Spanish History and Culture up to 14th Century


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This is a summary of the course I teach at Doon University before the Mid Term exam of 2013. It covers the History and Culture of Spain from the beginnings till the 14th century covering architecture, literature and of course the politics. It would be useful for any body interested in Spanish studies.

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Spanish History and Culture up to 14th Century

  1. 1. Course Summary till Mid Term Exam, 2013 Period Covered: From the Beginnings up to 1492 Created by Swagata Kumar Basu, Asstt. Prof, Doon University
  2. 2. Location of Spain: between Europe and Africa
  3. 3. 17 Autonomous Communities
  4. 4. Imp Cities
  5. 5. Physical Spain
  6. 6.  Where is Spain?  Which are its neighbouring countries?  How is it divided?  How many Autonomous Communities?  What forms the natural boundaries of Spain?  What are the languages spoken in Spain? In which regions are they spoken?
  7. 7.  Pre-Historic Times  Iberians, Celts, Celtiberians  Phoenicians and Greeks  Carthaginians  Romans  Visigoths  Moors  Christian Kings
  8. 8.  The origins of where did the first human beings in Spain came from is not know but archaeological findings suggest that modern human beings first appeared in the Iberian peninsula 40, 000 years ago  Several Prehistoric Cave Paintings survive in Spain  The most well known Cave Paintings are found in Altamira Cave near Santander  Very important archaeological findings like fossils, remains of human beings have been found in Atapuerca, Burgos
  9. 9. Cave Paintings of Altamira, animals, hun t scenes, use of the colour red
  10. 10.  By 1600 BC, The Iberian peninsula was inhabited by groups of people who were ruled by particular leaders. The Greeks called them Iberians.  They lived in fortified centres.  They knew and practiced mining  Sculptures like the Dama de Baza, and La Dama de Elche are the main examples of Iberian Art
  11. 11.  Other groups to have entered the Iberian Peninsula were Greeks, Phoenicians and the Carthaginians  While Greeks and Phoenicians mainly set up trade posts along the Mediterranean coast, Carthiginians took control over Spain for strategic reasons against Romans.  Threatened by this the Romans started fighting wars with Carthaginians and established political dominance over Spain for the first time by 206 BC
  12. 12.  The area earlier divided into smaller independent towns and cities became unified under the Roman administration and that is how the foundation of Spain was laid and was called Hispania. This integration took a very long time and is called Romanization.  Christianity, Latin and Administrative Unity were the biggest contribution of the Romans to Hispania.  Romans ruled Spain till end of fourth century almost for 600 years
  13. 13.  Key Features of Roman Architecture are is Durability, Usability and Grandness of Size  In Spain they built Bridges, Roads, Aqueducts, Amphitheatres  High Arches, Vaults and Columns are common in Roman Architecture 
  14. 14. Aqueduct of Segovia
  15. 15. Aqueduct of Segovia
  16. 16. Tarragona- Roman Amphitheatre
  17. 17. Mérida-Roman Amphitheatre
  18. 18. The Roman Bridge of Alcantara
  19. 19.  The Visigoths were one of the Germanic tribes who invaded Roman territory during the decline of the Roman Empire  Under them Spain became a Kingdom rather than part of a larger empire  Soon it got divided into smaller Kingdoms often fighting with each other  They made Catholic Christianity the official religion  And through the Councils of Toledo, the Church became an institution that participated in the governance  A rise in construction of churches form the architecture of this period and starts a trend that continues till much later
  20. 20. 8th Century to 14th Century (711-1300s)
  21. 21.  The Moors, a group of Muslims of different regions of Africa entered Spain in 711  Due to the disunity and weakness of the Visigothic rulers it was rather easy for the Muslims to conquer Spain within a short span of time right up to the North leaving only the Mountainous regions  But by 718 Christians under the leadership of Pelayo defeated the Muslims in the Battle of Covadonga, thereby beginning a war that would last for seven hundred years: the Reconquest  This also formed the Kingdom of Asturias
  22. 22.  This period in Spain is characterized by the existence of two groups Muslims and Christians living side by side in Spain along with Jews as well  On one hand they fought various wars over territories  But on the other hand they also came together to create a Hybrid culture, extremely rich and unique  Examples of peace, mutual tolerance, harmonious coexistence exist under the leadership of many Christian and Muslim rulers while many examples of intolerance and extreme hatred also exist
  23. 23.  The Muslims brought to Spain a new way of life and many objects and customs unavailable in Europe at that time  These later on became integral part of Spanish traditions and culture  They introduced to Spain Citrus Fruits, Rice, Saffron, Soaps, Toothpaste, Deodorant, Perfu mes, the Guitar, the Musical style that inspires Flamenco, Bath Houses  There contribution in Art and Architecture cannot be summed up easily but can be imagined from the fact that Spain is the 2nd most popular tourist destination in the world and it is its Islamic buildings that attract such a huge number of tourists because in Europe these Islamic buildings are unparalleled and exotic  The Arabic language also has left a huge number of words
