The Moorish South Art of Spain


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The Moorish South

Andrew Graham-Dixon explores Spain's art history. He travels from Cordoba to Granada via Seville, examining the influence of Moorish culture.


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MUSIC: "Y Viva Espana" by Sylvia

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# Oh this year I'm off to sunny Spain

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# Y viva Espana... #

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Too often we think of Spain

as two weeks on the beach.

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# ..Y viva Espana... #

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But there's another Spain.

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Spain has produced

some of the most startling

and original art ever created.

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Art that has been unfairly

overshadowed by the rest of Europe.

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Art that we know little about.

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But Spanish art is the art

that we need to know about...

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because it holds the key

to understanding

all of Europe and its culture.

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It was in Spain and its empire

that so many of Europe's

great battles were played out.

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Christianity versus Islam...

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Catholic versus Protestant...

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Fascist versus Socialist.

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In this series, I'm going to

travel this country of extremes,

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exploring its turbulent past and

discovering its extraordinary art.

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I'm starting in the South.

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For many visitors, this IS Spain.

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But away from the beaches

there are magnificent sights.

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Grand palaces...

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castles...

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and mosques...

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reminders of a different culture

from a distant time,

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a time

when Spain was called Al Andalus.

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What's often forgotten

is that for over 700 years

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much of Spain was ruled by Muslims

and the South was its beating heart.

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Southern Spain was a unique

frontier, where east met west

with explosive results.

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This is the story of how Islamic

Spain became one of the most

remarkable civilisations ever seen.

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One that's shaped Spain

and the rest of Europe ever since.

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FLAMENCO MUSIC

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Right at the tip of Southern Spain,

a huge rock explodes out

of the Mediterranean.

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But the rock isn't Spanish.

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It's British.

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And long before Britain owned it,

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the Rock of Gibraltar belonged to

another foreign power,

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a power that ruled it

for nearly 800 years.

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On 30th April in the year 711,

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an Arab general

named Tariq ibn Ziyad

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sailed across these waters

from North Africa

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with an army of 5,000

Arab and North African soldiers

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and invaded Gibraltar.

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He gave the rock its name,

Jabal Al Tariq - Tariq's Mountain.

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He used it as the launch pad for the

Islamic conquest of Christian Spain.

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Just 25,000 troops

marched across the country,

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building fortifications

as they went.

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After just three years,

the invasion was complete.

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Only the far-flung provinces

of the extreme North resisted,

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protected by impassable mountains.

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But the rest of Spain was now

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part of a vast Islamic empire

which reached as far as India.

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Even its name was changed,

from Spain to Al Andalus,

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and its new rulers were an

assortment of Arabs, North Africans,

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Egyptians and Syrians...

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the Moors.

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Now Spain was pretty much used to

being conquered by foreign invaders

over the centuries.

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The Romans, the Celts

and the Visigoths had all had a go

at ruling this vast land

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and, by all accounts,

the primitive peoples of Spain

had been a bit of a soft touch.

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But you might have been forgiven

for thinking

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the collision between Muslim

invaders and a Christian people

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would have had

some fairly explosive results

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and there was an explosion but

not of the kind you might expect.

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It was

an explosion of art and culture.

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The story of this art and culture

remains shockingly neglected

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but I think it's the key

to understanding

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the whole of Spanish art

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and its unique intensity.

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The first great flowering

of Moorish culture

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took place

in the new capital city of Cordoba.

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By the late eighth century,

the Moors had turned Cordoba

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into the brightest, wealthiest

and busiest city in Europe.

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Its fame reached as far as

a quiet cloister in Saxony,

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where a Christian nun

described the city

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as "the brilliant ornament

of the world".

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This glittering city

was all the work of one young man.

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His name was Abd al-Rahman

and he was an exile.

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His family had ruled Damascus

in Syria

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but in the year 750 they were

all killed in a brutal civil war.

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Abd al-Rahman was the sole survivor

of the massacre

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and he fled all the way

from Syria to Cordoba,

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where he quickly established himself

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as the Caliph,

or ruler, of Al Andalus.

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His passage through life

had hardly been easy

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but he was to turn out to be

one of the most influential figures

in world history,

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someone who kick-started a complete

revolution in Western society.

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He did so by attempting to

recreate the splendours of his

native Damascus here in Cordoba.

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He wanted to turn this place

into a kind of paradise on earth.

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Under Abd al-Rahman,

a great civilisation would be

born here on Spanish soil.

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Hashim.

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I'm here really

to try and find out about Cordoba

as it was in the Golden Age.

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There were many, many

philosophers and artists...

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that was coming to Cordoba

for learning.

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Modern science have many roots

in this time, in Cordoba.

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In astronomy and philosophy,

in physic, in all the knowledge.

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Can be like a revolution, you know,

like a cultural revolution.

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So if somebody say around 900

came from Paris or London

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and arrived in Cordoba,

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what impression do you think

it would have made on them?

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It's like when if now the people

who are living

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in the poor countries go to

New York now, or Paris, or London,

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or Madrid. I think this

can be the same impression.

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At the heart of Abd al-Rahman's

paradise on earth

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was the Great Mosque of Cordoba.

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When work began here

in the 8th century,

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Islam was only a century old,

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which makes this

one of the first mosques ever built.

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The Great Mosque

is a forest of stone columns

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which seem to go on forever -

as far as the eye can see.

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The effect is a bit like being

in a hall of mirrors.

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You actually feel lost in here,

truly disorientated

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and that's the point.

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The worshipper feels

in the presence of something

mysterious and infinite...

