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1492: The End Of Muslim Europe

August 25, 2016

1492(One in a series of posts about 1492: The Year The World Began.)

January 2: Granada Falls to Christian Conquerors.

For over 700 years—from 711 to 1492—Muslims ruled much of present-day Spain and Portugal.  (That is, as Maria Rosa Menocal notes in her sparkling jewel of a book, The Ornament Of The World: How Muslims, Jews & Christians Created A Culture Of Tolerance In Medieval Spain, over 3 times longer than the current American republic.) With the surrender of Abu Abdullah Muhammad XII (known as Boabdil to the Castilian conquerors), the last Muslim-ruled state in Europe (with the notable exception of the Ottoman Empire) came to an end.

The victory, according to a chronicler in the Basque country, “redeemed Spain, indeed all Europe.” In Rome bonfires burned all over the city, nourished into life in spite of the rain. By order of the pope, the citizens swept Rome’s streets clean. When dawn broke, the bell at the summit of the Capitoline Hill in Rome began ringing with double strokes—a noise never heard otherwise heard except on the anniversary of a papal coronation, or to announce the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin in August…. The pope called the royal conquerors “athletes of Christ” and conferred on them the new title, which rulers of Spain bore ever after, of “Catholic Monarchs”. The joy evoked in Rome echoed through Christendom. (p. 38)

Within a few years, Muslims were forced to emigrate or to convert to Christianity, and even then were discriminated against (e.g., having to pay taxes at higher rates than “old Christians”).

The conquest of Granada and its aftermath changed the profile of Europe for a half a millennium. Outside the range of Ottoman conquests, no Muslim-ruled state ever reemerged in Europe….It became possible—though perhaps not convincing—to claim that the culture of Europe, if such a thing exists, is Christian. The habit of identifying Europe with Christendom went almost unchallenged until the late twentieth century. (p. 44)

Other posts in this series:


From → Books, History

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