Fall of Muslim Rule and Unification
The Reconquista ("Reconquest") was the centuries-long period of expansion of Iberia's Christian kingdoms. The Reconquista is viewed as beginning with the Battle of Covadonga in 722, and was concurrent with the period of Muslim rule on the Iberian peninsula. The Christian army's victory over Muslim forces led to the creation of the Christian Kingdom of Asturias along the northwestern coastal mountains. Shortly after, in 739, Muslim forces were driven from Galicia, which was to eventually host one of medieval Europe's holiest sites, Santiago de Compostela and was incorporated into the new Christian kingdom. Muslim armies had also moved north of the Pyrenees, but they were defeated by Frankish forces at the Battle of Poitiers, Frankia. Later, Frankish forces established Christian counties on the southern side of the Pyrenees. These areas were to grow into the kingdoms of Navarre, Aragon and Catalonia. For several centuries, the fluctuating frontier between the Muslim and Christian controlled areas of Iberia was along the Ebro and Duero valleys.
The breakup of Al-Andalus into the competing taifa kingdoms helped the long embattled Iberian Christian kingdoms gain the initiative. The capture of the strategically central city of Toledo in 1085 marked a significant shift in the balance of power in favour of the Christian kingdoms. Following a great Muslim resurgence in the 12th century, the great Moorish strongholds in the south fell to Christian Spain in the 13th century—Córdoba in 1236 and Seville in 1248—leaving only the Muslim enclave of Granada as a tributary state in the south.
In the 13th and 14th centuries, the Marinids Muslim sect based in North Africa invaded and established some enclaves on the southern coast but failed in their attempt to re-establish Muslim rule in Iberia and were soon driven out. The 13th century also witnessed the Crown of Aragon, centred in Spain's north east, expand its reach across islands in the Mediterranean, to Sicily and even Athens. Around this time the universities of Palencia (1212/1263) and Salamanca (1218/1254) were established. The Black Death of 1348 and 1349 devastated Spain.
In 1469, the crowns of the Christian kingdoms of Castile and Aragon were united by the marriage of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. 1478 commenced the completion of the conquest of the Canary Islands and in 1492, the combined forces of Castile and Aragon captured the Emirate of Granada, ending the last remnant of a 781-year presence of Islamic rule in Iberia. That same year, Spain's Jews were ordered to convert to Catholicism or face expulsion from Spanish territories during the Spanish Inquisition. The Treaty of Granada guaranteed religious tolerance toward Muslims, and although the toleration was only partial, it was not until the beginning of the seventeenth century, following the Revolt of the Alpujarras, that Muslims were finally expelled.
The year 1492 also marked the arrival in the New World of Christopher Columbus, during a voyage funded by Isabel. As Renaissance New Monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand centralised royal power at the expense of local nobility, and the word España, whose root is the ancient name Hispania, began to be commonly used to designate the whole of the two kingdoms. With their wide-ranging political, legal, religious and military reforms, Spain emerged as the first world power.
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