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perhaps God himself.

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In Islam,

the direct representation of God

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or any living being is forbidden.

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The designers couldn't use pictures

or statues to inspire religious awe,

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just

the forms of architecture itself.

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And the design of the mosque

is uniform throughout,

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so wherever you stand

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in this amazing

never-ending forest of stone,

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you feel the same connection to God.

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Early Islam was a religion

without hierarchy,

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without clergy and liturgy.

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You just entered the space

and prayed.

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So it was vital for the architects

to create a building

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in which everyone felt equal.

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This is spiritually

democratic architecture.

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I found the experience of visiting

the Great Mosque really powerful.

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I think it's all the more moving

when you think about the man

who created it, Abd al-Rahman.

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Now we don't know

a great deal about him but we

do know that he left us one poem.

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It's a poem about a palm tree

that he found

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that had seeded itself somewhere

out on the plains of Al Andalus.

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He saw it as a symbol of himself.

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He wrote an ode to it. The palm,

he said, was like me, it's an exile.

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It reminded him of his family.

It was a very important symbol

to any Arab living in Spain.

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It symbolised water,

shelter, nourishment.

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Now, of course,

that palm-tree has gone forever

but I wonder if this mosque

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with its endlessly repeated columns,

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isn't a thousand palm trees

planted here,

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preserved forever in stone.

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But slap bang

in the middle of the prayer hall

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is something profoundly

un-Islamic...

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..a Catholic cathedral.

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In the 16th century,

long after the fall of the Moors,

Cordoba's Christian rulers

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demolished the central columns

of the mosque

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and erected this vast temple

to Christianity.

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A cathedral

planted in the centre of a mosque.

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It's like a great parasite

in its belly.

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Even the great Catholic Emperor

Charles V, who authorised

the construction of the cathedral,

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realised he'd made a terrible

mistake. When it was complete he

rounded on the architects,

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saying,

"You've taken something unique and

turned it into something mundane."

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Now, I think you can still

appreciate the beauty of the mosque,

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but as an act of cultural vandalism,

I've never seen anything like it.

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It's like a sort of dagger plunged

into the heart of the mosque.

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It represents

a really heavy-handed imposition

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of one set of religious values

on another

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and there's something quite ugly

about that.

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So much of the later story

of Spain would be dominated

by religious conflict.

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But during the Golden Age

of Al Andalus,

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back in its 9th and 10th century

heyday,

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the religious realities

were quite different.

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The extraordinary fact

is that here in Al Andalus,

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uniquely the three religions

lived together in relative harmony.

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Now, Islam regarded Jews and

Christians as "People of the Book"

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whose holy writings

were to be respected

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as forerunners of the

Prophet Muhammed's final revelation.

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So the conquering Moors

made no effort

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to convince the Christians

and the Jews to convert

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and they even,

as the Koran commanded,

gave them freedom of worship.

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For over 200 years

the three religions rubbed along

surprisingly well.

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Friendships and marriages

flourished across the faiths.

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Many Christians and Jews

held prominent positions

in the Islamic state.

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Antonio Manuel,

how fully integrated really

0:13:510:13:56

were these three different

religious groups in Cordoba -

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the Jews, the Christians,

the Muslims?

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TRANSLATED FROM SPANISH:

0:14:030:14:06

So was this society

a kind of paradise on earth?

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In the heart

of the old town of Cordoba

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stands an extraordinary testament

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to the interplay

between the three religions

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during the Golden Age of Al Andalus.

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At first sight everything about this

space seems 100% Islamic.

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Look at that fantastic

elaborate arch,

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look at those beautiful shapes

like flames cut from stone.

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But everything here

isn't quite as it seems.

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Because that writing,

0:15:470:15:49

it's not Arabic... it's Hebrew.

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This isn't a mosque.

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It's a synagogue.

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The Jewish population of Al Andalus

fared particularly well

under Arab rule.

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Under the Christians in the

sixth and seventh centuries

they'd been persecuted.

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Under Islam they prospered,

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becoming successful merchants,

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reaching the highest positions

in government.

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Nowadays we tend to think of

these two great religions,

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Judaism and Islam,

as naturally opposed to one another,

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but this space is a reminder

that it wasn't always so,

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that here in Cordoba,

once upon a time,

0:16:340:16:37

Jews and Muslims lived

not as enemies but as brothers.

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So I think

this small unassuming space

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actually contains rather

a large lesson for the modern world.

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The Christians of Al Andalus

were just as keen to embrace

Arab culture.

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Many even converted to Islam.

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After

300 years of Islamic occupation,

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75% of the population

had become Muslim.

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But even those who didn't convert

were profoundly affected

by the Arab way of life.

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They were known Mozarabs,

meaning "Arabised",

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and they adopted the dress, language

and customs of their rulers.

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It's hardly surprising

that the peoples of medieval Spain

0:17:360:17:39

should have been so seduced

by Arab civilisation.

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After all,

this was a cultural desert.

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They were leading dour, simple

lives and suddenly along comes

0:17:450:17:49

this vibrant,

colourful, sophisticated,

but, above all, sensual culture.

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And, for me,

almost its greatest symbol

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is the beautiful Arab bath house,

a kind of temple of sensual delight.

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As well as luxuriating

in the bath house,

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the Moors introduced new fashions,

hairstyles and perfumes.

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They also brought toothpaste

and underarm deodorant

to the West for the first time.

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The Moors treated every aspect of

life as if it were a work of art -

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whether it was clothes,

or cosmetics, or food.

