11 September 2010
Long before a minor Christian pastor threatened to burn the Qur'an there was a period of nearly eight centuries when Christians, Muslims and Jews coexisted on the Iberian peninsula. Against a background of warfare and religious differences, the medieval world saw a collaboration of peoples and ideas. Much of Spain and Portugal was under Arab rule beginning in the seventh century through the fifteenth century. Al-Andalus as it was known was a place of political, cultural, linguistic, and ethnic diversity.
A page of the Spanish illuminated manuscript, Libro de los Juegos shows a Moor and Christian seated at a chess board during the thirteenth century. Commissioned by Alfonso X of Castille (1221-1284), the monarch conquered several Muslim strongholds. The Galician-Portuguese manuscript, Cantigas de Santa Maria depicts a Moor and Christian playing lutes in the monarch's court. Both chess and the lute were brought to Iberia by the Moors. During Alfonso's reign he fostered an environment of learning and scholarship between Christians, Muslims and Jews. The interchange in cultures also brought distinctive lustreware pottery to Spain, the dish is from the fifteenth century.
This enlightened time was followed by the dark Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions of the Renaissance.