How Did the Culture of the Spanish Reflect Their Worldview?

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How Did the Culture 

of the Spanish Reflect 

Their Worldview?

Until the 13th century, the culture of much of Spain was influenced

by Moorish rule. Spain was one of the most cultured and literate

societies in western Europe. Christian, Jewish, and Muslim scholars

had all contributed to Spain’s reputation as one of the learning

centres of the then-known world. However, by 1265, only Granada

in southern Spain remained under the control of the Moors. After

the Reconquista ended in 1492, when Jews and Muslims were driven

from Spain, the culture of Spain changed.

R e l i g i o u s   B e l i e f s   a n d   P r a c t i c e

In 1500, almost all Spaniards were Roman Catholics, sharing a

religious worldview of one God, who was always present in their

lives, and of an afterlife in either heaven or hell. They believed that

their place in the afterlife depended on whether they had followed

religious teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. This included

leading lives according to the Bible and the confession of sins.

Cathedrals, the grandest buildings in any city, were built as places

of worship to honour God. The interiors of cathedrals were usually

filled with many beautiful religious statues and paintings.

Religion united Roman Catholics on the 

Iberian Peninsula to finally conquer the Moors. 

The importance of religion was so strong that 

the Reconquista lasted for several centuries.

At the conclusion of the Reconquista,

Roman Catholicism became the only

religious faith that Spaniards were

allowed to practise. In observing their

faith, the Spanish often focused on

the suffering of Jesus Christ. The

Spanish admired both courage

and the willingness of individuals

to withstand suffering and sacrifice

in support of their principles.

Exhibiting these traits, the

conquistadors were held in

high esteem.

H o w   D i d   t h e   A z t e c   a n d   t h e   S p a n i s h   Wa y s   o f   L i f e   R e f l e c t   T h e i r   Wo r l d v i e w s ?


I wonder … how does

believing in one God or

believing in many gods

affect worldview?

Spanish sailors and

explorers of that time often

prayed in the Cathedral

of Santiago de Compostela

before setting sail.

Gr8SS-AB-Ch08GOOD  2/25/07  9:54 PM  Page 291

Records from the trials of citizens accused of heresy

during the Spanish Inquisition show that they usually

ended with an auto-da-fe. The auto-da-fe was a public

ceremony during which the sentences of convicted

individuals were read. The ceremonies, usually held in

the city plaza, became very elaborate public spectacles.

Often members of royalty attended. The ceremony

began with a lengthy procession, followed by a religious

service, an oath of obedience to the Inquisition,

a sermon, and then the reading of the sentences.

Generally, the sentences were carried out at a later time.

Those found guilty of heresy were often executed

by burning at the stake.

T h e   A r t s

L i t e r a t u r e

As in most of Europe, Latin was the language used

by Spanish scholars and the clergy. However, each

kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula had its own

vernacular: Castilian in Castile, Aragonese in Aragon,

and Catalan in Catalonia, along the Mediterranean

coast. Once Isabella and Ferdinand united the two

kingdoms of Castile and Aragon into Spain, Isabella

made Castilian the official language. It later became

known as Spanish. The nobles from across the country

quickly switched to Castilian since it was the language

of power. The common people in each area continued

speaking their own languages, but gradually began to use Castilian

for their dealings with citizens of other regions. Having one language

helped unify the country, developing a common sense of citizenship

and nationalism.

O u r   Wo r l d v i e w s

C h a p t e r   8


La Cartuja Monastery,

Granada, Spain

One of the most famous works in Spanish literature is the epic

poem “El cantar de mío Cid.” The poem is based on a true story

about El Cid, a Spanish hero during the Reconquista in the

11th century. El Cid married the cousin of King Alfonso VI but was

banished from the kingdom when his enemies unjustly accused

him of stealing from the king. To regain his honour, he participated

in the battles against the Moorish armies and conquered Valencia.

Through these heroic acts, he regained the confidence of the king

and his honour was restored. His two daughters then married the

princes of Navarre and Aragon. 

El Cid came from the

Arabic word sidi,

meaning “leader.”

Gr8SS-AB-Ch08GOOD  2/25/07  9:54 PM  Page 292

Spanish literature by 1500 was rich and varied, reflecting its

diverse population. During the Middle Ages, the 



many lyrical epics, long poems that focused on the social and

political situations of the day. Troubadours sang for the common

people in village squares and for the nobility in castles and royal

courts. During this same period, scholars and priests composed

poetry about the natural and supernatural world, often with subjects

that helped reinforce the goals of the Reconquista. By the end of the

15th century, the Reconquista was over and lyrical poetry became

popular. Lyrical poems were shorter than the epic poems of the

troubadours and focused on themes of courtly love. They were often

about knights and their love for a woman. Tales about chivalry and

romance and poetry that portrayed the quiet life in the country also

became popular forms of literature.

