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The Moors - The Islamic West - 7th-15th Centuries AD

by David Nicolle & Angus McBride

The Moors - The Islamic West - 7th-15th Centuries AD by David Nicolle & Angus McBride

Sources for Illustrations Included

The Arrest of St Aventinus, in a late 12th-century carving on the door of the parish church in the French Pyrenean village of St Aventin. According to local legend, Aventinus was martyred by invading Moors in AD 732. Since the Islamic frontier was still only a short distance away on the far side of the mountains this representation of Andalusian Moorish warriors is probably more accurate than most. The central figure has a head cloth or litham, wears some form of semi-stiff armour perhaps of felt, and carries a short sword without quillons. The presence of a man with a round shield, a withered foot and a wooden leg is unexplained; intriguingly, he features in other illustrations from this part of southern France, including mosaics in Lescar Cathedral.

Carved ivory box made for Abd al-Malik al-Muzaffar in AD 1005. This represents the culmination of a style of very detailed ivory carving in which the figures are highly naturalistic and show several significant differences from the art of the Islamic Middle East. Most obvious is the fact that the warriors are bare-headed, while their clothing has much in common with Western Europe. (Cathedral Treasury. Pamplona. Spain)

Fragment of a painted stucco or ceramic wall panel found in the ruins of the palace at Madina al-Zahra near Cordoba which - like a more damaged picture of an infantry archer - dates from the 10th century. It is very important because it shows a cavalryman in a dir' full mail hauberk with long sleeves and an integral mighfar coif over his head and face. He probably has a round helmet, perhaps with a crest at the front and a broad nasal. Most significant of all, he carries a large kite-shaped shield two centuries before this was adopted by the Normans. (Site Museum, inv.MA/UM-95, Medina Azahara, Spain)

The stylistic similarities between this decorated ceramic fragment from the ruined palace at Sabra in Tunisia and the wall decoration from Madina al-Zahra are obvious. It dates from the 10th or 11th century. The horseman is bare-headed, has a long spear and small round shield, while parallels between his costume and that of more realistic pictures from 10th-century Iran suggest that he wears a short lamellar cuirass and baggy riding breeches. Though the cross-hatching on his horse might be merely decorative, it seems likely to represent horse armour, perhaps of quilted or felt construction. (Benaki Museum, inv.11762, Athens, Greece; author's photograph)

Details from another and simpler carved ivory box, made in Cuenca in AD 1026 probably for a member of the Arab Andalusian aristocracy. The workmanship is simple but realistic, showing a cavalryman riding with short stirrup leathers. His clothing probably represents an ordinary tunic or quilted soft armour. The archer, however, is certainly wearing a short-sleeved mail hauberk. His bow is of the traditional large Arab infantry type, and he has arrows thrust into his belt. (Museo Arqueologico, Burgos, Spain)

Painted ceramic fragments from the Palace of Sabra, mid-11th century. (A) & (B) are plaques used as wall decorations, showing an infantry archer with a recurved composite bow; and a combat between a bearded Arab or Berber infantryman and a 'moon-faced' Turkish cavalryman. The former has a long straight sword, a small round buckler, and is wearing a long-sleeved coat which is probably the quilted soft armour described in several sources. (C) Fragmentary ceramic plate showing an Arab or Berber cavalryman with a large turban. (Bardo Museum, Tunis, Tunisia)

Biblical figure slaying a serpent, in a copy of Beatus' Commentaries on the Apocalypse, made in Tavera in AD 975. Mozarab manuscripts were made by the Christian Andalusian community living under Islamic rule, in a local style combining early Christian and Arab-Islamic artistic traditions. The horseman shown here seems to have a rudimentary turban-cloth around his mighfar or mail coif. The latter goes inside a long-sleeved tunic which is buttoned down the front in Persian-Islamic style. His mail hauberk is worn under the tunic, as described in the written sources. (Cathedral Museum, Gerona, Spain)

Goliath, in a Mozarab Illustrated Bible made in AD 960. This remarkable picture shows the Philistine giant in a stylised but nevertheless understandable form. His helmet is of tall framed type, his spear has a winged or flanged blade, his shield is round and his sword is straight. One shoulder and the lower part of his clothing might indicate a mail hauberk with slits at the sides of the hem, but his spear arm appears to be covered in a cloak which also falls behind his legs. This might in fact be an early representation of the typical North African haik. Biblioteca, Ms.2, f. l18v, Colegiata S. Isidoro, Leon, Spain)

