
Towards the later Reconquista period, the size of Christian armies became formidable enough to let them directly fight Moorish armies on the battlefield. At this time, light cavalry became one of the most important units of the Reconquista armies. The light cavalry, often comprising of mercenary soldiers such as Berber riders, would ride ahead of the main army and harass the opponent army. This was an effective tactic in disrupting the formation of enemy lines.
Reconquista Armies Fast Facts
Battle of Tours *the stronger Germanic soldiers took the advantage as hand to hand combat ensued
Battle of Tours *Moorish troops could not break through the Germanic soldier’s lines and had to retreat
The Moors’ first major defeat at Tours was a crushing blow and caused their armies to disband
Moorish armies retreated to southern Spain to regroup and prepared for the Frankish onslaught
Huge costs and loss of soldiers fighting Muslim armies caused many problems for Charles Mantel
Charles Mantel short on funds had to seize some of the Churches wealth to maintain the Reconquista