from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Temporal and territorial course of the Reconquista on the Iberian Peninsula

Reconquista ([ rekoŋˈkista ] or [ ʁəkõŋˈkiʃtɐ ], Castilian and Portuguese "Reconquest", Catalan reconquesta [rekoŋˡkesta] or [rəkuŋˡkestə], German rarely reconquista, Arabic الاسترداد al-ʼIstirdād  , 'reconquest') is the Spanish and Portuguese term for the emergence and expansion of the dominion of the Christian empires of the Iberian Peninsula, while the Muslim sphere of influence ( al-Andalus ) was pushed back in the Middle Ages. The year 722 ( Battle of Covadonga )is usually assumed as the beginning of the Reconquistaand the end date of January 2, 1492 (conquest of Granada by the Catholic Monarchs ).

The term Reconquista was not used in the Middle Ages on the Iberian Peninsula; it was only introduced in modern times by French research and then made its way into Spanish historiography from there. The first use of the term is attributed to the Portuguese Mozarab Sesnando Davides and his 1080 strategic notes.

Conceptual criticism

The term is not infrequently criticized because it is suitable to give the impression that it was a unified and common process of the Christian actors, supported by the will to recapture the Muslim territories. Whether and at what times such a motivation in the sense of a crusade of the Christian empires against a common enemy existed is, however, controversial. During the entire 770-year period, there were also short periods in which Christian rule was pushed back again, and long periods (e.g. from the middle of the 13th century to the War of Granada from 1482), in which the advance of the Christian empires practically came to a standstill. In addition, the entire era of the Reconquista is not only characterized by the conflict between the Christian and Muslim camps, but also to a large extent by conflicts within both camps, sometimes with allies or mercenaries from the other camp. One example is the life of the Spanish national hero El Cid , who temporarily hired himself out with his armed forces as a mercenary for Muslim rulers.

Nevertheless, the term is usually used to denote the epoch , which is characterized by the fact that Christian and Muslim empires coexisted on the Iberian Peninsula.


The Reconquista can be roughly divided into three phases. The first phase lasted from the beginning of the Christian rebellion in Asturias (718) to the reconquest of the old royal city of Toledo in 1085. The second phase (1086-1212) was characterized by the intervention of North African forces, which temporarily halted the advance of the Christians ; in this phase the clashes took on the character of a religious war more than before. It ended with a decisive military success for the Christians. In the third phase (1213–1492), the Muslims were pushed back into a relatively small territory with the center of Granada , which was finally also conquered.


In the spring of 711, the Berber Tāriq ibn Ziyād landed with his army in the region of Algeciras / Gibraltar to subdue the Visigothic empire that had existed on the Iberian Peninsula since the 5th century. The Visigoths were defeated in July 711 in the Battle of the Río Guadalete , where their King Roderich was killed. By 719 the Moors conquered the entire Iberian Peninsula, including Asturias. Among the Visigoth nobles who came to terms with the new rulers was Pelayo (Pelagius), whose area of ​​influence was in Asturias. Asturias was then administered by a Muslim governor named Munuza. Pelayo got into a personal conflict with Munuza over a marriage matter and began a rebellion in a remote mountain area of ​​Asturias. He let his followers elect him to be king or prince. In 722 (or, as some researchers believe, as early as 718) he defeated a Muslim force at the Battle of Covadonga . In this way he was able to maintain his dominion, which then became the Kingdom of Asturias . The victory of Covadonga is traditionally seen in Spain as the beginning of the Reconquista, although there is no evidence that a comprehensive reconquest was intended back then. It is possible that there was actually only one battle at Covadonga.

Between 719 and 725 the Muslims advanced across the Pyrenees and conquered Septimania , a region around Narbonne that had belonged to the Visigothic Empire. Their advance into the Franconian Empire was repulsed by Karl Martell in 732 in the battle of Tours and Poitiers . Septimania could hold them until 759.

First phase (until 1085)

The Arabic al-Andalus around 910

As early as the 8th century, the kings of Asturias were able to expand their territory considerably and drive the Muslims out of Galicia . During the 9th to 11th centuries, the Christian kingdoms gradually gained control over large parts of the Iberian Peninsula. At the same time, there were also many close economic and personal ties between Christians and Muslims. The previous kings of Navarre came from the Banu Qasi family of Tudela . The struggle against the Arabs did not prevent the Christian kings from trading with them and from waging wars among themselves. Christian military leaders like El Cid made treaties with Muslim kings of the Taifas to fight alongside them.