A late 11th-century Sicilian carved ivory elephant's tusk showing a huntsman with a deeply convex leather shield, a broadsword which lacks quillons, and a mail shirt or hauberk worn inside a kilt or skirt. This style of armour seems to have been widespread in North Africa and Sicily, but had more in common with the military styles of the Arab Middle East than with those of Islamic Andalusia. (Victoria & Albert Museum, private loan, London, England; author's photograph)

The so called 'Pila' is a late 11th- or early 12th-century carved basin which stood in the gardens of the palace of the local Banu Mujahid ruler of Denia. The costume of these two combatants seems more North African than Andalusian, while another scene shows three men with long beards and peculiar headgear, pulling each other's beards in a symbolic representation of a quarrel. Perhaps the carving actually dates from after the Murabit conquest, the two horsemen being North African or Saharan warriors jousting while the men arguing represent the fractious taifa rulers whom the Murabitun overthrew?

David and Goliath (top), and an Israelite army defeating the Philistines, in a Spanish illustrated Bible made in AD 1162. At a time when the Philistines were almost invariably shown as Muslims in Western European art, this illustrated Bible has both sides equipped in the same manner. Both carry round shields, wear long-sleeved mail hauberks, usually with mail coifs, and are armed with lances and straight swords.

The so-called Cope of St Thomas à Becket is made of magnificently embroidered material, woven in Almeria in AD 1116. This panel shows an Andalusian huntsman with a hawk on his left hand and carrying what appears to be a long-hafted mace or short spear in his right. He has a turban with a short rafraf or trailing end down the back, and rides in a deep saddle. (Cathedral Treasury, Fermo, Italy)

Here Herod's soldiers are portrayed as Moorish Andalusian warriors on the early to mid-12th-century carved west front of the Church of San Domingo in Soria. These would reflect the ordinary and somewhat poorly equipped infantry militias of Andalus. However, two men do carry the tall hardened leather shields with vertical keels down the centre which would evolve into the famous adarga (Arabic daraqa) of the 14th and 15th centuries. (Author's photograph)

This scene of cavalry combat in the Psalter of San Millan de Cogolla was painted in the 11th century. The horsemen are clearly Muslims, while the emphasis given to the cloths around their heads may be an early attempt to represent Murabit warriors. Nevertheless, they carry the kite-shaped shields normally associated with Western European knights, and their horse-harness appears identical to that used by northern Spanish warriors. (Bibliotece de la Academia de la Historia, Madrid, Spain)

Many different sculptors worked on the remarkable carved capitals in the Cloisters of Monreale Cathedral in Sicily. The best are believed to have been Muslim Sicilians trained in a style of Islamic secular sculpture seen in Egypt, North Africa and Andalus. The military equipment on this group of capitals is different from that on the others and probably reflects the arms and armour of Islamic North Africa.

The Beatus de Liebana was made around AD 1220, and although it is a Spanish rather than Mozarab manuscript, the artist has modelled several military figures upon Muslim Andalusian troops. Here the army and guards of King Nebuchadnezzar have some distinctive features, such as large white shields with three tassels - a common Moorish fashion. They also have quilted soft armour worn over mail hauberks.

It is perhaps typical of the peaceful civilisation of Islamic Andalus that its only surviving fully illustrated manuscript is the love story of Bayad and Riyad. Dating from the 13th century, it illustrates Andalusian costume in great detail. Here the turbaned hero bemoans his fate while lying next to one of the water-wheels which were a feature of the irrigated and intensively cultivated valleys of Andalus.

A copy of Al-Sufi's Kitab al-Sufar, Books of Fixed Stars, made in Ceuta in AD 1224; Perseus, and Cepheus. This crude manuscript comes from northern Morocco. It includes a figure wielding a straight sword, and another wearing a distinctive helmet with an extended neck guard.

