The expansion of Christianity in Spain coincided with the beginning of the Germanic invasion. Few vestiges of Visigothic art have survived and they seem to reveal more Byzantine and North African influences than Roman ones. The horse-shoe arch, arched twin windows separated by a column, and tunnel vaults characterize the primitive Christian churches (Santa Comba de Bande in Orense and San Pedro de la Nave in Zamore).
Asturian pre-Romanesque art began in the 8th century and attained its highest peak during the reign of Ramiro I (the Church of Santa Maria del Naranco and that of San Miguel de Lillo).
The Moorish invasion and subsequent period of the Reconquest produced an amalgam of three cultures. Their harmonization and cultural exchanges represented one of the most fruitful processes of European culture.
The perpetration of the Classical legacy was guaranteed by Alfonso X's School of Translators in Toledo and Seville. Alfonso X (the Wise) supplemented the legislation initiated at the beginning of the Visigothic period with the Code of Eurico (466), the Codex Revisus de Leovigildo and the Liber Juidiciorum (656), by promulgating his Siete Partidas, and he also contributed to the world of science (Lapidario).
The conjunction of Arab-Christian culture generated the double phenomenon of Mozarabic and Mudejar art. In the 11th century, Andalucia and Valencia were rival centers of Islamic culture. Poetry reached its zenith with the outstanding Ibn Zaydin, Ibn Khafaja and the poet King Al-Mu'tamid. But the two best poets were Ibn Quzman (d.1160), innovator of the classical meter with his introduction of muwasahas and zejeles. Among philosophers, the extraordinary Averroes (1126-98 Cordoba), who produced a series of commentaries on Aristotle's works deserves special attention.
If it proved to be a fruitful age for literature it was not less so for architecture. The Mezquita or Great Mosque of Cordoba (begun in 784) and Medina Azahara are the two outstanding examples of art under the Cordoban Caliphate. In Seville the ancient minaret of the mosque, the Giralda, the Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold) and the Alcazar represents some of the most celebrated monuments of Islamic architecture to which we must add the citadel-palace of the Sultans of Granada, the Alhambra.
At the same time that the Arab presence persisted in the south, the north of Spain maintanied close contact with contemporary European culture through the Way of Saint James of Compostela, which ends at the tomb of the Apostle. Along the way, churches were being built in which European Romanesque art was blended with the typically Spanish pre-Romanesque art: the cathedral of Jaca in Huesca, the church of Fromista, in Palencia, the pantheon of San Isidoro in Leon, with its beutiful frescoes, and, above all, the great cathedral of Santiago, with its important sculptures adorning the portal of La Gloria, considered Spanish Romanesque's most important expression.
With regards to sculpture, local traditions played a fundamental role which came into their own in the 11th century. Some of the most important works found are: the cloister of Santo Domingo de Silos (Burgos), the pantheon and the doors of the church of San Isidoro de Leon, the capitals in the cathedral of Jaca (Huesca), the monastery of Ripoll and the cathedral of Santiago.
Notable Romanesque monuments are also located in the Castilla-Leon region, in Avila, Zamora, Soria, Salamanca, Segovia, Burgos. In the north, other monuments are to be found in Navarra, Aragon and Catalunya. In this latter province, one can see churches with magnificent paintings, of which the majority are on display in the Art Museum of Catalunya in Barcelona which houses, among other art objets a fresco from the church of San Clemente of Tahull (Lerida) from the year 1123.
The literature of this period -12th century- initiated the use of Castilian as a literary language with the 'El Cantar del Mio Cid' (The Song of the Cid), which introduced the epic poem. Lyric-Narrative poetry would have to wait another century, and it appeared about the same time as the Gothic style in art.
The Gothic style appeared in Spain at the beginning of the 13th century with early Cistercian Gothic -the Monastery of Las Huelgas (Burgos)- and that of Poblet (Tarragona) and reaches its maximum splendor with the cathedral of Leon. In the 14th century Catalan Gothic developed: Barcelona, Gerona, Palma de Mallorca, and in the 15th century, Flemish Gothic evolved: Seville, Toledo and Burgos. Public architectural projects were also undertaken around this same period, the dockyards in Barcelona and the markets in Valencia and Palma are two examples.
Literature developed significantly. The primitive epic poem had been blended with the troubadoir and jongleurs' lyrical poetry of Provence origin and later adapted to Gallego, the language of Galicia. And in addition to the popular minstrels' verses, a clerical verse form appeared. Gonzalo de Berceo became the first poet of the Castilian language with his 'Milagros de Nuestra Senora'.
Alfonso X, the Wise, has already been referred to in relation to his 'Siete Partidas', but the 'Cronica General' of Spain that he had written, and the 'Cantigas de Santa Maria' he composed in Gallego, deserve motion. The first collections of short stories appeared during his reign: the 'Libro de Calila e Dimna' and a first theatrical piece: the 'Auto de los Reyes Magos'.