On February 25, 1119, Tutera (Tudela) in Navarre, an important center of Muslim political power and culture in the Iberian peninsula, fell to the forces of Alfonso I, “the Battler ,” King of Aragon. So ended an important era in the history of the city, one in which it was even for a while the capital of an independent taifa (a Muslim-ruled principality).

Bust of Musa ibn Musa in Tutera. Photo by Arenillas. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Founded as a Roman villa by the name of Tutela, and following a period of Visigothic rule, the town came under Muslim control during the initial eighth-century conquest of Hispania by the Umayyad Caliphate. In 802 the town was fortified and renamed Al-Tutili by Amrus ibn Yusuf,  a native of Huesca (probably of Visigothic origin) and governor of Zaragoza.  It then became the Emirate of Al-Hakam and the permanent residence of Musa ibn Musa, “the Great,” leader of the Banu Qasi clan, rulers of the Upper Ebro Valley in the ninth and early tenth centuries.  The Banu Qasi family were of Hspano-Roman or Visigothic ancestry and had intermarried with local Basque nobles: Musa ibn Musa was the maternal half-brother of Iñigo Arista, the King of Pamplona-Iruñea, and he even married Arista’s daughter. He is also presumed to have supported the Basques against the Franks in the Second Battle of Orreaga (Ronceveaux) in 824, a battle generally credited as giving birth to the Kingdom of Pamplona-Iruñea. Indeed, Musa’s power was such–ultimately extending to control of Zaragoza, Huesca, and Toledo, as well as Tutera–that  he was even referred to as the “Third King of Spain” alongside Abd ar-Rahman II  of the Emirate of Córdoba and Ordoño I of the Kingdom of Asturias.

Excavation of the Great Mosque of Tutera. Photo by Arenillas. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Tutera flourished under Musa’s rule, becoming an important economic and cultural as well as political center. There was religious tolerance, a thriving economy, and a vibrant cultural life. The multicultural reality in Tutera was made up of Muslim, Mozarab (Iberian Christian), and Jewish communities. That multicultural spirit lived on, initially to some extent at least, after its fall to Alfonso I and was perhaps best reflected by the Jewish traveler and scholar Benjamin of Tudela (1130-1173), author of The Travels of Benjamin, an important medieval text chronicling both Jewish communities in particular and broader cultures and societies throughout large parts of Europe, Africa, and Western Asia.