The Fortress of Faith: The Attitude towards Muslims in Fifteenth Century Spain

The Fortress of Faith: The Attitude towards Muslims in Fifteenth Century Spain

The Fortress of Faith: The Attitude towards Muslims in Fifteenth Century Spain

The Fortress of Faith: The Attitude towards Muslims in Fifteenth Century Spain


This volume deals with the creation of a new image of Islam in the Iberian Peninsula in the 15th century. It uses as point of departure several treatises on Islam written around 1450. The first chapters examine the historical background, the authors biographies and the styles they chose to approach different audiences. As for the contents of the treatises, subjects included are Islamic doctrine as known by Christian theologians; controversy as a way to achieve pacific conversion and social habits leading to the acculturation of Islamic communities. The interpretation of these sources shows a new view of the interaction between Islam and Christianity, which favoured the conquest of Granada - the last piece of land under Muslim power in the Peninsula - and the obstruction of Turkish advance in Europe.


The perception Christian writers in the Iberian Peninsula had of the Muslim community surrounding them, both within the Christian territories and in neighbouring Granada, is one of the most interesting aspects of the last years of the Reconquest. In spite of the large number of studies devoted to the fall of Granada in 1492, few scholars have analysed the approach to the “Muslim matter” in the years before it. And it is precisely the period between 1450 and 1470 which provides the clue to understanding the political thought of Isabel and Fernando.

A process had started with the conquest of Toledo in 1085 which marked the change from a “total” Arabic religious culture coexisting with two micro-cultures (Jewish and Mozarab), to a “total” Christian religious culture gradually imposing itself on the other two. Legal sanction of the process came with Alfonso X's Seven Parts, which established the framework for all future royal legislation dealing with socio-religious issues.

The parallel development of Mendicant orders and their preaching methods helped to consider Islam not just an enemy in crusade, but also an intellectual adversary to be defeated by arguments. The Iberian Peninsula was a good place to test their theories, for it offered the perfect situation for preachers to practice their skills. They could try both Muslims living under Christian rule (Mudejars) and the Muslim kingdom of Granada, where they could travel provided with safe-conducts. A list of famous names tried—and failed—to achieve the conversion of Andalusian Muslims.

By the fifteenth century, the conquest of Granada was thought to be inevitable and imminent, for the first time in centuries. The facts which had brought about this feeling in the Peninsular kingdoms were Castilian self-awareness, after a long list of military successes, and the imperialist claims of Aragon in the Mediterranean, which

Epalza, M. de: “Historia medieval de la Peninsula: tres culturas o tres reli
giones”, pp. 100–101.

Highfield, R.: “Christian, Jews and Muslims…” Studies in Church History (1978),
pp. 123–124.

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