FROM THE PIONEER – THE MAGAZINE OF ST AUGUSTINE’S
The Bamboo and Palm trees bend violently in the vicious hot winds of the ‘Sirocco’ that have come straight across the Mediterranean from the Sahara Desert. The wind lifts the sand from the beach and carries it up into the mountains of the Cabo de Gata natural park, covering everything in its path with a layer of brown dirt and sand. Cars, houses, people and anything else in the way is effectively given a hot sand blasting, despite the heat people run for shelter and doors and windows are shut up tight. The lucky ones turn up their air conditioning whist everybody else just sits it out with as much bottled water as they had previously, sensibly, stockpiled.
Not so many years ago the electricity lines would have come down and so the air conditioning would have failed as would the pumps that brought the water up into the hills. In effect the very things that in England we regard as the curse of a very, very bad winter storm are in fact the Southern Spanish curse of a hot summer; It’s a strange old world at times.
Another strange thing that becomes obvious as you look at the historic buildings in this part of Spain where Jan and I take our annual summer break is that the architecture has more in common with that of Morocco or Egypt or yes even Jerusalem than it does with north of the country or the rest of Europe. What is frequently forgotten is the fact that at the same time as Jerusalem fell to the Muslim’s so did most of North Africa and Southern Spain and whilst the noble’s and peasantry of Europe fought and died trying to regain and hold onto the Holy City, beyond Egypt nobody seemed to worried about the rest of North Africa or Spain.
One reason for this apparent lack of concern was the fact that there was considered little of strategic importance once beyond Egypt and heading West. The great crusade from Europe tried to sail as little as possible for safety and logistical reasons and whilst some passed down through Italy and onto Cyprus or Rhodes the majority made their way via Constantinople and around the eastern end of
the Mediterranean before making for the Holy Land. They came answering the call of Pope Urban II who proclaimed on the 27th November 1095 ‘Deus le volt!’ or as we say ‘God wills it’. In making this call within his sermon as he preached to the leading grandees of the day, Pope Urban II set in motion some of the most horrific events in the then known history of the world and which would have repercussions even in our own era with Al-Qaeda claiming the attacks on the Twin Towers of New York (USA) were in revenge for the Crusades.
Despite the upheavals caused throughout most of Western Europe it would be just three years short of the 400th anniversary of Pope Urban II words before southern Spain would become a Christian controlled area. It would take a marriage between the royal house of Aragon and Sicily (yes the same Aragon that a few years later would send Catherine to marry Henry VIII and inadvertently start the process that would lead to the establishment of the Church of England) and the royal house of Castile before anyone would pay too much attention to this far flung corner of Europe.
King Ferdinand and his Queen Isabella had differing reasons for wanting to create a new United Kingdom of Spain free from anything but Christian rule, though both claimed it was God’s will. Isabella saw it as her Christian duty, unable to afford or indeed mount a crusade to Jerusalem and without the backing of the now warring royal houses of Europe, this devout, grave and iron-willed queen determined to be rid of the heathen in her own country. Ferdinand however had somewhat different reasons. He was already well known as a cunning, cynical and womanizing manipulator who desired to get his hands on the gold and vast wealth held by the Moor’s in their great places and citadels of the South.
Their crusade to free Spain from the Moor’s culminated in January 1492 when the great fortress at Granada fell to their majesties, the end of the last Islamic principality in Europe. The then Pope immediately conferred upon them the title ‘Their Catholic Majesties’, this in turn fired their imagination to want to be leading crusaders for the Christian faith with potentially disastrous consequences.
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