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The Moors also introduced

to Spain a whole new world

of culinary delights.

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They brought in the idea

of eating in courses

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and they brought with them

a whole new range of ingredients

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that transformed

Western European cookery -

0:18:410:18:44

rice, coffee, sugar,

citrus fruits, coriander, basil.

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And they turned cooking

into an art form.

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'For the last 40 years Don

Pepe has run a restaurant in Cordoba

0:18:580:19:02

'that specialises

in Moorish cuisine.'

0:19:020:19:04

Muy bueno.

0:19:040:19:07

What are we eating? Is this a

typical Moorish influenced dish?

0:19:070:19:11

TRANSLATED FROM SPANISH:

0:19:110:19:14

Why do you think food

was so important to the Moors?

0:19:260:19:29

And if you had to choose

just one thing

0:19:540:19:57

that the Moors did

for world cooking, what would it be?

0:19:570:20:01

But for the Moors,

food wasn't the only part

of the dining experience,

0:20:340:20:39

surprisingly

they also enjoyed a drink.

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The Koran

forbids the consumption of alcohol,

0:20:430:20:45

but we know that it was produced

in large quantities

throughout Islamic Spain.

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Alcohol itself is an Arabic word.

0:20:490:20:52

Now they used it in cosmetics and in

medicine, but they also drank it,

0:20:520:20:57

and they even introduced

a distillation process

0:20:570:21:00

that would result in that most

Spanish of drinks - sherry.

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Como es usted.

How are you?

0:21:030:21:06

You're the man

with the secret way of getting

the sherry from the casks!

OK.

0:21:060:21:11

I'll believe it when I see it.

0:21:110:21:12

In there...

OK.

0:21:120:21:15

One, two...

0:21:150:21:19

OK?

Can I have a go?

Yes.

0:21:210:21:23

OK.

0:21:240:21:26

So I just sort of swing it?

One, two.

One, two...

0:21:260:21:30

THEY CHORTLE

0:21:320:21:35

Yeah, it's easy to get it all

over the floor...

Very good.

Oh, that's good?!

0:21:350:21:39

I'd say that's about two out of ten.

0:21:390:21:42

But as well as indulging the senses,

the Moors were also intent

on developing the mind.

0:21:440:21:50

Reading was so valued

that they turned script itself into

a coiling, ornate form of art.

0:21:500:21:57

The Koran encouraged learning,

saying that it brought

you closer to God.

0:21:580:22:03

And the Moors

took this decree to heart.

0:22:030:22:05

Cordoba was full of libraries,

one of which was reputed to

contain over 400,000 books -

0:22:070:22:14

ten times more than the contents

of the libraries

of the rest of Europe put together.

0:22:140:22:19

The Moors made great advances

in philosophy, literature,

science and mathematics.

0:22:210:22:27

The Arab contribution to Western

thought was truly enormous.

0:22:310:22:36

Among other things

it was through Al Andalus

0:22:360:22:39

that the West

re-discovered virtually

all of ancient Greek philosophy,

0:22:390:22:43

through Al Andalus

that we got the Hindu-Arabic

number system, our number system.

0:22:430:22:48

The development of logical thought,

how we count and calculate -

0:22:480:22:51

it's fair to say

that the foundations

for all of these things were laid

0:22:510:22:55

in the great centres

of Spanish-Islamic learning,

like Cordoba.

0:22:550:22:59

As you drive round the landscape

of Southern Spain, it's full

of a sense of the Moorish past.

0:23:120:23:18

There are these little castles

everywhere,

0:23:180:23:22

surrounded by tiny,

little white villages.

0:23:220:23:26

But I think it was the landscape

that they altered most of all,

because whereas for the Romans,

0:23:260:23:31

Spain had just been the arse-end

of Empire, a dry and barren place,

0:23:310:23:35

to these people from the desert,

this was a land

full of agricultural possibility,

0:23:350:23:39

and they brought with them

a whole range of techniques

for farming dry land -

0:23:390:23:43

systems of irrigation, canals. They

planted out olives and vineyards.

0:23:430:23:47

And, as a result, there was

a huge population explosion.

0:23:470:23:51

Suddenly people had more than

enough to eat, they had more

than enough water to drink.

0:23:510:23:56

Spain

really had never had it so good.

0:23:560:23:59

And in the countryside

outside Cordoba, the greatest symbol

0:24:010:24:05

of Islamic power and influence

in Spain rose out of the ground.

0:24:050:24:10

These ruins are all that's left

of the most splendid palace

ever built by the Moors -

0:24:200:24:25

Madinat al Zahra.

0:24:260:24:27

It was built in the 10th century

to celebrate

0:24:300:24:32

the might of Abd al-Rahman III,

descendant of the great exile

0:24:320:24:37

who'd founded the Golden Age.

0:24:370:24:39

In the year 929,

al-Rahman proclaimed himself

0:24:390:24:43

not only Caliph of Al Andalus, but

ruler of the entire Islamic empire.

0:24:430:24:49

And to celebrate this audacious

act of self-promotion,

0:24:490:24:53

he built this vast palace complex,

the size of a city.

0:24:530:24:59

It was to become

the Versailles of Spain,

the epitome of the Islamic palace.

0:24:590:25:06

Wow. It is fantastically impressive

but just think how much more

impressive it must have been

0:25:060:25:11

when this place was in its heyday,

and gold and silver and magnificent

textiles decorated every surface.

0:25:120:25:18

Apparently one room even contained a

vast, suspended vat full of mercury,

0:25:180:25:23

and at the caliph's command

a servant would bang it

0:25:230:25:26

and the mercury would ripple,

0:25:260:25:27

and light would dance and sparkle

on every surface.