A rc h i t e c t u r e   a n d   S c u l p t u r e

Spanish architecture was greatly influenced by the Islamic Moors.

They created unique architectural features that are still found in

Spanish architecture. Many Spanish homes had beautiful mosaic

decorations and inside courtyards modelled after Muslim buildings.

The grandest structures in Spain were the mosques and churches.

The architectural styles of many Spanish churches were modelled

after those in France. 

The most talented Spanish sculptors lived in Catalonia and Aragon.

In other areas of Spain, most of the best sculptors came from other

lands in western Europe. Many sculptors decorated civic buildings,

but most master sculptors created works for the interiors of churches

and cathedrals. 

P a i n t i n g

Spanish artists absorbed influences from

different cultures, traditions, and religions,

but still developed their own artistic styles.

Flemish and Italian artists had the greatest

influence over Spanish artists. Between the

11th and 13th centuries, the most impressive

Spanish art was beautiful murals and frescoes,

most often found on the walls of churches.

The first identifiable Spanish painter was

Ferrer Bassa (1324–1348). He founded the

Catalan school of art. At the time of the

unification, Spanish paintings reflected

influences of both the Moors and northern

Europe. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella

were patrons of the arts.

H o w   D i d   t h e   A z t e c   a n d   t h e   S p a n i s h   Wa y s   o f   L i f e   R e f l e c t   T h e i r   Wo r l d v i e w s ?


Jesus in the Tomb with the

Apostles and His Mother,

fresco, Ferrer Bassa,

Monasterio de Pedralbes,

Barcelona, Spain


a travelling


Gr8SS-AB-Ch08GOOD  2/25/07  9:54 PM  Page 293

R E F L E C T   A N D   R E S P O N D

T h e   S p a n i s h   M e a s u r e m e n t   o f Ti m e

Until the year 1582, Europeans followed the Julian calendar that was

introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 


. The year equalled 365





with the one-quarter day taken account of by adding an extra day to

February every four years, a leap year. Each year was divided into

12 unequal months. When this calendar was first adopted, the


and equinoxes occurred on the 25th day of the month.

By the late 1500s, they fell on the 11th day of the month. The

calendar was not accurate enough, and over the centuries, the count

was inaccurate that many days. This was a problem for Christians

celebrating Easter around the equinox. If the equinox was now

falling on the wrong date, then Easter, the holiest Christian holiday,

was also falling on the wrong date. In 325, the Roman Catholic

Church decided that Easter would be the first Sunday after the full

moon following the spring equinox, which was then March 21.

O u r   Wo r l d v i e w s

C h a p t e r   8


The seven-day week

was introduced by

Emperor Constantine I

in the 4th century. 

I wonder … what types

of calendars were other

civilizations using up

until the 1900s?

I wonder … why do the

Christian Orthodox

churches use the Julian


G r e g o r i a n   C a l e n d a r

In 1582, the spring equinox fell in early April instead of March 20

or 21. To solve the problem, Pope Gregory XIII decreed that the

date following Thursday, October 4, 1582, would be Friday,

October 15. This would return the Spring Equinox to March 21.

The new calendar was called the Gregorian calendar. It regulated

the ceremonial cycle of the Roman Catholic and Protestant

Churches and, in Europe, became the standard calendar for

everyday use as well. It was quickly adopted by Spain, France,

Portugal, Poland, and Italy. Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland,

and a number of Catholic German states followed suit within a

year or two. Other countries followed over the next centuries.

By the early 1900s, the world was using the Gregorian calendar

as its standard.

1. Compare the cultures of the Aztec and the Spanish. Which aspects may have led

to conflict or misunderstanding?

2. Spanish troubadours travelled through the country singing their long epic songs.

a. What similar groups roamed Japan culture during the Edo Period? 

b. Why would the troubadours have been so popular, especially in the towns

and villages? 

3. Spanish literary forms and themes changed during the 15th century.

For example, romance novels became very popular. What do these

changes reveal about changing attitudes among the Spanish? 


either of the two

times of the year when

the sun is at its greatest

distance from the equator.

In the northern hemisphere,

the summer solstice

(around June 21) is the

longest day of the year

and the winter solstice

(around December 22) is

the shortest

Gr8SS-AB-Ch08GOOD  2/25/07  9:54 PM  Page 294

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