Tuesday, October 27, 2009

delanceyplace.com 10/27/09 - andalusia

In today's excerpt - in the middle ages, a
vast portion of what is now Spain was ruled
by Muslims, who were a model of religious
tolerance, and who provided Europe with the
knowledge and technology that was one of the
keys to its resurgence in the Renaissance
until they were finally driven from Spain in
1492 by Ferdinand and Isabella. Their
territory is in part remembered today as
Andalusia - "Al Andalus":

"After the Moorish conquest of Spain in the
eighth century, the emir
of Al Andalus had been a vassal of the
caliphs of Damascus and Baghdad. But this
western outpost of Islam was the first of the
provinces to break free of its Oriental
masters. When the Mongols destroyed the
caliphate in Baghdad in 1258, the
independence of Al Andalus was solidified,
and the Spanish Moors began to relate more to
Europe than the Middle East.

"In arts and agriculture, learning and
tolerance, Al Andulus was a beacon of
enlightenment to the rest of Europe. In the
fertile valleys of the Guadalquivir and the
Guadiana rivers,
as well as the terraced slopes of the
Alpujarras, agriculture surpassed
anything elsewhere on the continent. Moorish
filigree silver- and
leatherwork became famous throughout the
Mediterranean. In engineering, the skill of
the Spanish Moors had no parallel, and the
splendor of their architecture was manifest
in the glorious mosque of
Cordoba, the Giralda and Alcazar of Seville,
and the Alhambra of
Granada. Its excellence in art and
literature, mathematics and science,
history and philosophy defined this brilliant

"Among its finest achievements was its
tolerance. Jews and Christians were welcomed,
if not as equals, then as full-fledged
citizens. They
were permitted to practice their faith and
their rituals without interference. This
tolerance was in keeping with the principles
of the Koran,
which taught that Jews and Christians were to
be respected as 'peoples
of the Book' or believers in the word of God.
Jews and Christians were
assimilated into Islamic culture, and
occasionally, Moorish leaders
helped to build Christian houses of

"In 1248, work began on the colossal Alhambra
in Granada. With its
thirteen towers and fortified walls above the
ravine of the Darro River,
the river of gold, the red palace took shape
over the next hundred years.
The extraordinary rooms of its interior - the
Courtyard of the Lions,
the Hall of the Two Sisters, the Court of the
Myrtles - were finished
at the end of the long process under the
reign of Yusef I in the mid-fourteenth
century. With their arabesque moldings and
gold ornament and vegetal carvings, these
rooms became the wonder of the world.
Most stunning of all was the Courtyard of the
Lions, whose Oriental
feel was more reminiscent of Japan than the
Middle East and whose vision was to replicate
the Garden of Paradise."

James Reston, Jr., The Dogs of God,
Anchor, Copyright 2005 by James Reston, Jr.,
pp. 7-8.


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