Three sections from a wall-painting of the conquest of Majorca by King Jaime I of Aragon, made in the late 13th century and including accurate representations of Moorish troops, though from the time of the artist rather than the actual conquest. (A) Andalusian defenders, Including one black African and a man using a staff sling. (B) Unarmoured Andalusian infantry, one of whom has a shield bearing the Hand of Fatima. (C) Andalusian cavalry, three of whom wear mail armour beneath their tunics. Note also the two contrasting flags - one with an Arabic inscription panel, and the other using a geometric motif as in Christian Spanish heraldry. (Museo de Artes de Cataluna, Barcelona, Spain)

Two illustrations of Andalusian Islamic armies in the famous and superbly illustrated Cantigas of King Alfonso the Wise. This Castilian manuscript from the end of the 13th century provides the most accurate and varied representations at Andalusian and North African arms, armour, military equipment and costume. In the first miniature, Cantiga 165 (f.221v), a Moorish army includes heavily armoured infantry, some wearing scale armour, plus a turbaned man (bottom right) with a large version of the leather daraqa shield. The cavalry are even more varied, including fully armoured men, one with a crested great helm, more lightly equipped horsemen wearing helmets with European-style heraldic decoration, and others wearing only turbans. The leader rides a horse with a decorative cloth around its neck while two other men have fully armoured horses.
The second picture, Cantiga 99 (f.144r), is only slightly less crowded, but again shows both armoured and unarmoured cavalry, plus servants with a mule or donkey carrying tents on its back. (Biblioteca, Ms.Cod.T.1.1, Escorial Monastery, Spain)

Some military figures from an early 14th-century wall-painting in the Torre de las Damas, in the Alhambra palace of Granada. These drawings show the figures as they were when first uncovered almost a hundred years ago; today most have faded almost beyond recognition. The main subject appears to be an army approaching some rich tents where a ruler sits with four advisers. Two of these advisers or guards carry swords with glided pommels and drooping quillons (bottom left). Outside, most of the soldiers are mounted and are armed with crossbows or spears, though a few have swords and one carries an ordinary composite bow. The crossbowmen wear white tunics and only the standard bearer has a mail coat, plus a pointed blue and gold helmet with mail down the back. One of the cavalrymen has a shield with a broad white band on a red field, in what appears to be an unusual example of Western European heraldic influence. Elsewhere (top left) one man wears a cuirass with gold rivet heads, perhaps indicating a coat-of plates or brigandine.

While these reproductions are obviously too small for the reader to make out any detail, they are included in the hope of giving some impression of the quality and level of detail of the painted leather ceilings in the Sala de la Justicia in the Alhambra. Unlike the wall-paintings in the Torre de las Damas, whose artist was Muslim, these were probably made by a visiting Italian artist around AD 1360. The romantic story they illustrate is now unknown, but the painting shows Muslim Andalusian and Christian Spanish figures, military and civilian, male and female. In addition to a mortal combat between a Muslim 'hero' and a Christian 'villain', there is a hunting scene which includes servants, one of whom wears alitham face-veil. (Author's photographs)

A Moorish warrior in a picture of the battle of Puig on the Retaule de San Jorge. This huge altarpiece was painted between AD 1393 and 1410 in Valencian style. Its representation of Islamic troops is exceptionally realistic and accurate. The figure shown here is probably typical of the North African Berber volunteers who helped defend the frontiers of Granada. He wears a hooded burnus, defends himself with a typical leather daraqa shield, but wields a new form of slightly curved sabre which became quite widespread in Morocco during the 15th century. Victoria & Albert Museum, London, England)

Among the priests, monks, ladies and Christian warriors on a late 15th-century Portuguese painted altar panel from S. Vicente de Fora is this very different soldier (top centre). He looks in the opposite direction to the other donor figures, while his long hair and full beard probably identity him as a Moor. The Portuguese currently occupied part of northern Spain, and although something of a mystery this figure sheds a valuable light on a very little known period of Andalusian or Moroccan arms, armour and military costume. (National Museum of Ancient Art. Lisbon, Portugal)

Work on the wooden panels in Toledo Cathedral, illustrating the conquest of the amirate of Granada, is said to have started within three or four years of the completion of the conquest. This panel shows the defeat and capture of Muhammad XII (Boabdil) at the battle of Lucena in AD 1483. One of the bearded Andalusians carries a strange staff weapon with a spiked ball attached by a chain (far right). Another carries a rectangular mantlet; while Boabdil himself (right foreground) appears to wear some form of thickly quilted jerkin or scale-lined armour. (in situ Choir of the Cathedral, Toledo, Spain)

