Guide to the Paradoxplace Website

Paradoxplace Spain & Portugal Photo & History Pages

Paradoxplace Italy, France, Britain Photo and History Pages

Spanish & Portuguese Abbey, Monastery, Mosque and Cathedral Pages


Scholarship and Discovery in Medieval Spain


Link to Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) Chronology and Maps 711 - 1492

The Buildings and Country of the Spanish Camino de Santiago (Camino Francés)




Andalucia Photo & History Gallery Links


Alhambra, Granada     Around Granada     The Great Mosque of Cordoba     Carmona     Seville


North-West Andalucia     South-West Andalucia     Columbus and Rabida Convent (near Huelva)










The Giants


San Isidoro

560 - 636 (76)


San Isidoro (of Seville) lived in Visigoth (pre-Islamic) Spain.  He was Archbishop of Seville for 30 years, and the greatest Christian church scholar and promoter of scholarship generally of his time and  to emerge from Spain.  He wrote the first known encyclopaedia in western civilization (called  the Etymologiae).   He shares a place with Saint Bede the Venerable in Dante's Divine Comedy, and, like Bede, is recognized as a Doctor of the Christian Church though it took 1000 years for the church to work this out - his doctorship was proclaimed in 1722.


Saint Leander of Seville (c534 - 600 (66)) was Isidoro's elder brother (and, in the view of many, intellectually superior, though he did not write any encyclopaedias) .  He preceded Isodoro as Archbishop of Seville and was another major church mover and shaker (particularly in the extermination of Arianism in Spain). 


There were two other (sainted) siblings - Florentina and Fulgentius.  Mum and dad must have been proud of their kids!


Ibn Rushd (Averroës)

1126 - 1198 (72)


Cordoba born philosopher - probably the most important medieval commentator on Aristotle, and the harmonisation of Aristotelian philosophy with the teachings of the Quran.  See him portrayed by Raphael in green robe and white turban in The School of Athens ( Vatican, Rome ).  Also a physician, lawyer and mathematician.  Died in Marrakesh, Morocco.




1135 - 1204 (69)


Rabbi, physician and philosopher.  Born Cordoba, forced to leave in 1148.  Went to Morocco and the Holy Land before settling in Fostat in Egypt.  Wrote "The Guide for the Perplexed".


Ibn Arabi

1165 - 1240 (75)


Sufi mystic visionary.  Born in Murcia (Spain), died in Damascus.


Moses de León

1250 -1305 (55)


Rabbi and Kabbalist.  Born in Leon, and lived there, then in Guadalajara and Valladolid before coming to rest in Avila where he lived for the rest of his life.  The only one of the four post millenium giants to stay in Spain.







Seneca the Younger

c4 BC – 65 AD (69)


Not yet Medieval, but nonetheless a son of Cordoba.  Lucius Annaeus Seneca - Roman philosopher, statesman and dramatist - ended up in Rome, living through the thrills and spills of much of the Julio Claudian years.  He survived a death threat from the Emperor Caligula, was banished to Corsica in 41 by Messilina, wife of Claudius, then recalled to Rome in 49 by Agrippina, next wife of Claudius, to tutor her (but not Claudius') son Nero. 


Seneca and the Praetorian Prefect Burrus became Nero's advisors when he became Emperor in 54, but Nero soon decided he did not need help and eventually Seneca retired - only to be ordered to commit suicide by the ungrateful Nero in 65.


Gerbert d’Aurillac


Sylvester II)

ca 940 - 999 - 1003 (63)


Gerbert d’Aurillac was a very bright French churchman who spent time in Spain on the way to becoming Pope Sylvester II.  As a senior churchman in the Umayyad Caliphate of Cordoba he learned about navigation and wrote "the Book of the Astrolabe" - the first Latin explanation of this Arab navigational instrument.   He also became fascinated with Hindu - Arabic numerals (at that stage still without a zero), and became a promoter of their utility when he moved to Rome.  However, no-one took any notice ( What has Poping got to do with numbers?  Anyway, anything a Frenchman says is suspect ) and it was not until much later that the medieval world of Europe generally cast off the shackles of Roman numerals.


More interesting stuff on Hindu Arabic Numerals etc



1099 - 66 (or 80!) (67 or 81)


Born in Ceuta, Spain, in 1099 and educated in Cordoba, the Arab Botanist and Geographer Al-Idrisi (1099 - 1166) amongst other things added significantly to the codified knowledge of medicinal plants, and wrote two geographical encyclopaedias embracing all the geographical knowledge of the time about Asia, Africa and the West. 


The first of these encyclopaedias was called Al-Kitab al-Rujari (Roger's Book) or alternatively Nuzhat al-Mushtaq fi Ikhtiraq al-Afaq ("The delight of him who desires to journey through the climates") - now that's a title all of us travellers should remember!  The Roger refers to (Norman Sicilian) King Roger II (1093 - 1113 - 1154 (61)), because Idrisi spent much of his life in residence at the glittering Palermo court of the (Christian) King - which may account for the fact that there is less written about him in Islamic material than you would expect!


Link to an excellent web page about Roger's Sicily and al-Idrisi's work


San Martino

c1130 - 1203 (73)


Globe-trotting pilgrim and internationally recognized theologian, latterly running the Queen Berenguela funded scriptorium at the Basilica de San Isidoro in León and writing "Concordia" - an encyclopaedia of theology and commentaries on the scriptures.


The Toledo School of Translators

1130 onwards


Gerard of Cremona (c.1114-1187 (73)) was the greatest and most prolific Arabic translator of his time, and the leading light of the large and formidable bunch of talent assembled by Archbishop Raymond to translate hitherto unavailable material into Latin and Hebrew (the Arabs having previously translated Greek works into Arabic, then lost most of the originals), and indeed to also translate other stuff into Arabic. 


More about Raymond, Gerard and the activities and impact of the Toledo School of Translators.


King Alfonso X ("el Sabio")

1221 - 1252 - 1284 (63)


King of Castile and León who was the great great grandson of Eleanor of Aquitaine, and also great grandson of the Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa ("Redbeard") through his Swabian mother Elisabeth, which is why he flirted with a claim on the title of Holy Roman Emperor until Pope Gregory X told him he was up himself and to go away.  He was at heart a "cultural dynamo" - driver of the preparation of the  "Alfonsine Tables" * ; supporter of of the Toledo School of Translators, and the use of Castilian; writer of Spanish histories and a monumental work of jurisprudence called  "Code of Seven Acts" (Siete Partidas); and last but not least Alfonso was a poet (writing in Galician).


Castile and León Royal Family Trees and Royal Sarcophagi in

the Cistercian Abbey / Nunnery of Santa Maria la Real de Las Huelgas, Burgos


* Alfonsine tables were a compilation of astronomical data tabulating the positions and movements of the planets, completed c.1252 but not printed (in Venice) until 1483. They were a revision and improvement of the Ptolemaic tables and were compiled at Toledo, Spain, by about 50 astronomers assembled for the purpose by Alfonso X.


Ibn Khaldun

1332 - 1406 (74)


Born Seville, then moved to Tunis.  Historian, political commentator and diplomat who wrote Prolegomenon (Muqaddima).  He also foresaw the Sigmoid curve!!




More information on many interesting pre-Renaissance Muslim Scholars (including those above)




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