0:25:270:25:30

It must have been a bit like some

medieval, Islamic glitter ball.

0:25:300:25:35

And the guests would

reel backwards in awe and terror.

0:25:350:25:39

But this city was also meant

to touch the soul.

0:25:480:25:52

In the Koran, the words of Muhammed

dictated in the desert,

0:25:520:25:56

paradise is described

as "a garden flowing with streams"

0:25:560:26:01

and Madinat al Zahra was

built around gardens and water.

0:26:010:26:06

This was an attempt

to create a paradise on earth,

0:26:060:26:10

a tantalising glimpse of the eternal

garden that awaits the righteous.

0:26:100:26:15

These arches are the same

as in Cordoba's Mosque.

0:26:250:26:28

Even the colours are the same,

red and white -

0:26:280:26:31

the colours

of the al-Rahman dynasty.

0:26:310:26:34

But here, power politics

are blended with spirituality.

0:26:360:26:40

And running through it all

is the idea of Paradise.

0:26:400:26:45

This is the most impressive of all

of the rooms in Madinat al Zahra.

0:26:450:26:49

It's the nerve centre of the

entire complex, the throne room

of Caliph Abd al-Rahman III,

0:26:490:26:54

and here it's as if the idea of

Paradise has been set in stone.

0:26:540:26:59

It's been allowed

to take over the architecture.

0:26:590:27:01

Look at that great wall

of ornamental carving.

0:27:010:27:04

It's as if stone itself has been

made to go against its own nature

0:27:040:27:08

and been turned into a kind of

plant life. These tendrils and

shoots that grow up the wall.

0:27:080:27:14

You really do feel

that you are in a kind of paradise.

0:27:140:27:17

Plant motifs aren't

the only decoration in this room.

0:27:210:27:25

The walls are also covered

in patterns made from geometry

0:27:250:27:28

and Arab writing, both loaded

with religious significance.

0:27:280:27:33

In a world in which

the depiction of real figures,

0:27:330:27:36

real life was forbidden,

0:27:360:27:39

the Muslim artist

had to turn to pattern

and elevate it to an art form.

0:27:390:27:43

And these stunningly intricate

forests of decoration are the

pinnacle of early Islamic art.

0:27:440:27:51

Nothing like them survives

anywhere else in the world.

0:27:510:27:55

They're the Islamic equivalent of

the greatest Christian frescoes,

but without a human figure in sight.

0:27:550:28:01

What you really notice about this

space is the way in which every

square inch has been decorated.

0:28:030:28:09

Now that's unique

and it would become one of the

hallmarks of Spanish Islamic art.

0:28:090:28:15

It's almost as if they developed

a terror of empty space.

0:28:150:28:20

But the glory of Madinat al Zahra

was to be short-lived.

0:28:310:28:35

Less than 100 years

after work on the palace began,

0:28:350:28:39

it lay in ruins.

0:28:390:28:42

In the 11th century,

civil war engulfed Al Andalus.

0:28:420:28:47

The dynasty of Abd al-Rahman,

rulers for nearly 300 years,

was overthrown.

0:28:470:28:52

Madinat al Zahra was sacked

and looted.

0:28:520:28:58

The Golden Age was over.

0:28:580:29:02

So why did this golden

moment come to an end?

0:29:020:29:04

Well, some blame fierce

political rivalry between

0:29:040:29:07

the various Islamic tribes that

made up Muslim Spain from the start.

0:29:070:29:11

Others say it was due to corruption

within the Caliphate itself.

0:29:110:29:14

But my own favourite explanation

was given by the greatest Spanish

Arab historian of the time.

0:29:140:29:20

It's wonderful, it's the

Orange Grove Theory of History.

0:29:200:29:23

He said that any society is doomed

once it's becomes wealthy enough,

0:29:230:29:27

and therefore sedentary enough,

to plant orange trees.

0:29:270:29:31

Maybe in the end they were just

undone by their own success.

0:29:310:29:36

In 1031, Al Andalus split

into dozens of self-governing

city states,

0:29:510:29:55

fighting amongst each

other for territory and power.

0:29:550:30:00

But things were to get far worse.

0:30:010:30:05

I've come to the city of

Seville, two hours' drive

to the west of Cordoba.

0:30:090:30:14

In the 11th century, this became

the most important city in Spain,

0:30:140:30:19

home to a new set of Arab rulers.

0:30:190:30:21

For the best part of 200 years,

Al Andalus was to be ruled

0:30:280:30:32

by a much more hardline,

fundamentalist Islamic regime.

0:30:320:30:37

Two successive generations

of Muslims from North Africa

who invaded and took control.

0:30:370:30:44

Not only were they much more

oppressive to Christians and Jews in

Al Andalus,

0:30:440:30:48

but they also embarked on regular

jihads into the Christian north.

0:30:480:30:53

The aggressive behaviour of the

new regime would soon provoke a

mighty confrontation

0:30:550:31:00

which would explode onto the streets

of Seville and engulf

the whole of Al Andalus.

0:31:000:31:06

The stones of this great building

have their own vivid story to tell

0:31:110:31:14

about the epic struggle that

took place in Seville.

0:31:140:31:17

This was originally a minaret,

0:31:170:31:20

part of the great mosque that

stood in the heart of the city.

0:31:200:31:23

From its summit, the Muslim faithful

were called to prayer.

0:31:230:31:27

Now it's topped by a renaissance

bell-tower pealing out the

message that it's time for mass.

