Moros y Cristianos Festival

Moors and Christians

Moros y Cristianos

Moros y Cristianos in Alcoy

In the year 711 Tariq ibn Ziyad led a strong Muslim army across the Straits of Gibraltar from Morocco. His army quickly defeated the ruling Visigothic forces of King Roderick and faced little resistance in taking control of their capital, Toledo. With the fall of Cordoba an Islamic state known as ‘Al-Andalus’ was formed under direct control of Damascus which was the capital of the Islamic world. Only a few years later the Christian Reconquest of Iberia began in the mountains of Asturias and a 700 year battle began to evict the occupiers. Whilst the Moors far from controlled the whole territory it wasn’t until 1492 that the Christian Reconquest was complete when the city of Granada fell to ‘Los Reyes Católicos’.

And that snippet of history can be used to explain the many ‘Moros y Cristianos’ festivals which take place in Spain every year. Locals dress up as either Moors or Christians and enact battle scenes between the two groups that took place during the Reconquest. If you’re only able to see one of them then it must be the one in Alcoy in the province of Alicante which commemorates the Battle of Alcoy in 1275 when St George helped defeat the Moorish forces lead by Al Azraq. Although there is no attempt to achieve historical accuracy this is one of Spain’s great festivals, or the greatest of all Spanish Fiestas if you ask any Alcoyano! In Alcoy the festival takes place from April 21st to April 24th.

Moros y Cristianos Alcoy
Moors and Christians Festival

Noise, colour and fun abound as the Christian and Moorish armies march around the town all day long accompanied by their own bands. The Spanish love of fireworks is evident during the fiesta and the balconies of the whole town are decorated with the red cross flag of St George. In the streets mock battles take place between the armies of the Moros y Cristianos and the city is covered with the fog of gunpowder.

On the final day the Christians are defeated in the morning then after the appearance of St George they surround the Moors in the afternoon and defeat them.

For the people of the city the fiesta is serious business. All year round they prepare for their four day festival in which a total of 28 armies do battle. This means a never ending task of fund raising, planning for the next April and preparing costumes. The end of the fiesta is a sad day for the town, the only consolation being that it all begins again in a year’s time.

One of my best friends in Spain is from Alcoy and her love of her town’s annual fiesta is so typical of how Spanish people in general feel such an affinity for their local festivals. She no longer lives in Alcoy but every year she’ll try to be there to take part in the festivities with her childhood friends. If she can’t make it she spends every day just wishing she was there. The fiestas become an integral part of the person and throughout Spain you’ll find that many people experience this lifelong attachment to the annual celebrations in the place where they were born.

It is very difficult to find accommodation in Alcoy during the festival so we recommend that you book either a hotel in Alicante or a hotel in Benidorm and travel from there.

Many other towns, especially in the Valencia region, celebrate this festival on different dates including Villajoyosa, near Benidorm in late July and Bocairent in early February. There are also many small towns throughout Andalucia which stage similar events on various dates throughout the year.

Gunfire in Alcoy
Moorish Costume

If you’re interested in a more detailed account of the history behind the Moros y Cristianos festival please refer to:

Have You Been to a Moros y Cristianos Festival?

If you’ve ever attended one of these festivals (there are more than 150 in total) then please let us know what you thought of it in the comments section below.

Reader Comments:

  1. Harry says

    I attended my first Moros y Cristianos fiesta last year in Manuel, a pueblo south of Valencia city in the Ribera Alta. It began on 3rd August. Each battalion’s band marched and played over two days in every street announcing their arrival in town, flags draped outside of their quarters denoting who they were and where they were billetted. On the third day, the place of battle was packed with villagers and on-lookers as the fight began, and the sight and sound was magnificent. The weapons and battle-dress looked authentic, all richly detailed in striking styles and vivid colours. The soldiers’ displays of bravery were spectacular, and the music loud and stirring. It was a truly memorable event.

  2. Anne Lopez-Gallelgo says

    These festivals are fabulous – very unusual and full of pageantry. Our family saw the one in Bocaidente, Val. – and it was very colorful and exciting. The costumes are out of this world. A You Tube video should be made of one event in order to show people so they appreciate the wonderful and ancient Spanish culture.

  3. Maura Gibson says

    Hi Gerry, We have been to Peniscola on the costa azahar on many occasions and have enjoyed the Moros y Cristianos. The festival there lasts for 10 days and is in September each year. It is a wonderful experience.The costumes are incredibly gorgeous and the atmosphere is enchanting. The people in Peniscola are very happy and welcoming. We have had many some wonderful holidays there and would recommend the town and surrounding area to every type of holiday maker. Regards Maura Gibson.

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