The Christians regarded the apostle James the Elder (Santiago ) as their patron saint because of the assistance attributed to him in the fictional battle of Clavijo (844). He became the figure of integration in Christian Spain. He is still the patron saint of Spain today. His nickname Matamoros ( the butcher of the Moors ) shows his military function. The center of the cult was his alleged grave in Santiago de Compostela . One of the greatest Christian defeats and an important motive for the Reconquista was the conquest and destruction of Santiago in 997 by the Muslim general al-Mansûr , who, however, spared the relics of St. James. After al-Mansûr's death (1002), the Christians were able to benefit from internal turmoil on the opposing side and advance further. In the period that followed, the Moorish-ruled area in the south became increasingly smaller.

Second phase (1086-1212)

In the first phase of the Reconquista, the Christian advance had affected areas that were strategically dispensable for the Muslims, including a largely unpopulated intermediate zone, the belt of desolation. It was only with the campaign to conquer Barbastro (1064), in which numerous French took part on the Christian side, and especially with the fall of Toledo (1085), that the Reconquista began to be directed against core areas of Muslim rule, the loss of which from the Muslim point of view posed a threat to the existence depicted. This gave the dispute a new quality; in 1086 the Muslims were forced to invoke the North African Berber dynasty of the Almoravids into the country. The Almoravids proclaimed jihad in defense of Islam and temporarily stopped the advance of Christians. In doing so, they themselves took control of the Muslim part of Spain and incorporated it into their empire.

In the High Middle Ages the struggle against the Muslims was perceived by the Christian rulers of Europe as a struggle for all of Christianity and as a holy war . The Muslim side had known the warlike aspect of jihad since Muhammad's campaigns against his neighbors and had undertaken the conquest of Spain in this spirit. Knight orders based on the model of the Knights Templar , such as the Santiagoorden , the Order of Calatrava , the Alcántara and the Order of Montesa , were founded or donated; the popes called the European knights to crusade on the peninsula.

The decisive turning point that finally gave Christians the military superiority, was the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa on 16 July 1212 in which the troops of the allied kingdoms of Castile , Navarre , Aragon and Leon and French contingents under Alfonso VIII. The Defeated Almohads under Caliph Muhammad an-Nasir .

Last phase (1213–1492)

Capture of Seville by Fernando III.

After the conquest of Cordoba (1236) and Seville (1248) by Castile , Valencia (1238) by Aragon and the Algarve (1250) by Portugal, Murcia and Granada were also subjugated, but in 1262 a Muslim revolt broke out in all of Andalusia with Moroccan help . After the final conquest of Murcia by Castile and Aragon in 1265 only remained Nazari - Emirate of Granada as Castilian vassal state nor Muslim now. Interventions and several campaigns by the Moroccan Merinids failed in 1291 due to intra-Muslim rivalries.

In 1340 a Christian alliance of Castile, Aragón, French auxiliaries and, for the last time, Portuguese defeated an army of the Moroccan Sultan Abu l-Hasan , who had led one last intervention and counter-offensive, in the Battle of the Salado . The subsequent conquest of Algeciras in 1344 by the same alliance after a two-year siege later ensured that no North African intervention has taken place on the Iberian Peninsula since then.

In the 15th century, Castile had the military power to conquer the Nasrid Empire, but the kings initially preferred to levy tribute. Trade with Granada was a major route for African gold to medieval Europe.

In 1482 Castile finally began its perennial conquest of the Kingdom of Granada , the last Muslim-ruled territory of the Iberian Peninsula. In August 1487, Malaga was conquered. At the beginning of 1489 the emirate of Granada consisted only of the areas around the cities of Guadix , Baza and Almería and the capital Granada . After conquering the aforementioned, the forces of the Catholic Kings advanced on the capital. The siege of Granada began on April 11, 1491.

