Christian Spain from the 700's to the 1500's was dominated by the interplay of two opposing forces: the
idea of an ultimate Christian conquest of the whole peninsula and that the Christian and Islamic peoples of
Spain had become irretrievably associated with each other.
In the early 700's, the Muslims crossed the straits and defeated Roderic, the last Gothic king. In
the next few years the Muslims took over almost all of Spain except for a remote region. Because the
Muslims enjoyed the fertile plains and mild climate of southern Spain, they never had a strong hold on the
bleak uplands of Castile. In the tenth and eleventh centuries, Muslim Spain brought knowledge and ideas
into the Christian lands. Agriculture was improved by the introduction of irrigation and new crops such as
sugar, saffron, cotton, citrus fruit, and silk. Industry was improved by the introduction of products such as
paper and glass.
The Muslim conquerors did not make the Christians convert. Instead, the Muslims gave
Christians the option of accepting their faith or paying a poll tax. The Jews, who had previously been
persecuted, enjoyed official protection and made several contributions.
Although the Muslims brought about many achievements, their civilization rested on insecure
foundations. There was often fierce political and religious feuds over control of the empire. There was
also the division of part of Cordoba into states, which constantly warred with each other. These struggles
allowed the little Christian kingdoms in the north to grow strong and eventually begin a advance against the
The Reconquest originally began by the Christians as an effort to regain lost lands, but ultimately
turned into a crusade. The Muslim territory in Spain was diminished to the small kingdom of Granada by
the time of Ferdinand's death in 1252. (((( The Reconquest also had other benefits. As the Muslims fell
back, large amounts of land became the possession of the crown (which was then redistributed in large
estates to the nobility). The Reconquest also promoted municiple growth (ONLY IN CASTILE P 41. ))))
Starting with Columbus's second voyage into America, clergymen began coming to the conquered
territories in vast numbers. The clergymen had visions of a multitude of Indian souls waiting to be saved.
The missionaries were often impressed by the admirable qualities of the Indians. Many of the reformist
clergy had "pro-indian" attitudes, which greatly differed from that of the Spaniards who wanted to exploit
the Indian's labor and referred to them as "dogs". The church was soon instructed to only concern itself
with worship and preaching--to leave the economic and social problems to the Spaniards.
The friars in the Americas converted a large number of natives, who willingly or unwillingly
(sometimes by force) accepted the religion of the invaders. In Mexico, the Franciscans profess that by
1531 they converted more than a million Indians. A major accomplishment during this time was that the
intellectuals in the Catholic church wrote detailed accounts in the 16th century of the Indians, showing a
close examination of Indian life. The missionaries also made efforts to reconstruct the history, religion, and
social institutions of the ancient Indian civilizations. Schools were established that taught upper class
Indians subjects such as latin, logic, philosophy, and the Christian Doctrine. Indians were also taught how
to convert other Indians to Christianity.
During this time, the Catholic began growing vastly in land size. This was due to a concept called
mortmain. In mortmain, a person would give their property to the Catholic Church when they died and it
would give them a spot in Heaven. The church could not sell or exchange the land so it soon became the
largest land holder.
The Catholic Church brought about many accomplishments and features in the Americas between
1492-1820. The detailed accounts of Indian life, the schools, and mortmain is just to name a few.