Zaragoza History Facts and Timeline

(Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain)

Lying along the banks of the Ebro River, Zaragoza is the capital city of the Aragon region and home to around 700,000 residents. In recent times, the city has been best-known for hosting Expo 2008 - a famous international exhibition. However, the history of Zaragoza obviously dates back much further.

The city is dominated by its riverside Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, which commemorates the appearance of the Virgin Mary on a pillar in the 1st century AD. The legend is said to mark the beginning of Christianity in Spain and means that the city has long been a hugely popular destination among Christian pilgrims.

The Romans

The modern history of Zaragoza began around 2000 years ago, when it was established by the Romans. It was named 'Caesaraugusta' after its founder, Caesar Augustus.

Nowadays, visitors can see four remaining Roman ruins in Zaragoza, namely the forum, the port, the thermal baths and the amphitheatre. Parts of the historic Roman wall, 'Las Murallas' also remain. At the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, Caesaraugusta came out relatively unscathed, following a peaceful takeover by the Goths.

The Moors in Zaragoza

In the year of 714 AD, Caesaraugusta was renamed as Saraqusta following its takeover by the Arabs and the Berbers. It later became the largest city in northern Spain under Muslim control and belonged to the Emirate of Cordoba. Over the next 300 years, Saraqusta was the scene of insurrections, rebellions and Christian takeovers, as the ruling governors struggled to retain control.

Saraqusta remained under the control of the Emirate until the early years of the 11th century, when the ruling Banu Tujibi dynasty broke free from Cordoban control and took the reins. The Banu Tujibi established an independent Muslim state, one of several other 'Taifas' which had also gained independence from Cordoba.

Taifa of Zaragoza

The Banu Tujibi dynasty ruled the Taifa for the next 30 years, until 1038 saw it replaced by the Banu Hud, which had aligned itself with El Cid of Valencia. It was during the Banu Hud period that one of Zaragoza's finest pieces of architecture, the Aljaferia Palace (Palacio de la Aljaferia), was built. This grandiose building is the only intact structure which remains from Spain's Taifa era and is noted for its opulent gold-coated ceilings. The Banu Hud remained rulers of Zaragoza until their defeat by the Almoravids in 1110.

History of the Kingdom of Aragon

The Almoravids held Zaragoza until 1118, when it was taken by the Aragonese. By this time, many of the Saraqusta Muslims had joined the Christian Aragonese forces as full-time soldiers. From the 11th century to the 17th century, the city's Muslims lived openly under Christian rule as the 'Mudejar', until they were eventually expelled in 1641.

Several Christian churches were built during this period, such as the Gothic-style La Seo Cathedral (Catedral del Salvador) and the Magdalena Church (Iglesia de la Magdalena). These churches are known as Mudejar churches, since they feature art which combines both Islamic and Christian traditions.

Modern Times in the City

Before the arrival of the 20th century, Zaragoza's economy had been traditionally based on rural farming in the surrounding areas. However, the city became much more industrialised from 1950 onwards, culminating in the most celebrated event in Zaragoza history. By hosting Expo 2008, the city had truly arrived on the global stage.