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.
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.
There are hotels in Alcoy but you’d need to make reservations a long time before the festival. If you can’t find accommodation in Alcoy then you can book a hotel in Alicante and drive up to Alcoy for the day or stay 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.
If you’re interested in a more detailed account of the history behind the Moros y Cristianos festival please refer to:
13 thoughts on “Moros y Cristianos Festival”
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.
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.
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.
Thanks Maura for this great recommendation.
I have an apartment in Calp and our Fiesta de Moros y Cristianos is held in October. We have a procession on Sat night which goes from old town , down Avda Gabriel Miro and ends in Plaza Colon by the beach. Bands come from neighbouring towns, there are floats and wonderful costumes. The procession can take about four hours. There are generally fireworks at the end of the evening. On the Sunday Calp is invaded from the sea and the invaders fire very noisy muskets as they move slowly up towards old town for the battle.
Have been to many different towns for their fiestas about the moors and Christians, never been disappointed with the display. This is since 1989 and have yet to be disappointed.
Despite living for 15 years in Cataluna, I don’t remember such a festival. Would that be because the Moors didn’t control Cataluna?
These festivals sound like great fun but I’m sure that here in the UK they would never happen because it would be deemed to be “politically incorrect”!!!!!
Right on, Nigel. Britain is in a state of appeasement and the bleeding hearts lobby is the real 5th column inside the country. Political correctness is the very last vestige of the imbeciles, as Churchill would say.
However, do go to see and enjoy yourself this fiesta, especially the one in Alcoy. Have a good time.
I attended a fabulous Moros y Cristianos celebration in Xabia/ Javea. The parade was endless filled with music and choreographed movements and intricate costumes. A giant paella was prepared for the town. A sea battle and fireworks took place the night before. I feel very fortunate to have been there.
The Moros & Cristianos of VILLENA, are the largest in Spain. More than 12.000 “festeros” and musicians are marching for over 5 hours trough the city. The many special squadrons are really amazing beautiful. The big days are the 5th and the 6th of September. Just check on Google; Moros y Cristianos en Villena.
Had a wonderful day at the festival in Alcoy 2016 We went on the first day and watch the parade the atmosphere was electric.
We went to the moors and Christians fiesta in Rojales, it was fantastic. There was gun fights,taking of the castle, fireworks, dancing. This was over a two week long build up to the main event. My daughter is a reina de las fiestas 2016 so it was an extra special time
We discovered the MyC fiesta in Soller, Mallorca completely by mistake. As we lay on the beach, a local strolled up and said, “You should move, the pirates are landing…” And there indeed they were, bobbing around off shore in a rickety boat.
Marvellous fun, with the town’s stalwart defenders letting off muskets loaded with blanks every few seconds. Everyone drunk, everyone laughing, everyone deaf from the musket fire. Looking forward to going back next year!