Sources for Illustrations by Angus McBride

Plate A. Artist: Angus McBride

The Arab development of large galleys capable of transporting war horses gave them a distinct strategic advantage, and the provincial jund armies were soon raiding various Mediterranean islands. Nevertheless, these forces always had more infantry than cavalry.
A1: Iberian horseman, 8th century
No pictorial sources and exceptionally few military artefacts survive from the first decades of Islamic rule in the Iberian peninsula. This cavalry warrior is based upon written information, the last Visigothic period and sources from the residual Christian region of northern Spain, Men of Visigothic and Iberian origin converted to Islam to serve in Andalusian Islamic armies, while others served while remaining Christian. His only armour is a simple short-sleeved mail hauberk, while other aspects of his equipment may date from just before the Islamic conquest. His lack of stirrups and frameless saddle reflect a tradition of horsemanship which would continue in Islamic and Christian Iberia for two centuries. (Main sources: shield-boss found in Le Vieux Poitiers area, possibly Islamic mid-8th century, location unknown; sword hilt, 6th-7th century, Museum, Beja, Portugal; bridle bit, early 8th century, Real Armeria, Madrid; stone sarcophagus from Alcaudete, 6th-7th century, Arch. Museum, Madrid)
A2: Arab officer, late 8th century
This figure is again largely based on written sources, plus pictures from the Middle East. His headcloth is of a Syrian form while his large cloak would remain typical of North Africa for over a thousand years. The sword is a hypothetical reconstruction of a local Arab development of the Indian sayf al-hind. (Main sources: swords from Lung river & Lagore Crannog, Nat.Museum, Dublin; wall paintings, 8th century, in situ Qusayr Amra, Jordan)
A3: Berber infantryman, 9th century
These javelins shield and simple costume are typically Berber while the man's helmet and lamellar cuirass have been captured from the Byzantines. The wearing of a sword on the back is shown in several places and seems to be an Arab infantry tradition. (Main sources: Byzantine relief carvings from various locations in Libya, 5th-7th century, Nat. Museum, Tripoli; mosaic, late 8th century, in situ Church of St Stephen, Umm al-Rasas, Jordan)

Plate B. Artist: Angus McBride

Formal military parades and elaborate ceremonial played a significant role in maintaining the prestige of the Umayyad court in Cordoba, and great efforts were made to impress visiting ambassadors. These figures are presented as if forming up for such a parade.
B1: Andalusian guard cavalryman, 10th century
Even in the 10th century the army of Cordoba had a great deal in common with other Western European forces. Here a trooper wears a mail dir' hauberk with an integral mighfar coif. His sword and baldric are typically Middle Eastern while the horse harness is a development of traditional Iberian forms. The shatrang or chequerboard banner was first seen in Andalus before being adopted by Christian military elites. (Main sources: Beatus manuscript from Tavera, AD 975, Cathedral Museum, Gerona; ivory box made for Ziyad lbn Aflah. AD 969/70, Victoria& Albert Mus., London; Andalusian chess piece, 10th century, private collection, Frankfurt)
B2: Andalusian infantry archer, late 10th century
Infantry archers using large composite and semi-composite Arab bows formed the backbone of early Andalusian armies. The man shown here lacks mail but has been given a cotton quilted soft armour, a large single-edged dagger and a simple leather shield. (Main sources: Mozarab Bible, c. AD 960, Ms.2, Archivo, S. Isidoro, Leon, Spain; ivory from Cuenca, AD 1026, Arch. Museum, Burgos, Spain)
B3: Andalusian armoured cavalryman, late 10th century
This horseman's round helmet with a broad nasal, sword with a spherical pommel and substantial winged spearhead were the same as those of his Christian foes. Other features such as the kite-shaped shield may first have been developed in Andalus. He rides with stirrups of Eastern Mediterranean form and has a tabarzin saddle-axe thrust into his horse's breast-strap. (Main sources: Commentaries of Gregory on Job, AD 914, Ms.83, John Rylands Lib., Manchester; ivory box made for Ziyad Ibn Aflah, AD 969/70, Victoria & Albert Mus., London; ceramic fragment from Madina al-Zahra, Inv. MA/UM-95, Site Museum. Madina Azahara, Spain; ivory box made for Abd al-Malik al-Muzaffar, AD 1005, Cathedral Treasury, Pamplona, Spain)

