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
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 ?
Spanish sailors and
explorers of that time often
prayed in the Cathedral
of Santiago de Compostela
before setting sail.
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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
O u r Wo r l d v i e w s
C h a p t e r 8
La Cartuja Monastery,
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,
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diverse population. During the Middle Ages, the
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.
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
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.
fresco, Ferrer Bassa,
Monasterio de Pedralbes,
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Until the year 1582, Europeans followed the Julian calendar that was
introduced by Julius Caesar in 46
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.
The seven-day week
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
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
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