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Kingdom of Castile was one of the medieval kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsulamarker. It emerged as a political autonomous entity in the 9th century. It was called County of Castile and was held in vassalage from the Kingdom of Leónmarker. Its name comes from the host of castles constructed in the region. It was one of the kingdoms that founded the Crown of Castile, and the Kingdom of Spainmarker.


9th to 11th centuries: The beginnings

According to the chronicles of Alfonso III of Asturias; the first reference to the name "Castile" (Castilla) can be found in a document written during 800 A.D.

The County of Castile was re-populated by inhabitants of Cantabri, Astur, Vascon and Visigothic origins. It had its own romance dialect and laws. The first Count of Castile was Rodrigo in 850, under Ordoño I of Asturias and Alfonso III of Asturias. In 931 the County was unified by Count Fernán González, who made his lands subject to a hereditary succession, independent of the kings of León, who previously had the right to create the Counts of Castile.

11th and 12th centuries: Expansion and union to the Kingdom of León

In 1028, Sancho III of Navarre married the sister of Count García Sánchez and inherited the County of Castile after his brother-in-law's death. In 1035, Sancho III handed over the county to his son Fernando and at which time Castile acquired the status of an independent kingdom. Fernando I was married to Sancha, sister of Bermudo III of León. Fernando I, allying himself with Navarre, began a war with León. At the battle of Tamarón Bermudo III was killed, leaving no offspring. This allowed his brother-in-law, Fernando I to assume the kingship of León for himself, claiming his wife's right to the crown, and resulting in the first union of the kingdoms of León and Castile.

When Fernando I died in 1065, the kingdoms were divided between his sons and one daughter. Sancho II inherited the Kingdom of Castile; Alfonso VI, the kingdom of León; García, the kingdom of Galicia; and his daughter Urraca inherited the town of Zamora.

Sancho II allied himself with Alfonso VI of León and conquered Galicia. Not being satisfied with Castile and half of Galicia, Sancho later attacked Alfonso VI and invaded León with the help of El Cid. Urraca permitted the greater part of the Leonese army to take refuge in the town of Zamora. Sancho laid siege to the town, but the Castilian king was assassinated in 1072 by Bellido Dolfos, a Galician nobleman. The Castilian troops then withdrew.

As a result Alfonso VI recovered all his original territory of León, and now became the king of both Castile and Galicia. This was the second union of León and Castile, although the two kingdoms remained distinct entities joined only in a personal union. The sworn oath taken by El Cid before Alfonso VI in Santa Gadea de Burgos regarding the innocence of the Alfonso in the matter of the murder of his brother is well known.

Under Alfonso VI, there was an approach to the rest of Europeans kingdoms, including France. He marries his daughters Urraca and Teresa with Raymond of Bourgogne and Henri of Lorraine. In the Council of Burgos in 1080 the traditional "Mozarabe" rite is replaced by the Roman one.Upon his death, Alfonso VI was succeeded by his daughter Urraca. Urraca married Alfonso I of Aragón (her second marriage), but when he was unable to unify both kingdoms, he repudiated Urraca in 1114, which increased tensions between the two kingdoms. Urraca also had to contend with her son (offspring of her first marriage), the king of Galicia, to assert her rights. When Urraca died, he became the king of Castile as Alfonso VII. During his reign Alfonso VII managed to annex parts of the weaker kingdoms of Navarre and Aragón which fought to secede after the death of Alfonso I of Aragón.Alfonso VII refused his right to conquer the Mediterranean coast for the new union of Aragón with the County of Barcelona (Petronila and Ramón Berenguer IV).

12th century: A link between Christianity and Islam

During the 12th century, Europe enjoyed a great advance in intellectual achievements provided by the kingdom of Castile.The Islamic Empire's forgotten classic works in Southern Europe were recovered, and contacts establishedwith the knowledge and works of Muslim scientists.

In the first half of the century a program of translations, traditionally called the "School of Toledo", was undertaken which rendered many philosophical and scientific works from classical Greek and Islamic world into Latin. Many European scholars, including Daniel of Morley travelled to Spain to gain further education.

The Way of St. Jamesmarker further enhanced the cultural exchange between the kingdoms of Castile and León; and the rest of Europe.

The 12th century saw the establishment of many new religious orders, after the European fashion, such as Calatrava, Alcantara and Santiago; and the foundation of many Cistercian abbeys.

13th century: Definitive union with the Kingdom of León

Alfonso VII restored the royal tradition of dividing his kingdom among his children. Sancho III became King of Castile and Fernando II, King of León.

The rivalry between both kingdoms continued until 1230 when Ferdinand III of Castile received the Kingdom of León from his father Alfonso IX, having previously received the Kingdom of Castile from his mother Berenguela of Castile in 1217. In addition, he took advantage of the decline of the Almohad empire to conquer the Guadalquivir Valley whilst his son Alfonso took the taifa of Murcia.

The Courts from León and Castile merged, an event considered as the foundation of the Crown of Castile, consisting of the kingdoms of Castile, León, taifas and other domains conquered by the Moors, including the taifa of Córdoba, taifa of Murcia, taifa of Jaén and taifa of Seville.

14th and 15th centuries: The House of Trastámara

The House of Trastámara was a lineage that ruled Castile from 1369 to 1504, Aragón from 1412 to 1516, Navarre from 1425 to 1479, and Naples from 1442 to 1501.

Its name was taken from the Count (or Duke) of Trastámara, the title used by Enrique II of Castile, of the Mercedes, before coming to the throne in 1369, during the civil war with his legitimate brother Pedro I of Castile. Enrique was raised and educated by Count Rodrigo Álvarez.

16th century: Union of the Crowns of Castile and Aragón

On the death of John II of Castile, his daughter Leonor inherited Navarre, and her stepbrother, Fernando the Catholic, the Crown of Aragón. The marriage of Fernando and Isabel I of Castile, celebrated in 1469, in the Palacio de los Vivero, in Valladolidmarker, established the union of the two crowns. This union, however, threatened the power of the nobles in Castile, and civil war broke out. In 1474, five years after their marriage, Ferdinand and Isabella assumed the throne of Castile. Upon taking the throne, Ferdinand and Isabella created the Cortes of Castile, an assembly designed to instigate peace throughout the land, and punish those committing the widespread criminal acts.

Government: Municipal councils and parliaments

As with all medieval kingdoms, supreme power was understood to reside in the monarch "by the grace of God," as the legal formula explained. Nevertheless, rural and urban communities began to form assemblies to issue regulations to deal with everyday problems. Over time, these assemblies evolved into municipal councils, known as variously as ayuntamientos or cabildos, in which some of the inhabitants, the property-owning heads of households (vecinos), represented the rest. By the fourteenth century these councils had gained more powers, such as the right to elect municipal magistrates and officers (alcaldes, speakers, clerks, etc.) and representatives to the parliaments (Cortes).

Due to the increasing power of the municipal councils and the need for communication between these and the King, cortes were established in the Kingdom of Leónmarker in 1188, and in Castile in 1250. In the earliest Leonese and Castilian Cortes, the inhabitants of the cities (known as "laboratores") formed a small group of the representatives and had no legislative powers, but they were a link between the king and the general population, something that was pioneered by the kingdoms of Castile and León. Eventually the representatives of the cities gained the right to vote in the Cortes, often allying with the monarchs against the great noble lords.

Arms of the Kingdom of Castile

During the reign of Alfonso VIII, the kingdom began to use as its emblem, both in blazons and banners, the canting arms of the Kingdom of Castile: gules, a three towered castle or, masoned sable and ajouré azure.

See also

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