0:31:270:31:33

BELL TOLLS

0:31:330:31:35

The tower's a great symbol of the

battle that was to convulse Spain

0:31:370:31:41

for hundreds of years, reaching

Seville in the mid-13th century.

0:31:410:31:45

It was from here in 1248

that the Moors watched as

0:32:020:32:05

a new enemy laid siege to Seville,

an enemy that threatened the Spanish

Muslims' power and their religion.

0:32:050:32:11

One so feared that the Moors wanted

to destroy this beautiful minaret

0:32:110:32:15

rather than let it fall

into their enemy's hands.

0:32:150:32:19

The enemy at the city

gates was the Christians

and they were on the warpath.

0:32:370:32:42

For 300 years, the independent

Christian kingdoms of the North

0:32:420:32:46

had existed in an uneasy truce

with the Moors of Al Andalus.

0:32:460:32:50

But the Christians were getting

hungry for power and territory.

0:32:520:32:55

'Provoked by the rise of Islamic

militancy, they decided to

crusade against the infidel.'

0:32:550:33:01

And so, the reconquest began - a

crusade that was to last more than

400 years -

0:33:050:33:10

a monumentally long

and bloody campaign.

0:33:100:33:14

This conflict would establish a

peculiarly fervent form of

Catholicism

0:33:140:33:19

as the Spanish national religion.

0:33:190:33:19

as the Spanish national religion.

0:33:190:33:21

It was also the conflict from which

modern Spain would emerge.

0:33:210:33:26

During the 12th

century, the Christians

0:33:300:33:34

painfully edged into Al Andalus and,

one by one, the Islamic cities fell.

0:33:340:33:39

Then, Seville itself was captured

in 1248 after two years' siege.

0:33:390:33:45

The Christian conquerors of

medieval Seville proclaimed,

0:33:480:33:52

"Let us create such a building that

future generations will take us for

lunatics." Some statement of intent.

0:33:520:33:59

So they demolished the great mosque

and they put up in its place

what the Guinness Book of Records

0:33:590:34:04

tells me is still the single largest

Christian cathedral in the world.

0:34:040:34:09

A great, crushing symbol of the

triumph of militant Christianity.

0:34:090:34:14

The cathedral's built in

a North European style.

0:34:250:34:28

Gothic in design, complete

with high, vaulting ceiling,

0:34:280:34:31

flying buttresses

and Christian symbols everywhere.

0:34:310:34:36

This might be the last

place you'd expect to find

traces of Islamic design.

0:34:470:34:52

But if you look closely enough,

it becomes clear that old habits

die hard.

0:34:520:34:57

What's extraordinary about the

Gothic style as done by the Spanish,

0:35:040:35:09

especially the Spanish in

the South,

0:35:090:35:12

is this incredible sense of

over-decoration.

0:35:120:35:16

Look at this altarpiece.

0:35:160:35:18

It's almost as if every

inch of space has to be decorated.

0:35:200:35:26

It makes me think of

0:35:260:35:27

the Moorish terror of empty space.

0:35:270:35:31

That absolute

covering of every inch.

0:35:310:35:35

Look at this through half-closed

eyes and you might almost be

in some Moorish palace.

0:35:350:35:41

I wonder whether the experience of

Spanish Christians, especially

in the South,

0:35:410:35:46

wasn't so permeated by a sense of

Moorish pattern and design,

0:35:460:35:52

that this worked itself into the

very soul of Spanish art.

0:35:530:35:57

So that, although this great

altarpiece represents

0:35:570:36:01

the grand triumph of Christianity

over the forces of Islam,

0:36:010:36:06

at the same time it completely

expresses a kind of

Moorish aesthetic.

0:36:060:36:11

It's deeply Spanish, deeply Moorish

and Christian all at the same time.

0:36:110:36:15

There's nothing like it anywhere

else in the world.

0:36:150:36:18

'The cathedral isn't the only

building in Seville to bear

the imprint of the Moors.'

0:36:290:36:33

This is the Alcazar,

a palace fit for a Moorish king.

0:36:400:36:44

But this building

wasn't meant for Muslims.

0:36:440:36:47

Instead,

it was built for one of Seville's

new Christian kings in 1364.

0:36:470:36:53

So, what kind of self-respecting

Christian monarch

0:36:540:36:58

would build himself a

palace that looks like this?

0:36:580:37:01

Well, his name was Pedro the Cruel

and, boy, did you have to be cruel

0:37:010:37:06

in the bloody world of medieval

Spain to earn yourself a

stand-alone nickname like that.

0:37:060:37:12

Among other things, Pedro was

a rapist and a mass murderer.

0:37:120:37:16

He murdered his own brother in

this room and he also murdered

a visiting Arab dignitary who

0:37:160:37:21

was foolish enough to come here with

the largest ruby in the known world.

0:37:210:37:26

Having nicked it from the corpse,

Pedro then gave it to Edward, the

Black Prince

0:37:260:37:30

and it's now part

of the British crown jewels.

0:37:300:37:33

I like the thought that every time

there's a coronation in Britain,

0:37:330:37:36

the ritual is stained by

a drop of blood shed in this room.

0:37:360:37:41

Although he was keen on

murdering Moorish kings,

0:37:450:37:48

Pedro was a massive fan of Moorish

architecture and decoration.

0:37:480:37:53

When he decided to build

his own Moorish palace,

no expense was spared.

