Two Kingdoms of the Reconquista: A comparative study of the fall of Valencia (1238) and Granada (1492) and their shift from Muslim to Christian orientation

Luke Gauci

When studying crusading one must always consider the difference in culture between the warring factions

When studying crusading one must always consider the difference in culture between the warring factions, be it religious or social in nature, regardless of where the ‘crusade’ is taking place. Be it in the Holy Land against the Seljuck’s/Fatimid’s, in the Balkans or in the Iberian Peninsula, retaking the lands captured by the Moors between 711-714, the difference and invasion of a foreign culture is always present. However, it is the rate at which the transformation takes place that is key. While in the Holy Land the shift did not have time to take a major hold in cities like Jerusalem or Antioch, mainly due to the out-numbered crusaders compared to the local Islamic population, this was not the case within the Iberian Peninsula. During the Reconquista, the process strongly took hold, and while the rate of the re-Christianisation process varied from region to region due to certain influences, it is ultimately the fact that the northern Iberian kingdoms could put much more pressure on the Moors, due to the proximity, and importantly stability, of their homelands that aided the introduction of Christian settlers to former Islamic lands in al-Andalus. This cultural shift, and the rate at which it occurred within Valencia and Granada, forms the bases for this research. This was achieved by looking at a couple of factors that influenced the re-Christianisation process within these two regions. The first analysed the shift on a region-wide scale by looking at four treaties that affected the way Islamic communities lived under their new Aragonese or Castilian rulers and the reactions of the remaining political powers of al-Andalus. Secondly, the research looks at the archaeology of the rural and urban topography of these two cities/regions, noting how these changed after the conquests and the rate at which the process occurred. While the full dissertation analyses multiple examples from all these factors, this article will serve as a summary of the research, to give the reader an introduction to the re-Christianisation of Iberia. The full research is available to read on Academia.edu or the database of the University of Malta library.
Two Kingdoms of the Reconquista: A comparative study of the fall of Valencia (1238) and Granada (1492) and their shift from Muslim to Christian orientation
Muhammad I surrendering Jaén to Fernando III, agreeing to become his vassal. Retrieved from Pedro González Bolívar, Alhamar, re de Granada, rinde vasallaje al rey de Castilla, Fernando III el Santo, (Galicia, University of San=ago de Compostela, 1883).

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Two Kingdoms of the Reconquista: A comparative study of the fall of Valencia (1238) and Granada (1492) and their shift from Muslim to Christian orientation
The Capitulation of Granada. Retrieved from Francisco Pradilla y Ortiz, The Capitulation of Granada, (Madrid, Senate of Spain, 1882).

It is fairly known that Granada was the last of the Muslim kingdoms of al-Andalus to fall to the Castilians and Aragonse,

It is fairly known that Granada was the last of the Muslim kingdoms of al-Andalus to fall to the Castilians and Aragonse, after the signing of the Treaty of Granada in 1492. However, how did Granada end up in that position in the first place? It is not enough to say, ‘it was the last Muslim region to surrender to the Christians’. Therefore, one needs to go further back, which leads to the Treaty of Jaén (1246). This was signed by Muhammad I of Granada and Ferdinand III of Castle in the decades following the defeat of the Almohad Caliphate at Las Navas de Tolosa by the forces of Castile-León, Aragon, and Portugal. It was in this political scenario that severely weakened Granada was forced to become a vassal of Castile-León to maintain some form of semi-independent status. However, while Granada was politically weakened, it still had economical influence in the region, and while it was not what it once was, it is this factor that allowed Granada to maintain itself till 1492. Yet, what did the treaty stipulate, and what did it mean for Granada? In a nutshell Granada maintained its independent status, however, Ferdinand III received tributes and a percentage of taxes collected, had overall political authority, and was entitled to military support from Granada, should the need arise. On the other hand, Granada also had certain benefits. They were given a ‘protected status’, which required Castile to come to the Emirates aid should military action be taken against them, and finally, Muhammed I retained his political position under the authority of Ferdinand III. This can be seen as a compromise between the two rulers, in which Granada was allowed to remain culturally Islamic, but indirectly submitted to the Christians. This ultimately gave the fleeing Islamic populations, from regions like Valencia that fell to Aragon between 1238 and 1244, a haven to settle in. This significantly added to the further Islamification of Granada, and by 1492, would be met with somewhat harsh measures, introduced by the Catholic Monarchs after the fall of the Emirate and the signing of the Treaty of Granada, rapidly Christianising the city/region. The connection, and eventual affects, of the Treaty of Jaén and the Treaty of Granada defined the outcome of this process and by 1500 the Islamic population was either expelled or was forced to convert to Christianity.
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The research continues to look at this transformation on both the rural and urban levels,

