Our second seminar was led by Dr Ana Dias, and discussed the notion of cultural transmission in the medieval world. Below are some of our students’ thoughts on the session:
The seminar focused on how the social, cultural and religious fabric of the Iberian Peninsula of Europe changed significantly in the early medieval period due to the Muslim conquest of Iberia, starting in 711 AD leading to the power shift and religious conversion in Iberia, especially of the southern region of what is now Spain, with a stronghold in areas such as Toledo and Granada. One of the most interesting elements was that, through the acculturation of the Berber society in Iberia, there became external, oppositional influences in the artwork of both the Muslims and the Christians – the Muslims began to incorporate human figures into their art, like the ceramic bottle with the musicians found in Córdoba and the Christians began to use the Muslim style of dress in their artworks – which many of the Christians adopted when the Muslims arrived and took power of the region.
I found this seminar especially interesting as I have a strong connection to southern Spain and have visited many of the remaining Muslim castles and forts and found that getting the back story and history of the Muslim influence on Spain in the early Medieval period allowed me to gain more context in which to view these historical sites
Lucy Graham, Oldham Sixth Form College
The seminar was intriguing in how a widely-known Christian country like Spain had a rich history with Islam. This form of a symbiotic relationship between Christians and Muslims highlighted a conquest of development that was not fueled by war yet by peace treaties. Therefore, this was showing an alternate angle of human collaboration, despite being masked in Iberian literature.
Jan Murillo, Holy Cross College
Dr Ana Dias painted a vibrant Islamic Iberia, a fertile culture, resulting from the blending of two rich histories I previously thought immiscible. Al-Andalus was a society of assimilation, of relative unity. Mutual progression, whether scientific or artistic, flowed from this principle. Academia flourished and dispersed but the Church saw a threat. Martyrdom followed, destabilising the major city of Cordoba. The Church approached almost as a political entity, escalating, enraging and thus dividing the society. Dr Ana Dias illustrated the entanglement of unity and division in history: one in which Robert Grosseteste, a scholar and bishop, would later be caught.
Thady Fox, Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School
We discussed the rise of the Muslims as a religion as well as their political domination in various aspects of the world, specifically looking at the cultural transmission of Islam through early medieval Spain, formerly referred to as Iberia. Christian texts that we looked at tended to refer to the aftermath of the Muslim conquest as abhorrent, portraying Muslims as infidels. However archeological evidence and material sources shed light on a different reality, which suggests that the relations between Muslims and Christians were much more symbiotic. We understand that the Muslim conquest was not as dramatic as it was depicted to be and that these Christian texts were curated to glorify Christian kings. One of the documents that allow us to understand the dynamic between Christians and Muslims stems from the pact of Umer which enabled freedom for others to practice monotheistic religions under the Islamic state. The treaty of Tudmir also allowed others in their land to practice their own religions in exchange for tax, goods, and appropriate behavior. These people were referred to as ‘Dhimmi’, otherwise known as a protected person.
Khadija Mohamed, Loreto Sixth Form College