On November 25, the last Arab ruler in Al-Andalus , Muhammad XII , capitulated . (Boabdil), before the armies of Ferdinand II and Isabella I ( Los Reyes Católicos, the " Catholic Kings ") and surrendered the city without a fight on January 2, 1492 after signing the Treaty of Granada. In the same year, the kings decreed that Alhambra Edict , in which the expulsion of the Jews from all territories of the Spanish crown was ordered on July 31 of the year, provided they had not converted to Christianity by then.


With regard to the weighting of the motives for the Reconquista, opinions differ widely in research. The religious motivation, the “national” aspect and - for the initial phase - a regional will to resist foreign rule will be discussed . According to the traditional doctrine, the religious will to fight against Islam was in the foreground from the beginning, with the connection to the Visigothic empire being added as a “national” motif, from which a historically based claim to rule over the entire Iberian Peninsula was derived. Another thesis put forward by Abilio Barbero and Marcelo Vigil says that the resistance against Muslims was originally just an ethnically determined striving for regional self-determination. This originated from the Cantabrian and Basque population in northern Spain and was defensively oriented; it was only much later that the idea of ​​retaking the Iberian Peninsula emerged. Another view, advocated by Carl Erdmann and numerous other historians, is that the real impetus for the Reconquista in the first centuries was the striving of individual rulers to gain land and that the concept of the religious war served to justify a worldly will to expand; It was not until the 11th century that religious motivation actually played an increasingly important role. To justify this interpretation it is pointed out that in the course of the military conflicts Christians often allied with Muslims against their own co-religionists with whom they were enemies.


Originally a Moorish minaret in Ronda that has been converted into a bell tower. While most mosques were destroyed and churches built in their place, many minarets were adapted by the Christians by adding floors for bells .

The successful military offensives of the Christian rulers were followed by the repoblación ("resettlement"), the settlement of Christians in areas whose Muslim inhabitants had been killed or expelled, usually organized by kings, nobles, bishops or abbots. With the systematic depopulation of border areas, Asturian kings in particular created a belt of devastation on their campaigns with which they wanted to protect their sphere of influence from attacks by Muslims; after further military successes, the resettlement was started later. Some of the settlers came from the secured Christian area, others were Christians who had moved from the Muslim south. To a large extent, the Repoblación took place in manorial form, initially with unfree people , but free peasants were also involved. Muslims who converted to Christianity were also settled as part of the Repoblación . In the late Middle Ages, orders of knights played an essential role. These measures came to an end in 1609/14 with the expulsion of the last Moors who were now forced to become Christian . With the Repoblación a renewed Christianization and a renewed Romanization or extensive Castilization of the peninsula went hand in hand.

Aftermath and reception

After the fall of Granada, the religiously motivated will to fight and to expand found fields of activity outside of Spain, particularly in the conquest of the newly discovered America. The Reconquista did not end at the borders of Europe either. With the translation to North Africa and with the Spanish occupation of Melilla (1497) and Oran (1509), the conquest of African regions also took place.

The Moors ( mudéjares ) and Jews , who were initially tolerated , were forced to be baptized in the 15th and 16th centuries or, if they refused, were expelled from the country. The conversos ( moriscos ) who converted to the Christian faith were disregarded and persecuted, whereby the Spanish Inquisition, established between 1478 and 1482, played a central role. The emigration caused by this policy contributed to the economic decline of Spain.

The various main thrusts of the Christian empires - Portugal along the Atlantic coast, Castile-Leon through the center and into today's Andalusia, the Crown of Aragón to the Balearic Islands and along the Levant - are still reflected today in the language distribution on the Iberian Peninsula ( Portuguese , Castilian , Catalan ).

Francisco Pradilla y Ortiz : Muhammad XII. meets Isabella I and Ferdinand II, 1882

The Reconquista is traditionally remembered with a series of festivals, with exhibition battles by Moors and Christians ( Moros y Cristianos ) , colorful parades in historical costumes and fireworks. Important festivals take place in Villena and Alcoi ( Alcoy in Spanish ). The figure of Rey Moro at the Gigantes y Cabezudos is also a reminder of this time.

The opera The Conquest of Granada (La Conquista di Granata) by Emilio Arrieta , which premiered on October 10, 1850 at the Teatro de Real Palacio in Madrid , takes up the theme.