0:37:530:37:58

The best Moorish craftsmen were

employed to create an

architectural jewel

0:38:000:38:05

complete with intricate marble and

wood carving,

0:38:050:38:08

cool, shaded courtyards and

tile work in

almost hallucinogenic patterns.

0:38:080:38:14

But why would a Christian conqueror

0:38:170:38:20

dress up his palace in the

style of the Islamic foe?

0:38:200:38:24

You have to put yourself in

Pedro the Cruel's shoes and think

back to 14th century Europe.

0:38:240:38:30

What else is going on

in architectural terms?

0:38:300:38:33

There's the Gothic,

but that's for churches.

0:38:330:38:35

When it comes to palace

architecture,

0:38:350:38:38

there's nothing to compare with this

for colour, richness, pattern,

sensuality.

0:38:380:38:43

The whole place feels as

if it's made of icing sugar. I

almost feel I want to eat it.

0:38:430:38:43

The whole place feels as

if it's made of icing sugar. I

almost feel I want to eat it.

0:38:430:38:48

It's the ultimate Arabian

Knights fantasy architecture.

0:38:480:38:52

If I had my own little Aladdin genie

in a bottle and I could wish for

0:38:520:38:57

anything in the world,

I might just choose this palace.

0:38:570:39:01

Because the Alcazar was a palace,

not a mosque,

0:39:050:39:09

it didn't arouse the

usual suspicions of Muslim worship.

0:39:090:39:13

And the Christian kings of Spain

clearly felt free to

love this place, too.

0:39:130:39:19

Later monarchs preserved it

and made any additions with

surprising sensitivity.

0:39:190:39:25

Sometimes, the greatest compliments

are those paid to you by your enemy.

0:39:340:39:39

It's a pretty astonishing tribute

to the power and grandeur of Islamic

art and architecture

0:39:390:39:44

that generation after generation

of Spanish Catholic monarchs

0:39:440:39:49

should have allowed this place

to remain,

0:39:490:39:51

to stand as a

great, shimmering ghost of a culture

they were determined to eradicate

0:39:510:39:56

but could never quite

bring themselves to stop loving.

0:39:560:40:00

Moorish styles remained

fashionable in Christian Spain.

0:40:120:40:16

So much so that if you

were a craftsman,

you were given special treatment.

0:40:160:40:21

But life for other Moors

was getting a lot harder.

0:40:220:40:26

Most fled to the extreme south of

Spain, where the last bastion of

Moorish might clung on to power.

0:40:260:40:32

Those who remained

were forced to convert

0:40:330:40:35

or go underground, where they

mixed with other outcast cultures,

like the Jews and the gypsies.

0:40:350:40:43

These different groups of

outsiders - Moors, Jews, gypsies -

0:40:430:40:48

came together in down-at-heel parts

of town like Triana in Seville.

0:40:480:40:52

Here, their different musical

traditions fused together

0:40:520:40:56

to create a style that would

eventually resurface, so it's said,

as flamenco.

0:40:560:41:02

SINGING FROM BAR

0:41:020:41:05

Nobody knows for sure which parts

of flamenco come from the Moors,

though there are many theories.

0:41:160:41:23

They brought the guitar to Spain,

destined to become the nation's

favourite musical instrument.

0:41:230:41:29

And the distinctive dance style

of flamenco,

0:41:300:41:33

in which dramatic arm and hand

movements are favoured over

the legs,

0:41:330:41:37

is similar to Moorish dancing,

0:41:370:41:39

which forbade women from drawing

attention to their legs.

0:41:390:41:43

The singing style is similar

to the wailing Arabic style.

0:41:470:41:50

Even the word flamenco itself

comes from an Arab word -

0:42:010:42:05

felagmengu,

meaning fugitive peasant.

0:42:050:42:10

And flamenco is, above all,

the music of the dispossessed.

0:42:100:42:14

What's the feeling, the essential

spirit of flamenco?

0:42:150:42:19

Where does it come from?

0:42:280:42:30

How long does it take

to learn to sing flamenco?

0:42:380:42:43

Is that Spanish for

I've got no chance?

0:42:540:42:56

Is it possible for you to teach

me some very simple flamenco?

0:42:580:43:01

SHE SINGS

0:43:010:43:03

HE SINGS FLAMENCO

0:43:100:43:14

Lo siento!

0:43:270:43:29

HE SINGS

0:43:320:43:34

I'm on the last leg of my journey

and I've come south of Seville,

up into the hills.

0:43:520:43:59

By the end of the 13th century,

the once-mighty empire of

0:43:590:44:03

Al Andalus had shrunk

to this small, mountainous region.

0:44:030:44:08

This was to be the last battlefield

of the centuries-long conflict

0:44:100:44:14

between the forces of Islam

and the forces of Christianity.

0:44:140:44:18

The city of Granada was the last

Moorish capital of Al Andalus -

0:44:300:44:34

the last city to hold out

against the reconquest.

0:44:340:44:39

The Nasrid dynasty ruled from here,

managing to resist Christian

invasion for nearly 200 years.

0:44:390:44:46

Though today,

you'd be forgiven for thinking that

the Moors still run Granada.

0:44:460:44:50

If you're in the mood, you can an

Arabic bath in one of the city's

many Moorish bath houses.

0:44:530:44:59

After taking the waters,

you can visit a Moorish tea

house and take some tea.

0:44:590:45:04

And if you're feeling

peckish, a trip to a Moorish

restaurant is in order.

0:45:050:45:09

It's all very atmospheric,

even if it is completely fake.

0:45:090:45:13

A confection to put the tourists

in an appropriately Moorish mood.

