History of the Three Cultures in Spain

Spain did emerge as a unified country in the 15th century. Due to its geographical location, the country was subjected to numerous experiences, which affected the culture of the Spaniards. The three major religions which affected Spain’s culture were Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Islam had a fundamental presence in the history of the nation. Arabs were present in the country from 711 to 1492. Spain had been under various rulers; the Arabs and Moors of al-Andalus (Norman 80-90). There were traces of Christian and Jewish communities during the Islamic rule. However, the Islamic rulers restricted building of new churches and synagogues. There was also discrimination in judicial proceedings when giving evidence against Muslims.

Moreover, Christians and Jews had to pay a special tax, while males who were non-Muslims did not join the military. Despite a brief period involving the persecution of Christians in the 8th century, the Muslims appeared to be much more tolerant than other religions. The end of the fourth century witnessed a majority of the population practicing Islam; including descendants of Romans and Visigoths. The first university in Granada was Madrasah of Granada founded by the Nasrid dynasty in 1349. However, the Islamic control of Spain was replaced by the Spanish Reconquista after the Caliphate was disintegrated. The Reconquista was a process involving the Catholic kingdoms of the north conquering the southern Muslims. After the invasion, the Muslim subjects were allowed to continue using their own schools, language, laws and customs. However, the interpretation of the royal edict was left to the Catholic authorities. Things started changing in the year 1492; the monarchy reversed all the freedoms. A drive for mass forced conversions was evident. Thousands of Arabic texts were burned.

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In 1502, starting with Muslims in Valencia, they were offered to choose between baptism or going into exile. Most of them were baptized as a result of the newly established Spanish Inquisition. The Inquisition was in 1478 as an order by the Pope. Some people continued observing Moorish forms and practicing Islam despite pressure from the Catholics. This led to the banning of the use of Arabic language, dress and customs in 1567 by King Philip II. Any rebellion was brutally suppressed. It reached a point where the remaining Muslims in Spain were expelled (Norman 85-90). When the Moors were expelled, the Jews quickly came to Spain and mostly lived in Toledo. They were fleeing the insecurity associated with the Muslim kingdoms. They were prosperous and lived peacefully with Christians up to the late 14th century. Some of the Jews built synagogues and cultural centers inside the Jewish quarters. However, the Jews were expelled by the Reyes Cat in 1492.

The 16th century witnessed Spain adhering to the Papacy, but during the early 18th century, relations between the Spanish Court and the Papacy broke. The standoff between liberalism and the Church continued into the 19th century. This was the period of conflict, unrest, and extremes. In the 1830s Churches were destroyed, but the 1876 constitution recognized Catholicism as the religion of the State. However, modern Spain has no State religion. The Romans left their presence on Spain; Visigothic and pre-Romanesque churches from Christian rulers, and fine Islamic architecture built under Moorish rule are still evident. Christian and Moorish influences brought about various techniques and styles still evident in the churches in the Spanish countryside. Spain’s Gothic and Renaissance architecture is evident in the towering cathedrals of Burgos, Sevilla, León, Toledo, Granada, and a great number of churches.

Early Spanish music borrowed from the Romans, Moorish, and Italian. More often than not, Spanish music is considered to be synonymous with flamenco; a West Andalusian genre. Other styles of music present in popular cities include hip-hop, rock, heavy metal, pop and folk music. Spain has a number of classical music composers such as Manuel de Falla, Isaac Albeniz and a good number of professional orchestras. Spain receives music fans each year who attend recognized summer music festivals Sonar. It mostly features pop and techno acts, and Benicasim which features alternative rock and dance acts. These festivals put Spain at the international music scene. The guitar is the most popular musical instrument from Spain.

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Most Spanish art has religious themes dominating the Medieval and Renaissance art (Henry 30-31). The art was greatly influenced by European and Italian art. El Greco and Diego Velázquez represented the finest of Spanish painting in the 16th and 17th centuries. 20th-century Spanish paintings and sculptures include the exponents of Cubism represented by Pablo Picasso and Juan Gris while Surrealism is represented by Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró. In addition, Eduardo Chillida was also influential in sculpture. His art was mainly shown in public spaces. Spain has produced various artists who have highly influenced the development of certain artistic movements in Europe. The Spanish art has had successes due to the geographical, historical and generational diversity. For example, the Moorish heritage is evident is evident in cities like Granada, Córdoba and Seville. Its art has had influences in countries such as Germany, Italy and France during the neoclassical and baroque eras.

The Spanish architecture is evident in modern Spain and all over the world. It has drawn from a number of influences due its geographical and historical diversity. Cordoba has become the cultural capital due to its extensive infrastructure from the Romans as well as the Arabic style architecture obtained during the various Islamic dynasties. Several Christian kingdoms also developed their own architecture. It included pre-Romanesque style, Romanesque and Gothic streams. Most of the architecture in the 20th century has been influenced by the arrival of Modernism. Currently, Spain is experiencing a revolution in contemporary architecture. There are various Spanish architects who have been renowned internationally, for example, Ricardo Bofill, Rafael Moneo, and Santiago Calatrava.

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Spanish literature is that which is written in the Spanish language and includes literature composed in Spanish by writers who are not necessarily Spaniards. The Spanish literature is very diverse and has had a number of influences due to historic and generational diversity. One of the most outstanding authors is Miguel de Cervantes. His Don Quixote is probably the most symbolic work in the catalog of Spanish literature and a foundation classic of Western literature. Literature in Spain include; the Catalan literature, the Basque literature and the Galician literature. Catalan literature refers to literal works written in the Catalan language. The Catalan literary tradition is widespread, dating in the Middle Ages. The Catalan culture found its much needed space in Catalonia during the restoration of democracy in Spain. The earliest form of Basque literature, written in Basque language, goes back to the 16th century. Galician literature is that which is written in Galician. The earliest works are from the early 13th-century. Spain has also had an influence on the Latin American literature. The Spanish language is regulated by the Royal Spanish Academy based in Madrid. The institution also collaborates with other language academies in other Spanish speaking countries.

Spain has diverse cultural heritage, due to influence from many nations and peoples. The Spanish culture originates from the Roman Catholic, Islamic, Celtiberian, Latin, and Visigothic cultures (Henry 29-30). Its history as well as its Mediterranean and Atlantic environment, have been strong players in shaping Spain’s culture. For a long time, Roman Catholicism has been the main religion of Spain. It no longer has official status by law, but it is the only official religion taught in the schools. However, recent immigration has seen the numbers of Muslims go up. The Islamic religion is presently the second largest. Muslims did not live in Spain for quite some time after their expulsion in 1492. Judaism did not exist in Spain due to the 1492 expulsion. The Jews regained entry into the country in the 19th century.

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