I think that you should probably take Murazor's view over mine but I will anyway put in a few things where we differ.
I understand spears were the rule, axes and clubs common, and any blade longer then a large knife was fairly expensive, but were longswords used to any great extent?
Some existed, certainly.
For a relevant example, the Cid's own Tizona
which is a big fucking sword by any sane standard.
Shortswords yes, longswords no. (Depending on your definition of longsword of course). Only christian nobles some 50-100 years later would bring in lots of longswords. For instance the normans when they show up.
So something like that would very rare indeed. Also that Tizona is most probably fake since the museum has resisted impartial testing.
were curved swords used in this part of the world?
I know that some existed, but I've seen quite a few examples of Islamic swords with blades straight as an arrow.
Curved blades were usually exclusively cavalry. So any urbanite muslim lord in alAndalus would have a more straightish blade.
However for an RPG you can't go wrong with a stereotype...
Would your average lower class peasant own a bow and know how to shoot?
Never. The closest you would come is that vagabonds and thieves would know how to use slings. Peasants toiling the land wouldn't know any ranged weapons at all except for throwing stones, and there are lots of handy stones all over spain.
how well did people from different religious backgrounds really get along?
In average, not much worse than people of the same religious background.
Here I'd disagree. The above is only true if you live under muslim rule, if you live under christian rule the tale is a bit different. Instead your players are in the midst of the transformation from a truly multicultural heritage, to a much more cynical and also intolerant one.
Its in this exact era of the 11 cen that the idea of religious persecution starts in spain. Mainly due to papal influence on "spains" neighbours. There is an influx of foreigners with a clear christian agenda that is openly anti-islamic. This means that almost all of the muslim lords have had to "watch" their christian subjects more closely etc. So a downword spiral of mistrust and intolerance.
So for the sake of RPG drama you should really play this out to the max. The society that the players grew up in was one of tolerance, but now that is falling apart. If they meet christian mercenaries from the north then, you should definately play them as intolerant of muslims and jews.
However it is also at this very same time that the rulers of Leon and Castille realise they can no longer mistreat jews. Instead by giving them favored treatment they can enlist jews vs their muslim enemies.
This means that you are distilling some 2-300 years into your campain but the historical trend is clear. This is the end of the golden age for jews in Spain, henceforth they will always be second class citizens.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_age ... e_in_Spainhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1066_Granada_massacre
In context, this is the guy influencing things nowhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Benedict_IX
this is the guy coming uphttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Leo_IX
if you were living in a Christian kingdom, how happy would you have been to rub elbows with Muslims?
See above. Ordinarily you wouldn't care, your father and his father before him wouldn't care. But there are some new guys in town that preach the good word of the bible and he is calling them scum..
Lots of people don't care unless given a reason, but those with an interest in things start to sprout bad seeds. Like a competitor to a muslim would definately start listening to the foreign influence.
What was Christianity like in Spain during this period, and how much contact with the church in Rome was there?
Culturally it was quite different. Too many influences etc, lots of mosques had a christian section which led to diffusion.
However starting about a century ago - the outside christian world has taken an interest in the peninsula so that catholic influence is definately there, leading to lots of emberrassing moments when the foreign priest explain that no that is not a "christian" tradition its mulsim/jewish.
Were there still pagan religions present in Spain, and if so, how extensive were they?
Gone. they are not mentioned by any of the contemporaries that I know of.
The closest you will get is norsemen influence in western spain, but that is almost gone by now.
Do we have massive tracts of unclaimed wilderness, or are there little clusters of people everywhere?
No "wilderness" at all. Everywhere is settled. But lots of regions that are very hard to reach. example:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronda
To go somewhere where there is no people you need to go up in the mountains, and you wouldn't normally survive that without massive provision, which obviously is hard to get into the mountains.
what did people in Spain at the time think of the Romans?
the goths were the final caretakers of the roman empire, see Theodric the great etc.
IIRC spain had functional roman aqueducts for longer than anywhere else. etc
The christians in spain at the time see themselves as a roman legacy and proud of it.
Were Christian monasteries doing their copying of ancient manuscripts thing in spain during this time? were there even christian monastic orders present?
Nope, nope, nope. yes there were some but not like how you think medieval monestaries, those had just started out in Leon. So skip that. Also from a modern perspective the christians are very much the barbarians compared to the mulsims. So you should play on that. Several spanish museums mention that during the reconquista christians burned more books than there existed in christendom.
A normally stocked muslim higher lord's library usually outmatch cathedrals at this time. A guesstimate would be a muslim library would have 500-1000 books, a christian equivalent one 10-50.
How big and extensive were Muslim centres of learning? who could attend them?
Huge and anyone.
Christian merchants from all over europe were sent to muslim universities. Its where europe picks up things like math and indian numbers etc. Accumulative interest for instance.
The lingua franca would definately be arabic, there are lots of complaints from foreign christians that its easy to mistake a christian for a saraceen.
However lots of muslim lords know latin, to the dismay of catholic priests who fails time and again trying to lecture them on scripture - where the muslim usually know the christian version better than the christians themselves.
see this as an example of a christian becoming fameous for learning arabic and thus getting credit for spreading what the spanish arabs had known for centuries by then http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Scot
or another fameous person, you have probably heard ofhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonardo_Fibonacci
in contexthttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_co ... val_Europe