Reconquista of Spain

The Reconquista (The Reconquest), which happened from 718 to 1492, was a series of battles mainly fought between Christians and Moors (Muslims) for control of the Iberian Peninsula. By the end of the Reconquista, all of the Iberian Peninsula would be ruled by the Christians.

Under Moorish rule

The Islamic conquest of the Iberian Peninsula began in 711 when Muslims invaded from across the Strait of Gibraltar and defeated the forces of King Roderic in what is now Spain. More Muslims later followed and they would conquer more territories like Merida, Cordoba, Toledo, and Zaragoza.


From these would come the Umayyad Caliphate, the Emirate of Cordoba, the Caliphate of Cordova, the Almohad Caliphate and several other Muslim caliphates and dynasties.

The start of the Reconquista

In 718 King Pelayo of the Visigoths defeats an army sent to put down his rebellion in Asturias. The victory would inspire Christians in other areas to rebel.

Key events during the Reconquista

In 721 the Muslims would be repelled by Charlemagne from France.

The fighting between the Christians and Muslims would go on and off over the next 700 years.

One by one, the provinces in the Iberian Peninsula would become Christian Kingdoms. Asturias becomes a Christian kingdom in 791, Castille in 950, and Toledo in 1085. By 1468 Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain would form Spain out of the territories of Castille and Aragon.

The end of the Reconquista

Scholars agree the fall of Grenada in 1492 to the forces of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain ended the Reconquista. Grenada is the lowermost province in Spain and bound by the Strait of Gibraltar.

The significance of the Reconquista

Historians say the Reconquista was important to the formation and development of the Spanish national identity.

Interesting facts of the Reconquista 

  • During their reign, the Moors called the Iberian Peninsula Al-Andalus. Andalusia is presently a region in Spain with its own dialect.
  • The Reconquista was not one long continuous struggle, but many battles with periods of peace in between.
  • Scholars are not entirely sure when the Reconquista started as some sources say the Battle Covadonga at 718 while others say it happened in 722.
  • During the course of the Reconquista it was not always Muslims versus Christians. In some instances, Christian kingdoms fought against each other and Islamic caliphates fought against each other in civil wars. Christians and Muslims even formed alliances against their enemies.
  • It was in the middle of the Reconquista when the Kingdom of Portugal was established in 1143.
  • Toward the end of the Reconquista, the Catholic Church would declare it a holy war against Muslims.
  • Military orders like the Knights Templar and the Order of Santiago participated in the Reconquista.
  • Some parts of Spain and Portugal today reenact the fights of the Reconquista and hold colorful parades as part of festivals called Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians).

Where is the Iberian Peninsula?

It is the far southwest of the mainland European continent bound by the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It is also just a short distance from North Africa.

What countries are currently in the Iberian Peninsula?

Spain, Portugal, and Andorra. Andorra was not prominent in the Reconquista because it was then part of France.

Are Muslims and Moors the same?

All Moors are Muslims but not all Muslims are Moors. Moors are specifically Muslims living in Maghreb, the Iberian Peninsula, Sicily, and Malta during the Middle Ages.

Was the Reconquista part of the Crusades? 

No, the Crusades were targeted at Jerusalem. But during the Second Crusade an army passing through Portugal did help retake it from the Muslims.

What was the Alhambra Decree?

Immediately after expelling all Muslim forces from the peninsula, the Christians enforced the Alhambra Decree, requiring all Jews in Castile and Aragon to convert to Christianity or be expelled.