Plate C. Artist: Angus McBride

Wrestling was a form of training in Andalusia, as in other Islamic armies. The armies of most taifa states were very small, whereas North Africa and Islamic Sicily could field substantial forces. All shared a great deal of military technology.
C1: Sicilian archer
Pictorial and written sources indicate that the basic dir' mail hauberk remained the most common form of body armour. The black turban-cloth showed allegiance to the 'Abbasid Caliphs, while his sword is based upon an example found in an Islamic shipwreck. (Main sources: undated helmet from Qayrawan, Mus. of Islamic Studies, Ruqqada, Tunisia; carved ivory oliphant, 11th-century Sicily, Musée Crozatier, Le Puy, France; ceramic wall decoration from Sabra, 11th century, Bardo Mus., Tunis; sword from 11th-12th-century shipwreck at Agay, Museum, St Raphael, France)
C2a, 2b: Andalusian soldiers wrestling
These figures illustrate the undergarments worn beneath both military and civilian clothes. The first wrestler has the basic light cotton shirt and loose cotton drawers seen throughout almost the whole medieval Islamic world, while the second has an embroidered panel on the back of his shirt. (Main sources: carved ivory made for Prince al-Mughira, 968 AD, Louvre Mus., Paris)
C3: North African cavalryman
Few North African cavalrymen would have been as well equipped as this soldier, with his fully armoured horse. Under a quilted jubbah made in the same manner as the quilted tijfaf horse armour he has a full mail hauberk and coif. The rest of his arms, armour and costume are again a mixture of Eastern and Western styles and traditions, though with the strongest influence coming from Egypt. (Main sources: carved basin, Andalusian 11th century, Arch. Museum, Jativa, Spain; ceramic wall-plaque from Sabra, 11th century, Bardo Museum, Tunis; carved stone relief of hunters, 11th century, Mus. Nat. des Antiquités, Algiers; ceramic fragment from Sabra, 10th-11th century, inv.11762, Benaki Mus., Athens)

Plate D. Artist: Angus McBride

The Murabit state was an African empire in the true sense of the word, incorporating a large part of north-western and sub-Saharan west Africa, as well as a substantial part of the European mainland. In this scene, however, the Andalusian D2 is resisting incorporation into this little-known African empire.
D1: Murabit cavalryman, early 12th century
The litham face-veil was the most striking aspect of Murabitun military costume. Otherwise this elite cavalryman's weaponry and costume already show Moroccan and Andalusian influence, though his huge leather lamt shield is specifically Saharan - he has dropped this and his long spear when dismounting from his wounded horse. The body armour consisting of sheets of felt is a hypothetical reconstruction based upon written descriptions and unclear illustrations. (Main sources: sword, 11th century, Mus. Eserjito, Madrid; Mozarab Psalter of San Millan de Cogola,11th century, Library, Real Academia de a Historia, Madrid; Moors arresting St Aventinus, 12th-century carved capital, in situ Church, St Aventin, France)
D2: Andalusian crossbowman, early 12th century
A few features set this crossbowman apart from the infantry of Christian northern Iberia, the most obvious being a rudimentary turbancloth, the loose trousers beneath the mail hauberk, and the large shield with a distinctive keel down the centre. This latter is probably of leather. (Main sources: Illustrated Bible of King Sancho of Navarre, AD 1197, Ms.108, Bib. Municipale, Amiens, France; relief carvings, early/mid-12th century, in situ west front, Church San Domingo, Soria, Spain; Mozarab wall painting from San Baudelio de Berlanga, early 12th century, Prado Museum, Madrid)
D3: Afro-Saharan archer, 12th century
Recent archaeological studies shed light on the armour and costume of medieval Africa. The most interesting features are what has been interpreted as a battered helmet of Islamic origin, a wickerwork quiver worn on his back, a large bow similar to those used in ancient Egypt, and the substantial dagger strapped to his upper left arm. (Main sources: terracotta figurine, Mali, AD 1240-1460, private collection, California; wooden statuette attributed to Soninke Kagoro culture, 1320-1650, inv.83.16, Minneapolis, USA)