0:45:130:45:16

But the one really authentic

Moorish experience is to be had

0:45:180:45:22

in the ultimate Moorish palace -

the Alhambra.

0:45:220:45:25

Even here, you can't get

away from the tourists.

0:45:480:45:50

Over 6,000 people visit

this extraordinary series

0:45:500:45:54

of royal palaces every day,

to hear tales of the Nasrid

kings who used to live here.

0:45:540:46:00

And what bloodthirsty

tales they are!

0:46:010:46:03

According to legend,

the Alhambra was built by Christian

slaves imprisoned in dark dungeons.

0:46:030:46:09

And at least nine of the Nasrid

kings were murdered by methods as

0:46:090:46:14

dastardly as drowning, stabbing,

and eating poisoned batter.

0:46:140:46:19

The Alhambra is above all

a palace of myths and legends.

0:46:190:46:24

It's a place where people feel

a profound need to tell stories,

0:46:240:46:28

partly to explain to themselves

the nature of this place.

0:46:280:46:32

For example,

0:46:320:46:33

it's said that the Sultan

used to sit here on his throne.

0:46:330:46:38

It is said that this door here

is a false entrance designed to

0:46:380:46:43

put off would-be assassins,

although everything we know

about the bloody history

0:46:430:46:47

of the Nasrid dynasty suggests

that assassins were not to be

easily fooled.

0:46:470:46:51

They usually got their man.

0:46:510:46:53

The truth is, that we know

almost nothing about the precise

functions of each of these spaces.

0:46:530:46:59

The only thing that

we can be certain of is

0:46:590:47:01

that the art and the architecture

here is absolutely breathtaking.

0:47:010:47:04

The Moors may have been coming to

the end of their power and influence

in Spain,

0:47:160:47:20

but they were

determined to go out in style.

0:47:200:47:23

The Alhambra is like a greatest

hits of Moorish design,

with the volume turned up to ten.

0:47:230:47:30

It's the absolute summation

of everything that made the art of

Islamic Spain so extraordinary.

0:47:300:47:37

A place where the expression of

power and deep spirituality,

0:47:380:47:42

that eternal search for paradise,

are absolutely intertwined.

0:47:420:47:47

There's such a scrum of tourists in

the Alhambra today,

0:47:500:47:53

that it makes it pretty difficult to

appreciate this place as it was

originally meant to be appreciated,

0:47:530:48:00

which is as a space

of contemplation and reflection.

0:48:000:48:05

Each of the spaces in

this palace were meant to

bring you closer to God,

0:48:050:48:10

and that's the fundamental purpose

of this wonderful room called

0:48:100:48:14

the Hall of the Ambassadors, which

is all about pattern and geometry.

0:48:140:48:18

The numbers seven and four are

repeated everywhere in this space.

0:48:210:48:27

Seven signifying the stages by

which the soul ascends to God,

0:48:270:48:32

and four representing the number of

areas into which the vault of heaven

0:48:320:48:36

could be divided,

and we see that reflected in

this magnificent ceiling.

0:48:360:48:41

But the seven and the four

lead us ineluctably to the one,

0:48:440:48:49

and that's the message

that's reinforced in all

of these inscriptions.

0:48:490:48:53

"There is no God but Allah",

"There is no conqueror but Allah".

0:48:530:48:58

This is a space that's designed

hypnotically through the repetition

of pattern and design

0:48:580:49:03

and inscription to focus our minds

solely and exclusively

on the higher reality of God.

0:49:030:49:11

But it's not just the decoration

of the Alhambra that invokes God,

0:49:260:49:31

the very design of the architecture

is permeated by the spirit of Islam.

0:49:310:49:36

It's a fundamental tenet of Islam

that there is no God but God,

there is no reality other

0:49:360:49:41

than his higher reality, everything

we experience in this life

is impermanent, insubstantial.

0:49:410:49:46

But how do you introduce the idea

of impermanence into architecture

- the most stable of forms?

0:49:460:49:52

Well, here at the Alhambra,

they've done it by introducing

water everywhere.

0:49:530:49:58

Seen in reflection,

even the most solid of things seems

ephemeral, shifting.

0:50:020:50:09

In fact, the whole design of the

Alhambra is aimed at making

0:50:150:50:18

the palace appear to be not

quite of this world.

0:50:180:50:21

The columns are so slender

that the arches they support

seem to float in the air.

0:50:210:50:27

And the intricate wood and stone

carving makes solid materials seem

to dissolve into fragile lace.

0:50:310:50:37

I think there's a wonderful paradox

about the architecture of the

Alhambra, which is that you get all

0:50:390:50:44

this effort to create a sense of

effortlessness, this tremendous

intricacy of structure to create

0:50:440:50:49

the feeling of a structure that's on

the point of its own disappearance.

0:50:490:50:52

Look at that wonderful,

honeycomb vaulting

in the ceiling of this space.

0:50:520:50:57

Standing in here, it's almost as if

you're standing at the bottom

0:51:000:51:03

of a glass of fizzy water,

looking up and watching the bubbles

sparkle off towards infinity.

0:51:030:51:10

'I think there's something very

moving in the fact that the Moors

created a building that seems

0:51:180:51:23

'to be on the brink of disappearing,

just as their own civilisation

was about to vanish from Spain.'

0:51:230:51:30

The Alhambra today really

is the ghost of the ghost

of what it was once was.

0:51:300:51:35

But visiting it is still

an extremely powerful

and poignant experience.

0:51:350:51:40

This was the last hurrah

of Islamic civilisation in Spain.

0:51:400:51:46

The very last expression of that

beautiful ideal of paradise.

