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For other uses, see Reconquista (Disambiguation).

The Reconquista (Spanish and Portuguese for reconquest) was the military conquest of the Iberian Peninsula by Christian rulers, led against the Moors from 718 to 1492.

After the Muslim invasion of Iberia in 711 at the Battle of Guadalete, the Moors had conquered most of Iberia within five years, putting an end to the Christian Visigoth kingdoms. The reconquest began in 718 with the defeat of the Muslim army at Alcama by the Visigoth Pelayo.

The Portuguese Reconquista culminated in 1250 with the conquest of Algarve by Afonso III, setting Portuguese borders almost to their present location. In what became Spain, the process culminated on January 2, 1492 when Ferdinand and Isabella, Los Reyes Catolicos ("The Catholic Monarchs"), expelled the last of the Moorish rulers, Boabdil of Granada, from the Iberian Peninsula, uniting most of what is now Spain under their rule (Navarre was not incorporated until 1512).



It was not until later centuries that the Christians started to see their conquests as part of a secular effort to restore the unity of the Visigothic kingdom.

The battle against Moors did not keep the Christian kingdoms from battling among themselves or allying with Islamic kings. For example, the earlier kings of Navarre were family of the Banu Qasi of Tudela. The Moorish kings often had wives or mothers born Christians. Also Christian champions like El Cid were contracted by Taifa kings to fight against their neighbours.

In the late years of Al-Andalus, Castile had the military power to conquer the remains of the kingdom of Granada, but the kings preferred to claim the tribute of the parias . The commerce of Granadan goods and the parias were a main way for the African gold to enter medieval Europe.

In the High Middle Ages, the fight against the Moors in Iberia was linked to the fight of the whole of Christendom. Military orders like the order of Santiago, Montesa ,Order of Calatrava and the Temple Knights were founded or called to fight in Iberia. The Popes called the knights of Europe to the Crusades in the peninsula. French, Navarrese, Castilian and Aragonese armies united in the massive battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212).

The mixing of Christians, Muslims and Jews was later officially ended by the rules of ethnic or religious purity of the Modern Age, namely the Spanish limpieza de sangre and the expulsion of Jews by Manuel I in Portugal.

The big territories awarded to military orders and nobles were the origin of the latifundia in today's Andalusia and Extremadura, in Spain, and Alentejo, in Portugal.

Cultural influence

Real or imaginary episodes of the Reconquista are the subject of much of Mediaeval Spanish- and Catalan-language literature, such as the cantar de gesta.

Modern views

Modern historical theories dispute the idea that the Reconquista was merely a war of Christians versus Muslims. These theories note that the Muslims had occupied significant parts of the Iberian Peninsula for eight centuries, over which time it would had been impossible to keep ethnic groups separated. Noble genealogies clearly show the close relations between Muslims and Christians. More evidence supporting those theories is that the Portuguese and Spanish languages themselves have a high number of words of Arabic origin. Instead of the term 'Reconquista', the concept of a civil war has been proposed. This has not gained wide acceptance, however, although its supporters attribute this to sociopolitical forces. Regardless, it is not disputed that these wars had a strong religious component.

It has also been proposed that the war left the Iberian kingdoms with deep economical crises, which would be the reason behind expelling the Jews (who had lived in the Iberian Peninsula for over ten centuries) in order to confiscate their funds and property. It should be noted however that Portuguese Reconquista ended in 1257 and that the Spanish and Portuguese kingdoms were already profiting from their maritime expansion before the Jews were expelled (see Portugal_in_the_period_of_discoveries and History of Spain).

It is accepted that the Reconquista cannot be seen as a single war, but as a long military, political and social process with times of war and times of peace.

Social types under the Reconquista

The advances and retreats created several social types:

  • The Mozarabs: descendants of Visigothic or Romanic dwellers who did not convert to Islam. Some of them migrated to the North in times of persecution.
  • The Muladi : Christians who converted to Islam after the invasion.
  • The Renegade: Christian individuals who embraced Islam and often fought against their former compatriots.
  • The Jewish conversos: Jews who either voluntarily or forced became Christians. Some of them were crypto-Jews who kept practicing Judaism. Eventually all Jews were forced to leave Spain in 1492 by Ferdinand and Isabella, and Portugal some years later. Their Converso descendants became victims of the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions.
  • The Mudejar: Muslims dwelling in land conquered by the Christians, usually peasants. Their characteristic architecture of adobe bricks was frequently employed in churches commissioned by the new lords. Their descendants after 1492 were called Moriscos

Currently, the festivals of moros y cristianos (Spanish) and mouros e cristãos (Portuguese) both meaning "Moors and Christians" recreate the fights as colourful parades with elaborate garments and lots of fireworks, especially in Spanish Mediterranean coast.

Modern uses of the term

There has also, of late, been a movement in the United States to term some pro-immigration Latino politicians as reconquistas. Largely this is used as a derogatory term, alleging that these politicians are actually part of a movement to re-conquer the United States for Mexico.

External links


Payne, Stanley. A History of Spain and Portugal: Volume One; Chapter 6: "The Emergence of Portugal". Available online at [1].

Last updated: 05-11-2005 04:25:11
Last updated: 08-17-2005 01:23:32