If you’re lucky enough to own a property at La Manga Club, you are sure to know that in close proximity to our world-renowned golf courses and luxury apartments lies also a treasure trove of historical and cultural paragons that date back to 711AD when the Moors began their 500-year occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. A celebration of this rich cultural history can be enjoyed in one of the numerous celebrations throughout the southeast of Spain, the “Festival of Moors and Christians”, which commemorates the battles that were fought, and the subsequent “recapture” of Spain during the 8th to the 15th centuries, in the period of the Reconquista. In Murcia, however, no victories are celebrated, nor battles reproduced in the festival. Instead, it centres on the process that culminated in the foundation of the city of Murcia. If you haven’t yet attended, it’s time to take a walk back into pure history during the first week of this coming September.
Murcia, under the Caliphate of Cordoba, flourished economically. The period was characterized by an expansion of trade and culture, which among other results saw the construction of masterpieces of al-Andalus architecture. In addition to its agricultural success, trade routes were established and industries such as textiles, ceramics, glassware, metalwork energised the caliphate. The economic prosperity that afforded enormous profits for the public coffers drew the attention of Berber tribes in North Africa, Christian kings from the north, and fortune-seekers in France, Germany and Constantinople to the city of Murcia, and these outside influences came to have a great effect on the demographics of the city. Murcia became extremely wealthy, with its coinage considered as model for all the continent.
Logically, the rich history of Murcia and its golden centuries is well celebrated in the Moors and Christians Festival. But its focus is not on the recovery of the city in 1266 but rather on its establishment, with the symbolic bestowing of the city keys in the Cardenal Belluga Plaza as its climax. The processions and prior acts pay homage to the role that Abderramán II played in the founding of the city, as well as to other important figures such as Alfonso X The Wise, who was key in Murcia having a profitable future in the south of Spain. Important rulers also play a well deserved role in the festival, including: Abd al Rahman II; Abeniyad; Ibn Mardanish, Fernando III and Jaime I; elite bodies of religious warriors on all sides such as the Almoravids, the Almohades, the Knight Templars, the Order of Santiago and that of Saint John of Jerusalem; and mystics of international renown like Ibn Arabí and Abul Abbas al Mursi, the Murcian.
It is difficult to pin down exactly when these festivals began, and it is not known exactly why. There is some evidence that in certain parts of the country they came to be celebrated even before the eventual end of Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula (some data concludes that the fiesta in Murcia has its origins as far back as 1426). What is known is that on March 17, 1452, after a long and lengthy process of trying to gain the upper hand, the Christian troops were led by Alfonso Fajardo to the Guadalentín Valley to face the grenadines commanded by Abibdar. In spite of being outnumbered, victory tilted on the Christian side with 800 casualties from the Moorish side and the capture of 400 prisoners. As it was Saint Patrick’s Day, the Council of Murcia decided to name Saint Patrick patron of the city, and the Kingdom ordered celebrations in his honour. With the passage of time, other elements have been added to these festivals and they have become a kind of theatrical representation of the struggle between Moors and Christians.
While the festival of Moors and Christians has been continuously celebrated throughout the ages, it was only as recently as 1983 that Murcia recovered the celebration ad it was made official, complete with an Association of Fiestas, and it now takes position among other popular festivities throughout Spain, having been declared of International Tourism Interest. But even within the region of Murcia several other Moors and Christians festivals have been declared Festivals of National Tourism Interest, including those in Alcoy, Bañeres, Callosa de Ensarriá, Crevillente, Petrel, Peñíscola, Villajoyosa and, even closer to La Manga Club, Caravaca de la Cruz. All of the festivals take place at different times throughout the year and each has its own particular focus and idiosyncrasies. Such is the popularity of these festivals, as well, that their reach can even be seen internationally in countries such as the Philippines, Mexico, Guatemala, Peru and Colombia.
And even if you’re not much for period costumes, you shouldn’t dismiss the Moors and Christians Festival of Murcia, because it has plenty of entertainment to offer you at such a short distance from your property at La Manga Club. Note well: from the 3rd to the 10th of September you’ve a date in the city, because after the handover of the keys there are delicacies on offer throughout the streets, including gazpachos jumillanos, rice dishes, monas, and other surprises. Who wouldn´t want to celebrate?