Interesting Facts About Spain
Facts 41 - 55
41. A very important and great part of Spanish history began in the year 711. This is the year when the Moors - los moros (from North Africa) began their conquest of the Iberian Peninsula.
This historic event is known as the Moorish Conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. In Spanish, it is called la Conquista Musulmana de la Península Ibérica.
The Moors ruled in Spain (and Portugal) for around 780 years. It was a long period of great culture when education, arts, architecture and science flourished. Many wonderful, Arabic buildings still stand, especially in southern Spain.
However, there was a gradual reversal of the situation, known as la Reconquista Española - the Reconquest - and it ended in 1492.
The last city to remain under Moorish rule was Granada. It was changed to Spanish rule in 1492. The Spanish monarchs at this time were King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. In Spanish, their names are el Rey Fernando de Castilla y la Reina Isabel de Aragón. They were also known as the Catholic Kings - los Reyes Católicos.
Above: Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand
An interesting fact: Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand were the parents of Catherine of Aragon: the first wife of the English king, Henry VIII. In Spanish, her name is Catalina de Aragón y Castilla.
Portrait below of Catherine of Aragon.
In the map below you can see the various stages of reconquest over many centuries. The gradual reversal of rule took place in a 'north to south' direction - the south remaining Arabic for the longest period of time.
León and Navarra were the first areas to return to Spanish rule.
Castilla and Aragón were the second areas.
Córdoba and Granada were the last to return to Spanish rule.
42. After almost 800 years of Moorish (Arabic) rule, it is not surprising that Spain - particularly in the south - has a great Arabic presence. The Arabic influence is evident in magnificent buildings, the language and the fascinating culture. There are many famous Arabic buildings in Spain, such as la Giralda.
La Giralda is a Moorish tower in the city of Sevilla. It is over 104 metres high.
Originally it was built in the 1100s as the minaret of the Great Mosque of Seville but now it is used as the bell tower of the cathedral.
At the very top of la Giralda there is a bronze statue that represents 'faith' - la fe. The figure is holding a standard in one hand and a palm branch in the other. The standard moves according to the wind direction because it is designed as a weather vane - una veleta. The statue is called el Giraldillo.
La Giralda has the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In Spanish this status is called un patrimonio mundial.
43. The motto of the city of Sevilla is a 'secret code'. It is: NO8DO and it dates back to the 13th century. It was created in gratitude by the Spanish King Alfonso X after the loyal people of Seville supported him in a decision he made.
The number 8 in the middle of the code represents the shape of a skein of wool. In Spanish, this wool shape is called una madeja. When the words of the motto are all placed together you have:-
NO + MADEJA + DO. This sounds like the words: No me ha dejado, meaning - 'He/She/It has not left me.'
In other words, King Alfonso considered the city of Sevilla to be loyal because it did not abandon him.
You will see NO8DO in places all over the city: on buildings, on the flag of Sevilla and on its coat of arms. The motto is written like 13th century mobile phone text language! Cu l8r!
Above: The flag of Sevilla, the coat of arms of Sevilla and an example of una madeja.
44. A magnificent Moorish building is la Alhambra in Granada. It is one of the most visited places in Spain and has the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a complex of palaces and its name comes from the Arabic al-Hamra meaning 'the red one'.
There are two possible reasons why the building is called 'red':
1. The brickwork can appear red, depending on the light.
2. It is named after Ibn al-Ahmar , the first Moorish leader of Granada, who initiated its construction. He was red-haired. His Arabic name means 'Son of the Red One'. He is also known as Muhammad I, Sultan of Granada.
Below is a photo of la Alhambra.
A famous area within la Alhambra is called el Palacio de Comares. It has a patio with a pond called the Patio of the Myrtles - el Patio de los Arrayanes and a tower called la Torre de Comares, (pictures below).
The photos below were taken from opposite positions: 1. Looking towards the Comares Tower 2. Looking out from an arch beneath the tower.
45. A Moorish area of Granada is called el Albaicín. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is famous for its Arabic architecture and narrow lanes. The area (el barrio) is situated on a hill overlooking la Alhambra. The original, Moorish entrances to the area still stand.
Below are photos of two of the arched entrances called la Puerta de Elvira and la Puerta de Monaita,
46. A famous military leader of Spain was Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, also known by the nickname el Cid, meaning - the chief. He had another nickname - el Campeador - meaning the champion of the battlefield.
He was a Spanish nobleman, born around the year 1043 in the town of Vivar, near Burgos. He is portrayed as a heroic soldier in Spanish legends.
El Cid rode a beautiful, white horse named Babieca, meaning - foolish. It is one of the most famous horses in history. El Cid loved his horse and had chosen it against the advice of his godfather who thought that the horse was not very clever. That is why people called it Babieca.
The story of El Cid is told in an epic poem called El Cantar de Mio Cid - The Song of My Cid,