Rise and Political Gains

The area known as Al-Andalus started out as just a province in the vast Caliphate of Damascus. Founded in 711CE it was an area that consisted of nearly all of Spain.

The Moors, a section of Muslim peoples had conquered all of Spain and even some of Gaul at the beginning of their conquest, but Christian forces constantly pushed back their forces. By 751CE, The Moors were driven out of Gaul. The rest of the land was kept in Muslim control. Al-Andalus held its seat of government in Cordoba having changed it from Seville in early 716. Al-Andalus finally became its own separate kingdom when it gained independence in 756, when Abd al-Rahman I, an Umayyad prince, gained power after being denied power in his old land. In 929CE, Abd al-Rahman III, appointed himself the caliph of Al-Andalus, cutting the ties that the kingdom had with Baghdad and its religious leaders. The monarchy was a hereditary one, with the son surpassing father in the seat of power. In the early quarter of the 11th century, this practice was ignored, and civil war broke out within the kingdom. Many caliphs held power, but were desposed just as quickly. The subjects of an Al-Andulus caliph modeled very closely Persian and Byzantine courts, aside from the practice of no racial discrimination. Al-Andalus was at a constant battle with Europe during its entire power, constantly holding its borders against Christian forces.

1) O'Callaghan, Joseph F. A History of Medieval Spain. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1975. Questia. Web. 5 Apr. 2010.

2) English, Edward D. "al-Andalus during the Middle Ages." Encyclopedia of the Medieval World, vol. 1. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2005. Ancient and Medieval History Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?
ItemID=WE49&iPin=EMW0073&SingleRecord=True (accessed April 5, 2010).

The Partal at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain


“The arts flourished throughout Andalusia, and Muslim Spain was a center for music, poetry, literature, and the sciences”. Large libraries were built because of the rise of interest in literature. Lyrical poetry in the style of troubadours became popular in the twelfth century. King Dinis ordered the compilation of three Cancioneiros, which were large songbooks. There were 2000 poems by 200 different poets in these songbooks. Among these songs were religious poems, many of them praising the Virgin Mary.

The Court of la Acequia at Generalife in the Alhambra in Granada, Spain

Between 713 and 1492, Islamic music was being influenced by the music of Christian Western Europe and Judaism. Inspiration for creating new musical forms came from big cities near Al-Andalus like Granada and Cordoba. A man named Ibn Arabi was a great poet and a Sufi thinker. “He used musical modes that evoked particular emotional states and integrated them with texts to heighten their emotional effect”.
Small Mocárabes (Stalactite-like design in archways)

Architecture and Art

“The Islamic renaissance, which witnessed tremendous advances in every field, prompted architects, visual artists, calligraphers, and artisans of all sorts to collaborate in the production of a vast body of monuments, masterpieces, and manuscripts”. Because of recent expansion, new territories were acquired and with them came new ideas for architecture. One of the most influential ideas was the arch. Andalusian artists were masters of using wood and ivory. With this material, artists created ceilings, wooden panels for mihrabs and minbars. Artisans also used rock crystal and gold to create jewelry and fine pieces.

Fall of Al-Andalus

The Al-Andalus Empire fell in 1492 when the Reconquista mandated Christianity throughout Spain. Into the year 1502, thousands of Muslims left Andalusia after being kicked out for not converting to Christianity. Prior to this, “The death of al-Mansur marked the end of the Ummayad dynasty and Muslim Spain succumbed to civil strife. In 1031 the great Caliphate was ended and al-Andalus split into a multitude of small kingdoms” (Anahita). Because of this split, each little kingdom was unstable with a weak government.

When Queen Isabella of Castile married King Ferdinand of Aragon in 1469, two major kingdoms were united. When Granada refused to pay her tribute, she was infuriated banished the last of the Muslims by beginning a war against them in 1481.

When Granada, the center of Muslim Spain, fell and the Reconquista was finally successful in 1492, Spain was controlled by the Christians and ended the Al-Andalus empire. Post-Reconquista, the Spanish Inquisition was begun to rid Spain of all non-Christians, forcing people to either convert or leave Spain, if not, they would be executed. Throughout the next century, there were more expulsions of Jews and Muslims who fled to the Maghrib and away from Spain.

The Al-Andalus Empire ended due to The Reconquista, but its signature culture still survives in Andalusia in Southern Spain. So, although its power ended because of the mandate of Christianity and the weakening of the city-states’ power, its influence in the world still continues.

1. Al-Tawil, Hashim. "Islamic Art and Architecture in the Golden Age." Facts On File Online Databases. "Islamic Art and Architecture in the Golden Age." Web. 02 Apr. 2010. <http://www.fofweb.com/NuHistory/default.asp?ItemID=WE49&NewItemID=True>.

2. Anahita. "A Brief History If Al-Andalus." Dar Anahita. T in The Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). Web. 1 Apr. 2010. <http://home.earthlink.net/~ lilinah/Library/ HistoryAndalus.html>.

3. Marin, Roberta. "Art in the Medieval Islamic World." Facts On File Online Databases. Web. 02 Apr. 2010. <http://www.fofweb.com/NuHistory/default.asp?ItemID=WE49&NewItemID=True>.

4. O'Callaghan, Joseph F. "A History of Medieval Spain." Questia Online Library. Web. 02 Apr. 2010. <http://www.questiaschool.com/read/96601244>.

5. Page, Willie F. "Al-Andalus." Facts On File Online Databases. Encyclopedia of African History and Culture: African Kingdoms (500 to 1500), Vol. 2. Web. 30 Mar. 2010. <http://www.fofweb.com/ NuHistory/default.asp?ItemID= WE49&NewItemID=True>.