Al-Andalus: the Legacy

Al-Andalus was the 800-year period of Muslim rule in Spain, ending in 1492.

BBC Radio 3 included a reflection by Andrew Hussey during a day of programmes exploring the music and culture of Al-Andalus. He journeys through Spain searching for its legacy today in politics, art and architecture.

“Professor Andrew Hussey is an expert on Spain and North Africa but the period known as Al-Andalus – the 800 years when Spain was under Muslim rule – remains a mystery to him.

He sets out to find out what it was and to search for its legacy today in politics, culture and architecture.

Al-Andalus is often seen as a Golden Age of civilization in a corner of Europe whilst the rest of the continent was still deep in the Middle Ages. Great discoveries were made in the fields of science and medicine and some of the most beautiful architecture and poetry in Europe was being created. It is also, rightly or wrongly, credited as a time when different religions co-existed peacefully.

Reconquista – when Catholic rule was asserted across the country – was completed in 1492. This was followed by the Inquisition, a period of repression of the Jews and Muslims who remained behind, many of whom converted to Catholicism. The myth of modern Spain was born: Christian, homogeneous, and definitely not tainted by Al-Andalus.

This idea has travelled through the centuries, endorsed by the Franco dictatorship in the 20th century and embraced in the 21st by the new far right party Vox. At the same time, violent Islamist groups like Isis and Al Qaeda lay claim to Al-Andalus, for them a lost paradise.

Andrew embarks on a quest to find out what is truth and what is myth about Al-Andalus. He visits the great wonders of the Alhambra in Granada and the Mezquita in Cordoba but also looks for traces of Al-Andalus in the culture today. He hears how both Reconquista and Al-Andalus have been weaponised by different political groups. And he explores Spain’s sometimes uneasy relationship with its Islamic past.”

BBC Radio 3

Listen to the programme here.