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A Courtly Love - The Moors & Christians Festival

Por: | 02 de junio de 2014

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I was not only transported to Spain, but whisked back through the ages to behold a panoply of valour, chivalry, fanfares, nobility and queen consorts schooled in the courtly code of conduct. Qualities which otherwise are lost in the mists of time, as well as for the foreseeable future.

The Moors & Christians Festival happened during The National Day of Valencia. I witnessed festive events, which included an historical re-enactment and a street parade. The National Day of the Valencian Community (Día de la Comunidad Valenciana) is held as an annual public holiday on the 9th October. On this day, Valencian crowds and many tourists, commemorate King James I of Aragon's overthrow of Moorish rule in Valencia.

The traditional holiday is celebrated throughout the Valencian community in south east Spain. It pays tribute to the battles fought between Moors (or Muslims) and Christians during the period known as Reconquista. In English, reconquista means re-conquest. Eventually, the Moors were defeated by the Christians, ending approximately 800 years of Moorish statehood in Spain; dating from the 7th century until the 15th century.

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Prior to attending the fiesta, I harboured some preconceived ideas of the Moors & Christians, or what a Valencian would simply call, Moros (Moors). I presumed that the spectacle might owe more to pantomime than accurate historical portrayal. Furthermore, I felt it might inflame a few people as a contentious issue, simply because the festivities may not tread lightly upon history, while also being construed as politically incorrect. However, while observing the celebrations firsthand, I realised that these preconceived ideas were unfounded. It was not a pantomime as such, although a few costumes were spectacular. It was more than a historical re-enactment or a commemoration of antiquated battles, because the festival is deeply rooted in the regional identity of the contemporary Valencian community.

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The yearly revelment is a form of reconciliation, not so much between occidental and oriental cultures, but between the echoes of those same groups found within the national psyche and very gene pool of most native Valencian citizens. There’s no doubt that the carnival atmosphere is about historical battles fought between the Moors and Christians, but it’s also a celebration of Valencian Moorish roots and Christian heritage. It’s an honourable stamp of identity. The fiesta gives closure to past conflicts for the autonomous community of Valencia. Ironically, these dramatic displays, which ritualise the pride, pomp, and circumstance of 'glorious war' become instead an affirmation of life.

Imitation reigns supreme at The Moors and Christians Festival in the city. It has been said that imitation is the highest form of flattery. In this case, flattery flows uninhibited among both Moor and Christian alike, as if their forefathers from both camps were watching from above.

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The concept of 'Courtly Love' (or Fine Amor) enriched the Valencian people at the parade and re-enactment, where participants seemed to draw upon the dignified discipline, gait and countenance of a nobleperson. Fine Amor was a medieval European literary idea of love that emphasised nobility and chivalry. Hispano-Arabic literature in Islamic Spain practised a similar philosophy to Christian Courtly Love. Consequently, both groups of warring factions held shared beliefs, during the period of Reconquista. You may dismiss Courtly Love as nineteenth-century romantic fiction, but the echoes of its earlier origins and influences are revived in Valencia, albeit, with contemporaneous adaptations in tow. Who dares say where courtliness ends and uncourtliness starts in medieval literature, never mind from day-to-day? Nonetheless, The Moors & Christians isn't a prosaic daily occurrence and neither would it happily lend itself to fiction. It's an altogether different au contraire beast.

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There was a soupçon of Don Quixote's reverie concerning chivalric romance, among the senior men in period costumes at The Valencian Federation of Moors & Christians. These idiosyncratic fellows also resembled the characters featured on the BBC TV programme called, 'Dad's Army'. One particular time-honoured Spaniard, unsheathed an ungainly sword while all aquiver, exactly like Lance-Corporal Jones draws his bayonet. So-much-so that I expected the Valencian to say, "They don't like it up 'em!" I felt honoured to be among a humorous, endearing and socially respectable league of gentlemen, who could be ranked as the Home Guard of Valencia.

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Arguably, the Moors never really left Spain, because they still dwell in spirit (alongside the Christians) within the hearts of the Spanish. It's especially poignant in the Valencian region, where I heard the parade's ground marshal announce a roll call by shouting, “The Moors, here! The Christians, here!” Hence, he reassured the crowd that we were safe in their company, even if they were armed to the teeth. He'd also announce a loud and triumphant fanfare of welcome, if you ever arrive at the fiesta. That can be relied upon, and that epitomises the essence of Moros.

By Paul Louis Archer: Paul Louis Archer Photography

The audio slideshow is best viewed in Full Screen Mode:


Hay 2 Comentarios

Muchas gracias, Andres. Saludos!

Qué maravilloso festival. Gracias por esta descripción. Andres Ramon Gomolak, Nuevo Mexico, EEUU

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Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check:

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