0:51:460:51:51

In 1469, Christian Spain was finally

united, when the Catholic monarchs,

Ferdinand and Isabella, married.

0:51:560:52:03

Hungry to rule over a

completely Christian nation,

0:52:040:52:07

they launched a final assault

against the Moorish south.

0:52:070:52:11

And on the 2nd January 1492,

after ten years of fighting,

0:52:180:52:24

the last Nasrid king, Muhammed XII,

surrendered the province of Granada

and the Alhambra.

0:52:240:52:31

Legend has it that as the defeated

Muhammed gazed back at the city he'd

surrendered, he burst into tears.

0:52:370:52:43

His mother,

unimpressed, snapped at him,

0:52:430:52:46

"You do well to weep like a woman

over what

you failed to defend like a man."

0:52:460:52:51

The Moor famously sighed his

last sigh, and turned his

back on Granada forever.

0:52:520:52:57

The Christian Reconquest

was complete.

0:52:570:53:00

The victors were merciless

towards the vanquished.

0:53:110:53:15

Ferdinand and Isabella made

it law that pork should be

eaten throughout the region.

0:53:150:53:21

Then, in 1492,

0:53:210:53:24

they expelled all Jews from Spain

and revoked the rights of Muslims.

0:53:240:53:29

In 1526, Arabic was banned.

0:53:290:53:34

And then, in 1610, all Moors were

expelled from Spain,

0:53:340:53:38

whether they

had converted to Catholicism or not.

0:53:380:53:42

As so often, the victors in this

epic struggle re-wrote history to

suit their own militant ideology.

0:53:450:53:51

For centuries afterwards, the whole

rich history of Arab Spain was

destined to be remembered as no more

0:53:510:53:58

than the nation's long

journey through a dark tunnel,

0:53:580:54:01

at the end of which shone the light

of the Christian Reconquista.

0:54:010:54:05

And the Arabs themselves

were remembered as no more than

0:54:050:54:09

pantomime villains in a

great story of Christian triumph.

0:54:090:54:13

Today, in festivals all over Spain,

the Moors are still portrayed

as pantomime villains.

0:54:240:54:30

'I've come to the small town of

Quentar, just outside Granada,'

0:54:340:54:38

to watch the local

"Moors and Christians" festival.

0:54:380:54:43

Every year, the people of the town

dress up and re-enact the historic

0:54:440:54:48

battle between

Christianity and Islam.

0:54:480:54:52

The whole thing goes on for

three days until the Moors are

finally defeated,

0:54:520:54:57

forced to convert, and baptised.

0:54:580:55:02

To the outsider, it does

all look just a bit puzzling.

0:55:020:55:05

What does it mean to you here?

0:55:070:55:09

Is it just a fiesta

or is it more than that?

0:55:090:55:12

No, it's more than party.

0:55:120:55:15

So it commemorates...

It's a celebration of...

0:55:280:55:31

It's a celebration of the victory of

Christians.

0:55:310:55:34

Is there any

0:55:340:55:36

political problem with having

a fiesta like this, you know

with the Muslim people in Spain?

0:55:360:55:41

Nobody minds?

No, here lives Moorish.

0:55:410:55:45

We have no problem.

0:55:450:55:46

You have a Muslim community here?

0:55:460:55:50

Yes. They have a mosque.

0:55:500:55:52

There's a mosque here?

Yes, here.

0:55:520:55:55

We have no problem. It's tradition.

0:55:550:55:57

No problem.

0:55:570:55:59

We are all happy.

0:55:590:56:01

So it's more like a

story from the past than

0:56:010:56:06

anything to do with the present.

0:56:060:56:09

Nothing to do with the present.

The past only. Only friends.

0:56:090:56:14

Of course, it is all a bit of fun,

0:56:180:56:21

but it does seem a

bit depressing that these

0:56:210:56:24

re-enactments completely ignore the

cultural achievements of the Moors.

0:56:240:56:28

But I think things have begun to

change in modern Spain, and it is

a culture more accepting of Islam.

0:56:280:56:35

After all, there are now over one

million Muslims living in Spain.

0:56:350:56:41

And there are 500 mosques.

0:56:410:56:44

The newest one is here in Granada,

directly opposite the Alhambra.

0:56:440:56:49

On this spot, modern Spain quite

literally faces its Islamic past,

0:56:490:56:55

the distant world of Al Andalus.

0:56:550:56:58

Al Andalus is part of the lifeblood

of modern Spain, it's part of

what makes the Spanish Spanish.

0:57:010:57:08

But the fact is

that Arab culture has played

0:57:080:57:11

a vital part in shaping what we

often think of as

Western civilisation.

0:57:110:57:16

Its music, its art and architecture,

its philosophy.

0:57:160:57:20

Yet Spain is almost the only place

in modern Europe where you can still

touch that history,

0:57:200:57:25

where you can still almost

physically grasp the fact

0:57:260:57:29

that the culture of the Islamic

world is part of all of our DNA.

0:57:290:57:34

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:57:470:57:50

E-mail subtitling@bbc.co.uk

0:57:500:57:53

Critic and art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon travels from southern to northern Spain to tell the story of some of Europe's most exciting and vital art. For 700 years, most of Spain was an Islamic state, and the south was its beating heart. Under the Moors, Spain became the most advanced, wealthy and populous country in Europe. Andrew travels to Cordoba, Seville and Granada, visiting beautiful Moorish palaces and mosques, telling the story of one of the most colourful and sophisticated cultures to ever appear in Europe.