Plate E. Artist: Angus McBride

The Moroccan-based Muwahhid empire had a profound impact on the military styles of subsequent centuries. It also had a highly developed ceremonial, and may have been more acceptable to the Andalusians than the preceding Murabitun had been.
E1: Muwahhid prince, early 13th century
This figure's sword is a reconstruction of a decorated weapon from a cave in Gibraltar. The fabric of his tunic is also based upon surviving examples; the weavers of Andalus exported their textiles over a huge area. (Main sources: sword, scabbard & baldric fragments from Martin's Cave, Gibraltar, mid-12th century, inv.67.12.23.l-5, Royal Armouries Leeds; Kitab Bayad wa Riyad, Andalusian, early 13th century, Ms.Arabe 368, Vatican Lib., Rome)
E2: Andalusian infantryman, late 12th century
This relatively light infantryman cheering his leader's entry is equipped in a manner which was common in Islamic and Christian Iberia. The single edged weapon with its long wooden grip does, however, seem typical of Iberia. His tasselled shield is distinctively 'Moorish', as is his helmet with its integral fixed visor. (Main sources: single-edged weapons from the upper city of Vittoria, 12th century, Alava Museum, Vittoria; relief carvings of arch from Church of San Vincente Martyr, Frias, Cloisters Museum, New York). [See a helmet with face-mask visor in the Rylands Beatus, c.1175AD]
E3: Muwahhid guard cavalryman, late 12th century
This elite trooper's mail armour, helmet and sleeveless, quilted soft armour were seen in both the Islamic and Christian parts of the Iberian peninsula. His banner is essentially the same as that captured at the battle of Las Navas do Tolosa. (Main sources: banner from Las Navas de Tolosa, early 13th century, Treasury, Monastery of Las Huelgas, Burgos, Spain; Cantigas de Alfonso X, late 13th century, Library, El Escorial, Spain; Kitab al-Sufar from Ceuta, AD 1224; Ms.Ross.1033, Vatican Lib, Rome; Beatus of Liebana, c. AD 1220, Ms.429, Pierpont Morgan Lib., New York)

Plate F. Artist: Angus McBride

The stresses between Andalusians and North Africans were exacerbated by catastrophic defeats during the 13th century. The two Muslim peoples also already differed considerably in culture and military styles, the Andalusians having copied the heavy cavalry and armoured infantry tactics of their Christian foes. Here we imagine the fallen and the fleeing on a stricken field.
F1: Andalusian cavalryman, late 13th century
This downed horseman represents the Islamic Andalusian military elite's adoption of Iberian Christian military styles. His full mail hauberk, integral mail mittens, heavy lance, heavy shield hung from a guige, deep saddle with very raised pommel and wrap-around cantle made him very different from the cavalry seen in other parts of the Islamic world. (Main sources: sword, scabbard & sword-belt, Treasury of Monastery of Las Huelgas, Burgos, Spain; Cantigas de Alfonso X, late 13th century, Library, El Escorial, Spain; Moorish garrison of Valencia during Triumphal Entry of James I, wall painting, c. AD 1300, in situ Castel d'Alcanyis)
F2: Andalusian heavy Infantryman. 13th century
A similar emphasis on full protection at the expense of agility is seen in this heavily armoured footsoldier, wearing a short scale defence over a mail hauberk which probably extends beneath his kilt or skirt. (Main sources: scale cuirass & axe-head 13th-14th century Alava Museum Vittoria, Spain; Cantigas de Alfonso X, late 13 cent., Library El Escorial, Spain; Arrest of St James, wall painting, early 13th century, in situ Erminta de Santo Juan, Uncastillo, Spain)
F3: North African horseman, late 13th century
In complete contrast this North African cavalryman only has a short-sleeved mail hauberk and a distinctive leather shield. The double binding beneath his spearhead was a long-established Arab tradition which continued in North Africa, whereas in the Middle East it was limited to Arab bedouin warriors. His saddle is an early example of a style associated with riding 'a la jinete'. (Main sources: Cantigas de Alfonso X, late 13th century, Library, El Escorial, Spain; Moorish spurs, 13th-14th century, Museum of S Juan Duero, Soria, Spain)
F4: Baggage donkey carrying folded tents
The vital baggage animals which carried an army's supplies rarely appear in illustrated sources. (Main source: Cantigas de Alfonso X, late 13th century. Library, El Escorial, Spain)

