Simon Doubleday

Muslims in Seville

Before Fernando III’s conquest of Seville in 1248, the city had enjoyed a period of remarkable growth and literary vitality, encapsulated by the early thirteenth-century tale Hadīth Bayād wa Riyād. Written in the city during Almohad rule, the tale tells of the love affair between Bayad—a wealthy merchant of Damascus—and Riyad, a slave girl belonging to a powerful government official.

As Cynthia Robinson has suggested, the illustrations from the Hadīth Bayād wa Riyād bear some striking similarity to the illuminations of the Cantigas de Santa María and Alfonso’s Book of Games, which were also produced in Seville. All of these, perhaps, may reflect a common visual style, a Mediterranean lingua franca crossing religious and geographical boundaries.

The expulsion of the Muslim inhabitants of Seville in 1248, and the redistribution of lands to new settlers, was devastating to the city. A small coterie of Christians remained among half-empty streets, among malarial ponds. Fifteen years later, Alfonso lamented that “the noble city of Seville has been depopulated and ruined, and many houses are being destroyed by the fault of those to whom they were given, or by their men.”