800th anniversary of Las Navas de Tolosa
Posted by New Catholic at 7/01/2012
At least two major battles for the history of the Church and her expansion will have their centennials celebrated this year. One is arguably one of the major turning points of the entire History of mankind, as it ended persecution against the Church and lay the political foundation of the Christian Era – the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, which we will remember and celebrate in October.
But 800 years ago another major battle was about to take place in Andalusia. There was nothing inevitable about the Reconquista, on which so much of the History of the world as we know it would depend, due to the disproportionate influence that the quest for evangelization and discoveries would grant to the poor depopulated kingdoms of what was then largely known as “the Spains” (the Iberian Peninsula).
In the decades prior to 1212, the Reconquest had come to a halt. The Almohads, battle by battle, advanced to the greatest extent of Muslim domination in the Peninsula in centuries. In 1211, the Caliph himself crossed the Straits of Gibraltar with tens of thousands of his soldiers. 1212 would be the year that would decide if the Spains would ever be completely Christian once again.
Earlier in 1212, the King of Castille had sent an embassy to Pope Innocent III asking for a special Bull granting the privileges of Crusade to those warriors from all over Christendom who would go to Spain to aid a struggle that was common to all – a request granted by the Pope. In fact, in the Eternal City itself, the Wednesday following the Sunday of the Most Holy Trinity in 1212 was dedicated to public penance, prayers and processions led by the Pontiff himself for the success of Christian troops in Spain.
The armies of Christian kingdoms in the Spains (Castille, Portugal, Navarre, Aragon), as well as volunteers from Leon and from all Christendom, particularly France, met the Almohad forces on Monday, June 16, 1212, in sweltering fields and hills of the Sierra Morena not far from Jaén: it would be the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, won by Christian forces.
Muslim forces in Spain would be in permanent retreat, soon limited to the Emirate of Granada, itself finally conquered in the fateful year of 1492, well after the first Iberian seafarers had left the European mainland with a crusading spirit that would conquer half the world and take the faith of the Church of Rome to previously unknown or unreachable lands and peoples.
Note: The Province of Jaén (Andalusia, Spain) has dedicated a website to the celebration of the 800th anniversary of this pivotal battle (in Spanish) batallanavasdetolosa.es/