  24. 24.  3 Cities held importance in Islamic Spain in different periods of time: Cordoba, Sevilla and Granada  Abd-ar-Rahman I became Emir of Cordoba, he was fleeing from Damascus because the Umayyad dynasty had lost the Caliphate in Damascus  In 929, Abd-ar-Rahman III proclaimed himself Caliph and thus made Al-Andalus , a Caliphate totally independent of Damascus  In was under him that Cordoba became one of the richest cities in Europe of that time and a rich cultural center with a huge number of libraries visited by scholars from all over Europe  This was a period of tolerance and minimum conflict between the Christians and Muslims  The Caliphate ended in 1031 because its ministers rebelled against it and abolished the Caliphate
  25. 25. The double arches, pictured above, were a new introduction to architecture, and helped support the tremendous weight of the higher ceilings. The double arches consist of a lower horseshoe arch and an upper semi-circular arch.
  26. 26. Roman Bridge with the Mosque Complex
  27. 27. Same view at Night
  28. 28.  Within the Muslims territories many Chrsitians lived and in fact gained important positions in the government. They often adopted the lifestyles of the Muslims and learnt to speak in Arabic. But they did not at the beginning convert to Islam. They are called Mozarabes.  Mudejars on the other hand were those Muslims who remained in Christian territories after the Reconquest without converting to Christianity. They highly influence the Architecture after the 12th century  Moriscos were Moors who converted to Christianity during the Reconquest
  29. 29.  After the end of the Umayyads Al-Andalus broke up into almost 30 free standing city states often fighting with each other for territory  Sevilla became the most important such Taifa
  30. 30.  The Taifa kingdoms were not strong enough to protect their territories and often took help from the Christian rulers to fight with rival Muslim rulers  The Christian territory thus began to expand through the 11th and 12th century  By 1085 Toledo falls in Christian hands under Alfonso VI of Castile  In 1086 Ruler of Sevilla invites Almoravids, an orthodox group who preached a reformist Islamic message demanding strict adherence to the tenets of Islam and who showed less tolerance towards non-Muslims  Almoravid empire ends in 1145, by the Religious hostiloty had increased on both sides  1147 the Almohad take control of the Muslim territories  But Fernando III, after uniting Leon and Castile capture Cordoba in 1236, Murcia in 1241 and Sevilla in 1248
  31. 31.  It is a little before this period that Romanesque architecture starts to be popular which later develops into the Gothic style  Romanesque architecture is characterized by semi- circular arches and were mainly used in chapels and churches. They have thick walls and rounded arches, few windows and dimly lit interiors.  The Gothic architecture have higher vaults, flying buttress, coloured glass that allows light to come in  In 1075 Alfonso VI of Castile ordered the construction of the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, the place where the remains of St. James was believed to be found  It was one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Christians during the middle ages
  32. 32. San Martín de Frómista, Palencia, on the way to Santiago, Romanesque
  33. 33. Santiago de Compostela -San Martín Pinario Monastery, Gothic
  34. 34.  This epic poem that narrates the life of a Christian warrior during the Reconquista had become widely popular in Spain during the 12th century  Part of the tradition of Mester de Juglaria, this and other such songs were recited by Juglares from one place to another  A special feature of this poem is its realism and its benevolence towards the Muslim characters. Muslims are not represented as villains although the backdrop is of reconquest
  35. 35.  Under Fernando III and his son Alfonso X (1252 onwards), Toledo became the new Capital of Spain and a rich cultural city where once again the three religions lived in harmonious coexistence  The Toledo School of Translators, created by Alfonso X, worked on translation of important works in Latin, Hebrew, Greek and Arabic  Alfonso X made Castellano the official language  He himself contributed to the Mester de Clerecia and also wrote encyclopedic books on History etc
  36. 36.  By the end of 13th century on the Muslim side of Spain, Granada was the only remaining territory (the dominance of the Almohads ended with their defeat in , Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, 1212)  But in this period Al-Hambra is contsructed, one of the greatest monuments in the world
  37. 37. Four great halls enclose the famous Patio de los Leones, the "lions' court". The figures of lions that carry the fountain is a curiosity in Arabian art, as the figurative representation of animals (as well as humans) is forbidden by the Koran
  38. 38. Patio de los Arrayanes: A large court with columns of marble and a beautiful central fountain
  39. 39.  Use of Caligraphy, Plant Motifs, Tiles and Geometrical Patters to fill up all available empty space  Transmitting Tenets of Islam through the Architecture: Equality through the interminable Stone Columns of Mosque of Cordoba, Impermanence by Introduction of Water in Al-Hambra, Repetition of 7 and 4 to emanate the message “There is no God but Allah”
  40. 40.  BBC Art of Spain I by Andrew Graham-Dixon  A Concise History of Spain. D. Phillips, William., Rahn Phillips, Carla. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2012. 
  41. 41. Disclaimer: All the maps and pictures are taken from the Internet and I do not have any rights on them.