Are We Ready for Another Renaissance?

Can we have another renaissance between Christians, Jews and Muslims?


The Alhambra fort and palace in Granada, Spain, with the Sierra  Mountains in the background. Photo by bernjan. Wikimedia Commons.

In 711 the Muslim Umayyad Caliphate conquered Hispania, or Spain, which the Moors called Al-Andalus. The land was then divided into Andalusia, Catalonia, Aragon, Septimania, Galicia, and León. Throughout the centuries, Al-Andalus grew to be a center for learning, with the cities of Córdoba and Toledo as cultural and economic hubs.


The Gate House, also called the Gate of Justice. Photo by Anrew Dunn. Wikimedia Commons.

At that time coexistence, or convivencia in Spanish, existed between the three major religions of Islam, Catholicism, and Judaism. Great learning, religious tolerance, and conviviality thrived throughout the land, and science, engineering, medicine, and the arts flourished and underwent a renaissance. Most importantly, these advance in learning brought the old Greek philosophy to the rest of Europe. Translations of Greek philosophy into Arabic and into Hebrew and Latin enriched the rest of Europe—still in its dark ages.


The Generalife and Pasha’s summer palace. Photo by Andrew Dunn. Wikimedia Commons.

The enduring legacy of the Moors was their love of learning and innovation. They created canals and waterworks that fed their fields, palaces, and fountains. Sometimes, if you listen to the fountains with their dancing, spraying, and cooling waters, you may hear the women in the harem laughing and giggling. You can imagine the concubines sitting in cool patios, away from men’s prying eyes, while fanning themselves and eating sweetmeats and delicacies.


Photo through Flidkr by Yves Remedios. Wikimedia Commons.

Moorish calligraphy. At center, Queen Isabella’s motto in Spanish after the conquest: TATOMOTA refers to the saying “Tanto Monta el Rey como la Reina,” or “The King sits as firmly in the saddle as the Queen.” The allusion is to the unification of Spain and Aragon, through the marriage of Queen Isabella of Castile and León (collectively known as Spain) to King Ferdinand of Aragon, giving both rulers equal rights.

Moorish architecture, with calligraphy carved on gleaming mosaics and stucco walls, declared the Moor’s love for life and for God. One of the most outstanding and ingenious creations was the street lampposts, illuminating the darkness as little pearls in the night. Throughout the gardens and grounds of palaces, the scent of citron trees, jasmine, and roses filled the air.


Wikimedia. Painting by German Painter Adolf Seel. 1 March 1829-14 February 1907.

This atmosphere of learning and creative living ended in the 15th century when Spain demanded the keys to Granada and forced the last Nasrid King, Muhammad XII—or Boabdil el Chico—to become their vassals in the Valley of Purchena in the Alpuxarras lands. Thus ended a seven-hundred-year renaissance era of Moorish life in Spain.

About the Author
Lilian was born in Cairo, Egypt, of a Sephardic background. Her family immigrated to Israel in 1956. They spoke Ladino at home in addition to French and Hebrew. Lilian served two years in the Israel Defense Forces then transferred to the Negev Desert where she met her husband Joel. Afterwards they moved to California to raise their two children.
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