Social groups at the time of the Reconquista

With the successes and defeats, some social groups emerged:

  • the Mozarabers : Name for Christians under Muslim rule in Andalusia . Some of them migrated north during periods of persecution.
  • the Muladíes : Christians who converted to Islam after the conquest.
  • the Renegados : individual Christians who adopted Islam and often took part in the struggle against their former co-religionists.
  • the Mudéjares : Muslims who stayed in the area conquered by Christians during the Reconquista (usually as farm workers). Their characteristic architecture of adobe bricks was often used in churches that were commissioned by the new masters.
  • the Morisken (Spanish: Moriscos ): Moors converted to Christianity who stayed in Spain after the conclusion of the Reconquista in 1492.
  • the Marranen (Spanish: Marranos ): contemptuous term for Conversos ("overdone"), d. H. Jews who converted to Christianity , who in many cases were suspected of secretly clinging to their traditions despite persecution by the Inquisition

"Spanish" Reconquista

When the “Spanish” Reconquista is often spoken of, the term is misleading insofar as there was no unified state in the sense of Spain during the entire epoch. Rather, there were various empires on the Christian side (including Castile , Navarre , the Crown of Aragon and Portugal ). The marriage of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragón shortly before the end of the Reconquista only led to the territories of the Crown of Castile and that of the Crown of Aragon being ruled by the same ruling couple, but not to a union of the two Rich.

Reconquista in North America

Mexican nationalist movements (e.g. Aztlán ) refer to their programs to regain the territories lost to the USA after the Mexican-American War in 1848, which are roughly the present-day US states of California , Nevada , Utah , Colorado , Arizona , New Mexico and Texas match.

See also


  • Simon Barton, Richard Fletcher: The world of El Cid: chronicles of the Spanish reconquest. Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2000, ISBN 0-7190-5225-4
  • Alexander Pierre Bronisch: Reconquista and Holy War - the interpretation of the war in Christian Spain from the Visigoths to the early 12th century . Aschendorff, Münster 1998, ISBN 3-402-05839-1 .
  • Miguel-Angel Caballero Kroschel: Reconquista and Imperial Idea. The Iberian Peninsula and Europe from the conquest of Toledo (1085) to the death of Alfonso X (1284) . Krämer, Hamburg 2008, ISBN 978-3-89622-090-5
  • Klaus Herbers : History of Spain in the Middle Ages . Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-17-018871-2 .
  • Nikolaus Jaspert: The Reconquista. CH Beck, Munich 2019.
  • Gottfried Liedl: Al-Hamra '. On the Spanish-Arab Renaissance in Granada. 2 volumes, Turia + Kant, Vienna 1990 and 1993
  • Gottfried Liedl: Al-Farantira: The School of the Enemy. To the Spanish-Islamic culture of the border. 3 volumes, Turia + Kant, Vienna 1997–2006
  • Derek William Lomax: The Reconquista. The reconquest of Spain by Christianity . Heyne, Munich 1980, ISBN 3-453-48067-8 .
  • Philippe Sénac: La frontière et les hommes (VIIIe - XIIIe siècle), le peuplement musulman au nord de l'Ebre et les débuts de la reconquête aragonaise . Maisonneuve et Larose, Paris 2000, ISBN 2-7068-1421-7 .

Web links

Commons : Reconquista  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Reconquista  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Odilo Engels: Reconquista and sovereignty. Paderborn 1989, p. 279.
  2., accessed on November 12, 2012.
  3. Patricia R. Blanco: La idea de la Reconquista es “falsa” y “manipulada”, según los expertos . In: El País . April 12, 2019, ISSN  1134-6582 ( [accessed April 13, 2019]).
  4. According to recent estimates, around 70,000 people were affected by the deportation order, but many of them returned and converted after a few years. Little more than 30,000 left the Iberian Peninsula for good. See Henry Kamen: The Mediterranean and the Expulsion of Spanish Jews in 1492, in: Past and Present 119 (1988) p. 44; Herbers p. 309.
  5. Bronisch (1998) pp. 3–8 provides an overview of the history of research.
  6. The extent of the economic impact is controversial; See Herbers (2006) p. 309 f., Norman Roth: Conversos, Inquisition, and the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain, Madison 1995, p. 312 f.