The Later Crusades, 1274-1580: From Lyons to Alcazar

By Norman Housley | Go to book overview

9
The Iberian Peninsula: The Rewards and Problems of Conquest, 1274-1415

WHEN the Council of Lyons assembled in 1274 Castile, Aragon, and Portugal, the principal Christian states of Iberia, could look back on a recent crusading history which stood in sharp contrast to the run of disasters which their contemporaries had experienced in the Holy Land and Romania (see map 10). Following the decisive defeat of the Almohad army at Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, at the hands of a mainly Castilian and Aragonese force, the territorial impasse which had characterized the Reconquista since the time of the Second Crusade was broken. The rulers of all three peninsular kingdoms made substantial gains. King James I of Aragon seized the Balearic Islands between 1229 and 1235, and overran the Kingdom of Valencia in 1232-45. Sancho II and Alfonso III of Portugal effectively completed the Portuguese Reconquista by extending their lands as far south as the coast of the Algarve. Most spectacularly, Ferdinand III of Castile brought under direct control Extremadura, Murcia, and much of Andalusia, including the great urban prizes of Córdoba ( 1236) and Seville ( 1248). From 1246 the Emirate of Granada endured tributary status to Castile, and as early as 1227 Ferdinand entertained hopes of carrying the war across the Straits of Gibraltar into Muslim North Africa. Within two decades about a third of the peninsula and its population had been transferred from Islamic to Christian hands, and the balance of power between the two contesting religions had been fundamentally and irrevocably altered.

The aftermath of these spectacular events played a dominant role in shaping Christian-Muslim relations in Iberia throughout the decades covered by this chapter. The conquests were a formidable act to follow, and according to the Castilian 'Primera crónica general' the dying

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