Battle of Covadonga: History, Causes & Consequences

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The Battle of Covadonga | History of the War

Battle of Covadonga – Armed confrontation between Asturian and Umayyad troops in Covadonga, Asturias, in 722.

Date 722
Place Covadonga, Asturias.
Belligerents Astures vs Umayyads
Outcome Triumph of the Asturians.

What was the Battle of Covadonga?

The Battle of Covadonga was an armed confrontation between Asturian and Umayyad troops in CovadongaAsturias, in the year 722.

The Asturian troops were commanded by Pelayo, who some historians consider a Visigothic nobleman and, others, an Asturian Prince.

The Umayyad forces were led by General Al Qama, who had been sent by the Muslim governor of Córdoba.

Traditionally, this battle is considered the beginning of the Christian Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula. However, there are contemporary authors who question this view and others who claim that the battle was an invention of Christian chroniclers of the 10th century.

History of the Battle of Covadonga

After the fall of the Visigothic kingdom of Toledo, between 711 and 718, the Berber Munuza was appointed governor of the Asturias region, in the northwest of the Iberian PeninsulaMunuza settled in the city of Gijón, on the shores of the Cantabrian Sea.

His authority was quickly challenged by some Asturian leaders who, led by Pelayo, decided not to pay the taxes demanded by the Muslims.

Munuza proposed to punish the rebels, but after some skirmishes with uncertain results, he requested reinforcements from the governor of Córdoba. This dispatched an expeditionary corps, under the command of General Al Qama.

Knowing that the Muslims outnumbered him, Pelayo decided to wait for them in the Covadonga cave, located in the Cangas valley. It was a perfect choice, since in such a narrow place the enemy did not have the space to maneuver and assert their numerical superiority.

Battle of Covadonga: Painting of the Proclamation of Pelayo as King of Asturias

Proclamation of Pelayo as King of Asturias in Covadonga. Painting by the Spanish artist Luis de Madrazo.

Causes and consequences of the Battle of Covadonga

Causes of the Battle of Covadonga

The main causes of the Battle of Covadonga were the following:

  • The refusal of Pelayo and other Asturian leaders to pay taxes to the Muslim invaders.
  • The will of the Muslim governor of Asturias, Munuza, to punish the Asturian rebellion so that it would not serve as an example to others who wanted to imitate it.
  • The sending of reinforcements by the Muslim governor of Córdoba.

Consequences of the Battle of Covadonga

Among the consequences of the Battle of Covadonga, the following stand out:

  • The Muslims were defeated, General Al Qama was killed in the battle. The survivors tried to escape, but when they tried to get away they were buried by an avalanche of earth and stones, which could have been accidental or caused by the Asturians themselves.
  • Aware of the defeat of the Muslim troops, Munuza felt insecure and decided to leave Asturias to take refuge in Toledo. But he and his troops made a mistake on the way to the plateau and were overtaken by the Asturians in the Olalíes valley. In that place a battle took place that ended with the death of Munuza and all his men.
  • After the elimination of Munuza, Pelayo‘s troops entered Gijón without encountering any resistance.
  • Thanks to the prestige obtained by his victories, Pelayo was able to obtain the submission of all the local nobles, found the independent kingdom of Asturias and establish his court in Cangas de Onís. At his death, in 737, he was succeeded by his son Favila, and this, in turn, by his brother-in-law Alfonso I, who was married to his sister Ermesinda.
  • After the loss of Asturias, the Muslims turned their attention to the Frankish kingdom of the Merovingians, but when they tried to invade it they were defeated by Carlos Martel in the first Battle of Poitiers, in 732.
  • The kingdom of Asturias (later transformed into the kingdom of León) was the seed of the Christian Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula. From then on, other Christian kingdoms were being organized, such as Navarra, Aragon, and the county of Catalonia. These small states staged a continuous struggle against the Muslims and progressively pushed the border south. The process was not linear, since throughout the Middle Ages there were momentary setbacks due to times of economic crisis or invasions from North Africa, such as those of the Almohads and the Almoravids.
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