Are We Ready for Another Renaissance?

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

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The Alhambra Fort and palace in Granada, Spain, with the Sierra Nevada 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.

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Photo. The Gate House, also called the Gate of Justice. Photo by Andrew 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 advances in learning brought the old Greek philosophy to the rest of Europe. Translations from Greek philosophy to Arabic and into Hebrew and Latin enriched the rest of Europe—still in its dark ages.

 

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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.

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Photo through Flickr 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 firmly in the saddle as the Queen.” This 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 calligraphy carved on gleaming mosaics and stucco walls declared their love for life and God. One of the most outstanding and ingenious creations were the street lampposts, illuminating the darkness as little pearls in the night. Throughout the gardens and grounds of palaces, the scents of citron trees, jasmine and roses filled the air.

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Wikimedia. Painting by Germain 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 vassal in the Valley of Purchena in the Alpuxarras lands. Thus ended a seven-hundred-year renaissance era of Moorish life in Spain.

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