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Brief history of Granada

Page updated 12th February 2024

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Moorish times Granada

In 1238, Ibn al-Ahmar rose up against Ibn Hud and conquered parts of the province of Granada. He established the kingdom of Granada, which extended from the mountains of Sierra Nevada to Gibraltar and which was originally made up of the province of Granada (where he set up his court), the provinces of Malaga and Almeria, and part of the provinces of Cordoba, Jaen, Sevilla, and Cadiz.

Before he died in 1273, Ahmar gave some of these territories to King Fernando who he helped to conquer Seville.

For about 250 years, this Moorish kingdom was ruled by 20 monarchs, and had a thriving Muslim community and a strong Islamic culture.


christian conquest

Unfortunately, the kingdom was gradually undermined due to the internal disagreements between its rulers and the successive conquests of various parts of the kingdom by the Christian armies. Its situation was becoming ever more precarious and the Catholic Monarchs decided to conquer the capital as the final step towards unity in Spain. On 2nd January 1492, Granada surrendered.

Although the treaties signed by the Catholic Monarchs with Boabdil for the surrender of Granada stated that the different languages, religions and customs would be respected, after a few years it became clear that this was not happening in practice, and Cardinal Cisneros insisted that everyone, regardless of their religion, be baptised.

The inquisitors had never been happy with these treaties which they believed slowed down their attempts to reduce the Muslim population and the practice of Islam in Spain. They also thought a Muslim revolt was imminent and that it was useless to expect peaceful conversion to Christianity. Cardinal Ximenes therefore asked Isabel and Fernando for permission to continue his inquisition activities and they agreed. Consequently, on 18th December 1499, some three thousand Moors were baptised, a major mosque in Granada was converted to a church and the burning of supposed religious books and documents began.

This understandably led to revolts and protests with a lot of unrest among those who had been forced to convert to Christianity, and a series of mutinies followed, culminating in the 1680 revolt which was finally put down. The most determined rebels fled to the Alpujarras where there was a violent uprising several years later.

Although promises were made that the treaties would be honoured, this did not happen and Ximenes announced that those Moors who refused to be baptised would be expelled. These baptisms were carried out en mass and at an incredible speed - so fast in fact that there was no time for religious instruction to be given to the new "converts". It has been estimated that between 50,000 and 70,000 Muslims were forcibly baptised in this way in Granada. The offer of emigration to Africa was really only a hollow promise and only available for those who were able to pay and who had not already been baptised.

forcible muslim baptism

After the Catholic Monarchs died, things got progressively worse: Queen Juana forbade the Moriscos to wear their national dress, and Carlos V introduced a theological council in 1526 which attempted to reform them. These rules were not rigidly imposed and people were able to avoid them by paying certain taxes. That all changed, however, with Felipe II who prohibited the use of Moorish dress, language and customs. As a result, there was a violent uprising on 24th December 1568. It began in the Albaicín and continued on into the Alpujarras with the Morisco Aben-Humeya being proclaimed king. Reinforcements were sent from Africa and the revolt extended to the rest of the province of Granada. Churches were burnt, villages ransacked and Christians were murdered. Following the death of Aben-Humeya, the uprising was eventually quashed in 1571. The rebels were then expelled from the kingdom and it was subsequently repopulated by Spaniards from other parts of the country.


In the centuries that followed, peace returned to Granada and it became an important cultural centre.


However, in 1808, Napoleon installed his brother Bonaparte on the Spanish throne. The Alhambra was at this time in a sorry state, and having fallen into disrepair in recent years and inhabited by thieves and beggars, it was used as a barracks by Napoleon's troops. During one of their retreats, they were responsible for blowing up two of its towers (Torre de Siete Suelos and the Torre de Agua) which were left in ruins. There was strong Spanish resistance to the Napoleonic Invasion, and consequently in 1812, he was replaced by the Spanish King Fernando VII.


The Spanish inquisition lasted from 1478 until 1834, an incredible 350 years. The idea behind any inquisition is to root out non-believers or anti-establishment individuals and the Spanish inquisition was used for both political and religious reasons. Following the conquest of Spain by the Catholic monarchs in 1492, there still remained a wealth of different religions living in Spain: Jews, Protestants, Catholics and Muslims. Believing it to be a way or reuniting Spain, Fernando and Isabel asked Pope Sixtus IV for permission in 1478 to "purify the people of Spain". He gave his reluctant approval and it was his duty to appoint the Inquisitor General.

The Spanish Inquisition

In his role as the first Inquisitor General in 1483, Tomas de Torquemada was responsible for establishing the rules of the inquisition and branches in various cities. During the fifteen years he was in control, 2000 Spaniards were executed. The main aim of the Inquisition was to punish, torture and execute Jews and later Muslims who had converted to Christianity but who were insincere about their new religion. People could be accused by the general population. If they admitted to any wrongdoings and turned in any other wrongdoers, they would be released or given a short prison sentence. However, if they refused to cooperate, then they would be either publicly executed or sentenced to life imprisonment.

The Spanish inquisition

The fate of those accused, particularly rich Jewish usurers whose goods could later be be confiscated by the church, was decided on at the autos-da-fé (the trials of faith). These were large, solemn occasions and designed to instill fear and respect in those who attended them. One of the squares where these were held was the Bibarrambla square. Two processions would converge in the square: one bringing the accused from wherever they were being held prisoner, and the other with the heads from a nearby church. It was a long affair, going on from dawn to dusk, and stopping for lunch - a huge banquet - which was watched by those standing trial. Sentences would then announced in the afternoon, and those found guilty would either be taken away to be burnt or burnt in Bibarrambla itself, and the innocent would be pardoned.

The Inquisition, characterised by its cruelty and brutality, was finally abolished in 1834.

External links: wikipedia the Spanish Inquisition