All photos by Liv Ingeborg Lied
“When my supervisor encouraged me to sign up for the course on Andalusia, I was a bit sceptical. The subject was interesting, and a trip to Spain was very appealing, but it didn't seem to apply directly to my own research. What I found, however, was that this course covers such fascinating material in such depth that any historian could learn a great deal from taking it. It was also a great opportunity to get to know and learn from other researchers from a variety of fields, and gain their perspective on a common topic. I greatly enjoyed every moment of the trip, as I hoped I would, but I also found it incredibly enriching for my life as a professional. I would recommend this experience to anybody.”
Jesse Ophoff, PhD candidate, MF Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society
Diving into the medieval southern Iberian Peninsula – excursion to Andalusia
By Marika Ahonen, PhD candidate, University of Turku
The excursion to Andalusia offered an insight into the medieval southern Iberian Peninsula, where the history of coexistence of Muslims, Jews and Christians was reconsidered by travelling to various historical locations in Córdoba, Seville and Granada. Altogether 14 researchers from different backgrounds including religious studies, theology, art history and cultural history participated in the trip. Supplementary reading collected by the organisers prepared us well for the sights; among them was the main source collection of texts Medieval Iberia. Readings from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish sources edited by Olivia Remie Constable. The mythical idea of Andalusia, conviviencia, and remembering the past and the use of it, were the main themes of the excursion.
When examining and remembering medieval Andalusia, one cannot escape the concept of conviviencia that refers to the harmonic coexistence of Muslims, Christians and Jews in that era. The concept appeared for the first time in 1948 when cultural historian, Américo Castro, used it in his research about the historical identity of Spain, but of course, the idea of harmonious coexistence is older than that. In the 19th century, for example, the romantics – such as Washington Irving – discovered Alhambra and so reconstructed the mythical al-Andalusia again, making it known in many cultural products of art, music and literature. Today, the history of medieval Andalusia is very much attached to the idea of the mythical al-Andalusia, not only in the tourism of the area but also in terms of the questions raised about who has the right to use certain historical places and for what purpose. Therefore, medieval Andalusia is an interesting target for historical research in today’s global world in regards to identity and politics.
We started the excursion from Córdoba, where the Moorish power first started, continued from there to Seville, and ended the journey at the last fortress of the Moorish rule, that of Granada. This somewhat chronological order was also visible in the places we visited – especially in terms of the mosques that were turned into cathedrals. In Córdoba, the mosque-cathedral La Mezquita still has many of its characteristics left, whereas in Seville, besides the tower of La Giralda, all other characteristics of the old mosque have been replaced by a cathedral. Moreover, in Granada, there is no sight of the old mosque at all, having been completely turned into a cathedral. These changes in the visual sights represent the power of the kingdom and Catholicism. As Granada was the last place to seal the Reconquista, it was important to highlight this power for Isabel and Ferdinand in places such as the cathedral, as well as in their own tomb. After the Reconquista, Muslims and Jews were forced to convert to Christianity and finally expelled out of the country. This change was different to earlier al-Andalusia, where every religious group could privately practice their religion, as long as they stayed loyal to their rulers and paid their taxes. But was the coexistence, conviviencia, as peaceful and harmonious as the story of the mythical al-Andalusia indicates?
It is possible to examine this story more carefully through, for example, reading The Pact of ‘Umar from the book of Constable. This collection of rules dictated appropriate behaviour for non-Muslims in the medieval world. We read a version of these rules by Andalusian lawyer, al-Turtushin (d.1126) which stated that one is ordered to offer a seat to a Muslim when demanded, forbidden to practise other religions in public, and forced to wear a belt identifying one as non-Muslim. For today’s reader, these rules are reminiscent of the case of Rosa Parks and the civil rights movement in the United States, or the South African apartheid. During the excursion, we considered the concept of tolerance instead of conviviencia to describe the coexistence in a less romanticised manner. Then again, in comparison to the previous Visigoths era, the subsequent Reconquista and Inquisition, or even later violence with the Spanish civil war and Franco’s dictatorship, the story of the harmonious coexistence seems somewhat more appealing. For Américo Castro, for example, the concept of conviviencia may have been attractive as he was exiled from Franco’s Spain while writing his research.
Acedo, Aurelio Cid (engl. Jon Trout): The Alhambra and Granada in Focus. Edilux S.L., Granada 2007.
Baxter Wolf, K.: “Convivencia in Medieval Spain: A Brief History of an Idea”. Religion Compass, Volume 3, Issue 1. (2009). pp. 72-85.
Johnson, Bruce & Salmi, Hannu: Aistien historia: Kohteet ja menetelmät. Tulkinnan polkuja. Kulttuurihistorian tutkimusmenetelmiä. Toim. Asko Nivala & Rami Mähkä. k&h kulttuurihistoria, Turku 2013.
Coleman, David: “The Percistence of the Past in the Albaicín: Granada’s New Mosque and the Question of Historical Relevance”. In the light of medieval Spain : Islam, the west, and the relevance of the past, eds. Simon Doubleday & David Coleman, Palgrave Macmillan, New York 2008.
Constable, Olivia Remie (ed.): Medieval Iberia: Readings from Christian, Muslim and Jewish Sources. (Second edition, 2012) University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia 2012.
Doubleday, Simon K.: “Introduction: ‘Criminal Non-Intervention’: Hispanism, Medievalism, and the Pursuit of Neutrality”. In the light of medieval Spain : Islam, the west, and the relevance of the past, eds. Simon Doubleday & David Coleman. Palgrave Macmillan, New York 2008, pp. 1-32.
Gibson, Ian: Federico García Lorca. A Life. Faber and Faber Limited, London 1989.
Gill, John: Andalucía. A Cultural History. Signal Books Limited, Oxford 2008.
Hintzen-Bohlen, Birgittte: Taide & Arkkitehtuuri Andalusia. Könemann Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, Köln 1999.
Pallasmaa, Juhani: Ihon silmät – arkkitehtuuri ja aistit. ntamo 2016.
Villa-real Ricardo: Historia de Granada acontamientos y personajes. Biblioteca de Escritores y Temas Granadinos, 9. Madrid 2003.