The Crusade of Las Navas de Tolosa - Episode 5: The Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, 1212


Real Crusades History


Published on Jun 17, 2017

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Get Helena’s new book: After the council, however, a local Christian shepherd was brought before Alfonso who insisted that he knew an alternate pass through the mountains. Thus at daybreak, on July 13th, the crusaders, guided by this shepherd, crossed the steep slopes and valleys through the Puerto de Muradal. They then advanced to Las Navas de Tolosa, coming face to face with the enormous Almohad army. The Moors were surprised to awaken and find the Christians coming up behind them to lay camp. The night before the battle, the clergy heard confessions. At midnight, July 16th, the Archbishop of Toledo said mass and all the crusaders received the body of Christ in the Eucharist. Then they took up arms and prepared for combat. Pedro II commanded the Aragonese on the left wing, while Sancho VII and the Navarrese held the right. The military orders and the Castilians occupied the center under King Alfonso, the Archbishop of Toledo, and Diego Lopez de Haro. Before the Christians, the Almohad army was arrayed in its vast ranks of Arabs and Berbers. Al-Nasir held the rear, surrounded by his fearsome Moorish bodyguard. When the battle began, the Christian front lines closed quickly with the Moors, so there was little time or distance for archers. The fighting was close, and raged furiously all day. The Templars and the Knights of Calatrava made up the front lines, and were hard pressed. For a time the Christians seemed likely to be overwhelmed by the superior numbers of the Mohammedans. However, The Aragonese and the Navarrese carried out a pincer maneuver, which threw the Almohad ranks into disorder, allowing King Alfonso and the Archbishop of Toledo to execute a deep penetrating charge with the Castilian knights. This was the decisive moment. The Almohad lines collapsed. The Christian knights mowed down the enemy, and al-Nasir’s troops broke in confusion. The King of Navarre and his knights penetrated all the way to al-Nasir’s tent, breaking through his bodyguard, though the Caliph himself just barely escaped with his life. The Crusader victory was absolute. Thousands of Muslim troops lay dead on the field. The Christian kings took possession of the Caliph’s camp, while the Caliph himself fled in humiliation back to Seville. The tapestry over the Caliph’s tent was sent as a war prize to the monastery at Las Huelgas, where it can still be seen to this day. King Alfonso shipped the Caliph’s tent and standard to Pope Innocent in Rome, along with a triumphant announcement of the victory. Pope Innocent was overjoyed. News of the triumph spread all over Europe, eliciting much praise and thanks to God. Alfonso’s daughter Berenguela sent news of the victory to her sister, Blanche, wife of Prince Louis in France. The victory at Las Navas de Tolosa proved decisive. The Almohad menace to Spain was ended. From now on the Mohammedans of al-Andalus would be on the defensive. In the coming decades, the sons of the kings who conquered at Las Navas would capture virtually all of the important Moorish-held cities in al-Andalus, including Valencia, Cordoba, and Seville.

Image Credits:

Don Ramiro de Leon,_1852_%22Don_Ramiro_de_León_derrota_al_cordobés_junto_a_Simancas%22._(4013184561).jpg

Sancho VII of Navarre by Nordheimer

Map of Spain

Pedro II of Aragon
Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau

Monument at Las Navas de Tolosa
by SuspirodelMoro

Sancho VII at Las Navas by Giuseppe Rava

Knight vs Moor from

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