Plate G. Artist: Angus McBride

The 14th century saw the fortunes of the westernmost parts of the Islamic world decline in the Iberian peninsula but expand in Africa. Nevertheless, the small states of North Africa drove off several attempted Crusades, and Granada preserved its independence through constant vigilance.
G1: Granadan officer, early 14th century
Granadan costume, arms and armour remained distinctive and differed from those of North Africa. This man's sword, dagger and horse-harness were made locally, though his helmet is of Middle Eastern origin. His banner reflects a persistent similarity with European heraldry, whereas the Hand of Fatima on his shield is specifically Islamic. (Main sources: dagger hilt, 14th-century Granadan, Arch. Museum, Granada; Conquest of Majorca by James I, wall painting. late 13th century. Museum of Catalan Art, Barcelona; army on the march & encamped, wall painting, early 14th century, in situ Torre de la Damas, Alhambra Palace, Granada)
G2: Granadan cavalryman, late 14th century
Here a horseman is based directly upon a painted ceiling in the Alhambra, but whether the figure represents a North African hero-prince or a member of the Granadan elite is unknown. Several written descriptions confirm the accuracy of this source, however, including the highly effective leather daraqa shield and the distinctive swordhilt with long quillons extending down the side of the blade. (Main source: Qadi - Judges & unknown romantic legend, painted ceilings, mid-14th century, in situ Sala de la Justicia. Alhambra Palace, Granada)
G3: North African volunteer, mid-l4th century
Here a face-covering litham and hooded burnus may indicate Moroccan origins, as would the dagger strapped to his arm. The hilt of the dagger is based upon an example from Granada; his cuirass, formed of almost rigid hoops of hardened leather, is the same as examples recently discovered in the Middle East. (Main source: painted ceiling illustrating an epic-romantic legend, mid-14th century, in situ Sala de la Justicia, Alhambra Palace, Granada). [For daggers strapped to the forearm see North Africans in Códice De Trajes, 1547]

Plate H. Artist: Angus McBride

Even during the 15th century Granada's highly motivated army often proved capable of destroying Christian raiders in the rugged mountains which surrounded the Granadan heartland of the fertile Vega.
H1: Granadan officer, late 15th century
This man, shown holding H3's horse, is based upon a number of figures on a series of Portuguese painted altar panels, some with the 'Arabised' costume worn in the south of the country, while one helmeted and bearded figure may actually be a Moor. (Main sources: painted altar panels from S. Vicente de Fora, Portuguese, second half of 15th century, Nat. Museum of Ancient Arts, Lisbon; Retablo de San Jorge, painted altar. Valencian 1393-1410, Victoria & Albert Museum, London)
H2: Granadan infantry crossbowman, late 15th century
Here a crossbowman aims a weapon which has features that can be traced back to the late Roman crossbow. His dagger is of the 'ear' form used on both sides of the religious frontier, while the large wooden mantlet may have been a distinctive 15th-century Granadan type. (Main sources: unknown romantic legend, painted ceiling, mid-14th century, in situ Sala de la Justicia, Alhambra Palace, Granada; Conquest of the Kingdom of Granada, carved wooden panels, late 15th century, in situ Choir of Cathedral, Toledo, Spain)
H3: Granadan armoured cavalryman, mid-15th century
This final figure is based upon engravings made by a German artist who spent some time in Spain, where he seems to have made a large number of sketches from life. These showed light armour entirely covered in decorative fabric. Whether Moorish cavalry actually used daggers of the so-called 'ballock' form, as shown in this picture, is more doubtful. (Main sources: clothing & weapons of Boabdil, Real Armeria & Museo Ejercito, Madrid, Spain; engravings by Martin Scholgauer [Schongauer], mid-15th century, National Gallery of Art, Washington, USA. & Museum, Colmar, France)

See also Spanish and North African Illustrations of Costume and Soldiers
Index of Illustrations of Costume and Soldiers