A Brief History of Zaragoza
When the Moors spread across the country during the eighth century they could never penetrate the Pyrenees, though they left quite a legacy in other parts of Aragón. By the ninth century the Christians had begun to reconsolidate in the Pyrenees; they formed the Kingdom of Aragón and made Jaca – today the most popular village among mountain sportsters – their earliest capital. The Romanesque churches scattered throughout the Pyrenees stand as a genteel testament to the devotion and, moreover, determination of these rallying Christians. During the 12th century they had worked their way south into the wide-open landscape of the Río Ebro basin in Aragón’s central region. In 1118, under King Alfonso I, they overtook the Moors of Zaragoza, the largest city in the basin.
As throughout Spain during this period, the Moors who remained on the land under Christian domain came to be called Mudéjars. For the next 300 years the many skilled artisans among them merged their traditional Islamic decorative motifs with European architectural techniques with remarkable results. Mudéjar monuments are still evident in Zaragoza, now one of Spain’s most modernized cities, starkly contrasting the poor, desolate towns and cities of the south and the culturally isolated ones of the north. But it was in southern Aragón, a sparsely populated, dry region buffeted from Valencia and Castilla-La Mancha by the Iberian mountain chain, that the Mudéjar style truly manifested itself, particularly in the provincial capital of Teruel. That tradition, however, came to an end when Ferdinand II of Aragón married Isabella of Castilla in the 15th century and the Moors were expelled, setting the framework for Spain as a unified, Christian nation.
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