11 September 2010

Arabian Iberia: When Christians, Muslims and Jews lived together

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.


  1. Just took your blog off my list of blogs about antiques & art and put it on my blogs "just for joy" list. It is a short list, but each blog on it makes me happy & teaches me with each posting. And that is what you do.

  2. BWS, I am touched to be in such wonderful company and that you would think so highly of me. Best, Kendra

  3. don't be an apologists for the Islamic faith. stand on principal, stick with design. you know not what you are saying. there might be one instance of utopia that you have found, but make no mistake they are after our throats. is it going to take another 9/11 to make you knuckle head dreamers realize this (that includes you BO)? he calls the destructive terrorists, embittered children - such a complete joke and a dangerous President we have.

  4. That there was a time when Jews and Christians were able to live in peace on the Islamic Iberian Peninsula is long gone from collective memory, and I wonder who amongst the TV pundits and self-serving pastors today would believe it if they were told of it.

    Hard to imagine, isn't it, that religions could live in peace, let alone the sects of each of them? The history of religion in the West is the history of division, hate, and warfare and that history continues to be written today.

  5. Thank you Blue for your balanced thoughts, they followed Anonymous' comment that I do not agree with but feel I must post. Best, Kendra

  6. We could go on and on about all religions and their not so benevolent or peaceful endeavors. But I have always enjoyed your blog as an intelligent resource to celebrate what is beautiful and noteworthy in the arts and how it relates to history.

    Frankly Anonymous should not be talking about principle when he/she does not even understand the word and cowardly refrains from using his/her name.

    Sadly there have always been war, greed and hatred, and unfortunately there may always be. But thankfully there have also been times of peace and mutual respect, fostering innovation and progress. We need more reminders of what is possible. So thank you Kendra for a beautiful example of what peaceful interactions of cultures and religion can bring about.



  7. Thank you Claudia, it is so easy for some people to look at what our differences are and not celebrate what we have in common. Best, Kendra

  8. Hi Kendra,
    And thank you for reminding us that we can indeed play well together.
    I understand Anonymous' fears, it's all too easy to fall into that mind frame, there are days I have heightened anxiety. But risking being labeled a "dreamer", we are all one under heaven.
    Thanks for the post, isn't lustreware the best!

  9. LG~ I would rather be a dreamer than fall into a negative mind frame. Your posts always make me smile. Best, Kendra

  10. "This enlightened time was followed by the dark Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions of the Renaissance." Now that's a haunting reminder of the dialectic pendulum of history. And I'm really pissed about what it happening today. I am a 60 year-old Boomer and thought for sure I would be aging in the Dawn of Aquarius. Bummed out about all of this hate for entertainment mess that bombards us every day. We are better than this.

  11. HBD~ It is always so nice to get a note from you. I too am tired of media focusing on conflict rather than what could join people together. Best, Kendra


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