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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

1252 1479 Sidenote General characteristics of the era



The Romanesque art of this region was less heavy and more gracefully proportioned than that of Castile,--possibly, the result of Italian influences. Catalan Gothic architecture was especially affected by Italian art,--so much so, that it lacked some of the principal elements of the Gothic.


Attention need be called only to the profound French influence in this region.



[Sidenote: General characteristics of the era.]

After the death of Ferdinand III and of Jaime I the reconquest of Spain from the Moslems came to a virtual standstill for over two centuries. Some slight accessions of territory were obtained by Castile, but no serious effort was made to acquire the only remaining enemy stronghold, the kingdom of Granada. Conditions had changed to such an extent that Moslem Spain for the first tune in more than five centuries was of secondary and even minor importance. Castile and Aragon devoted their principal attention to other affairs, and both took great strides ahead in the march of civilization. In Castile the chief problems were of an internal social and political nature. On the one hand this period marked the

change from a seigniorial country type of life to that of the developed town as the basis of society; on the other it witnessed the struggle of monarchy and the ideal of national unity against seigniorial anarchy and decentralization for which the lords (including many of the great churchmen) and the towns contended. As before, the king's principal opponents were the nobles, and the civil wars of this era, whatever the alleged causes, were really only the expression of the struggle just referred to. Outwardly the kings appeared to have been defeated, but in no period of the history of Spain has the external narrative been more at variance with the actual results, as shown by a study of the underlying institutions, than in this. The real victory lay with monarchy and unity, and this was to be made manifest in the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella following this era. That reign was therefore the true end of this period, but as it was even more the beginning of modern Spain it has been left for separate treatment. The institutions of Castile from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century were therefore of more than usual importance, and particularly so since they formed the basis for the system which Spain was so soon to establish in the Americas. In almost every aspect of life, social, political, economic, and intellectual, Castile forged as far ahead over the preceding period as that had over the one before it, although it did not reach that high and intricate culture which is the product of modern times. Castile was still medieval, like nearly all of Europe, but the new age was close at hand.

[Sidenote: Alfonso "the Learned."]

[Sidenote: His foreign policy.]

Alfonso X "the Learned," or "the Wise" (1252-1284), was one of the kings whose reign seemed to be a failure, but in fact it was he who sowed the seed which was to bring about an eventual victory for the principles of monarchy and national unity. Besides being a profound scholar Alfonso was a brave and skilful soldier, but his good traits were balanced by his lack of decision

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