The research continues to look at this transformation on both the rural and urban levels, analysing factors such as the changes brought about to agriculture with the introduction of the feudal system, something unknown to the Islamic world, and the abandonment of Islamic rural settlements after the Christian conquests. While these factors are important to the re-Christianisation process, the transformation of the urban topography, particularly that of the Friday Mosque, is where the process can be truly viewed. Both Islamic Valencia and Granada had a Friday Mosque that served as the centre for worship for the cities. However, upon the Christian conquests in 1238 and 1492 respectively, both mosques were one of the first targets for the re-Christianisation process, yet the difference between their transformations to Christian cathedral’s was drastically different. Both the written and archaeological record show that Valencia’s Mosque was not demolished in the immediate aftermath of the city’s fall to James I in 1238 but was symbolically converted to a Christian cathedral. Its physical transformation only occurred from 1262 onwards and was still undergoing changes in the mid-18th century. In Granada’s case however, the opposite occurred, due to the abovementioned harsh attitude taken by Isabella I and Ferdinand II against the Muslim, and Jewish, populations in the city, and as a result the Friday Mosque was torn down and started to be rebuilt as a Christian Cathedral by 1521. It is here that the difference in rate is shown in the re-Christianisation of Valencia and Granada. Therefore, while the process occurred in both cites/regions, Granada, which had a much stronger Islamic culture by 1492, was forced to undergo the process at a much faster rate because of its status as the last Muslim Kingdom in Iberia, sending a symbolic message of ‘Christian superiority’ to the rest of the Islamic world. Yet Valencia’s transformation, which occurred when Islamic power in al-Andalus was still significant, occurred at a much slower rate because the Islamic communities there had a haven to flee to, Granada, had they not wanted to convert to Christianity or live under Christian rulers. Therefore, the pressure put on the population of Valencia was much less than that put on the population of Granada some two hundred years later. It is my hope that this article has given you, the reader, an introduction to the re-Christianisation of Iberia. As already mentioned, there are other factors of interest that make up my undergraduate research and I encourage anyone who is interested in finding out more, to read my research. The research attempts to go past the black and white nature of crusading and show that the blending and introduction of a different culture influences all levels of society. Cities like Valencia and Granada did not become Christian overnight, it took time to occur, but did not necessarily occur in the same way, as has been highlighted in the dissertation research and, hopefully, this article.
Two Kingdoms of the Reconquista: A comparative study of the fall of Valencia (1238) and Granada (1492) and their shift from Muslim to Christian orientation
Evolution of the Valencia Cathedral floor plan.
Two Kingdoms of the Reconquista: A comparative study of the fall of Valencia (1238) and Granada (1492) and their shift from Muslim to Christian orientation

Luke Gauci

Luke Gauci is a graduate of the Department of History at the University of Malta, where he read for his undergraduate degree, BA(Hons.) European and Global History with Archaeology, between 2020 and 2023. While reading for his degree, he also worked as a researcher with AIS Archaeology, conducting archaeological and historical research for Head Archaeologist Mr Vincenzo Cherubini on sites, such as, The Royal Navy Hospital in Mtarfa, Malta. Luke is also very active with the Malta University Historical Society and currently serves as their Public Relations Officer, which involves managing the society’s social media pages and promotion of events. He is currently reading for his Master of Arts in European and Global History at the University of Malta, where he continues to work on medieval and crusading history under the supervision of Mr Charles Dalli. While his passion for history draws him mainly to the medieval period, Luke is also very interested in antiquity, in particular Greek, Roman, Punic and near eastern cultures, as well as early modern Mediterranean corsairing conducted by the Maltese and Hospitallers vessels operating out of the Maltese islands between 1530 and 1798. British railway history and monastic communities and their role in society throughout the medieval and early modern periods are also among his interests in history.
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