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This Week In History

The Capitulation of Granada. January 6, 1492.

With the fall of Baza and the capture of al-Zagal in 1490, it seemed as if the war was over; Ferdinand and Isabella believed this was the case. However, Boabdil was unhappy with the rewards for his alliance with Ferdinand and Isabella, possibly because lands that had been promised to him were being administered by Castile. He broke off his vassalage and rebelled against the Catholic Monarchs, despite holding only the city of Granada and the Alpujarras Mountains. It was clear that such a position was untenable in the long term, so Boabdil sent out desperate requests for external aid.

The Sultan of Egypt mildly rebuked Ferdinand for the Granada War, but the Mamluks that ruled Egypt were in a near constant war with the Ottoman Turks. As Castile and Aragon were fellow enemies of the Turks, the Sultan had no desire to break their alliance against the Turks. Boabdil also requested aid from the Kingdom of Fez (modern Morocco), but no reply is recorded by history. North Africa continued to sell Castile wheat throughout the war and valued maintaining good trade relations. In any case, the Granadans no longer controlled any coastline from where to receive overseas aid. No help would be forthcoming for Granada.

An eight-month siege of Granada began in April 1491. The situation for the defenders grew progressively dire, as their forces for interfering with the siege dwindled and advisers schemed against each other. Bribery of important officials was rampant, and at least one of the chief advisers to Boabdil seems to have been working for Castile the entire time. After the Battle of Granada a provisional surrender, the Treaty of Granada, was signed on November 25, 1491, which granted two months to the city. The reason for the long delay was not so much intransigence on either side, but rather the inability of the Granadan government to coordinate amongst itself in the midst of the disorder and tumult that gripped the city. After the terms, which proved rather generous to the Muslims, were negotiated, the city capitulated on January 2, 1492. The besieging Christians sneaked troops into the Alhambra that day in case resistance materialized, which it did not. By January 6, Granada’s resistance had come to its end.

The Capitulation of 1492 contained sixty-seven articles among which were the following:

  • That both great and small should be perfectly secure in their persons, families, and properties.
  • That they should be allowed to continue in their dwellings and residences, whether in the city, the suburbs, or any other part of the country.
  • That their laws should be preserved as they were before, and that no-one should judge them except by those same laws.
  • That their mosques, and the religious endowments appertaining to them, should remain as they were in the times of Islam.
  • That no Christian should enter the house of a Muslim, or insult him in any way.
  • That no Christian or Jew holding public offices by the appointment of the late Sultan should be allowed to exercise his functions or rule over them.
  • That all Muslim captives taken during the siege of Granada, from whatever part of the country they might have come, but especially the nobles and chiefs mentioned in the agreement, should be liberated.
  • That such Muslim captives as might have escaped from their Christians masters, and taken refuge in Granada, should not be surrendered; but that the Sultan should be bound to pay the price of such captives to their owners.
  • That all those who might choose to cross over to Africa should be allowed to take their departure within a certain time, and be conveyed thither in the king’s ships, and without any pecuniary tax being imposed on them, beyond the mere charge for passage, and
  • That after the expiration of that time no Muslim should be hindered from departing, provided he paid, in addition to the price of his passage, the tithe of whatever property he might carry along with him.
  • That no-one should be prosecuted and punished for the crime of another man.
  • That the Christians who had embraced Islam should not be compelled to relinquish it and adopt their former creed.
  • That any Muslim wishing to become a Christian should be allowed some days to consider the step he was about to take; after which he is to be questioned by both a Muslim and a Christian judge concerning his intended change, and if, after this examination, he still refused to return to Islam, he should be permitted to follow his own inclination.
  • That no Muslim should be prosecuted for the death of a Christian slain during the siege; and that no restitution of property taken during this war should be enforced.
  • That no Muslim should be subject to have Christian soldiers billeted upon him, or be transported to provinces of this kingdom against his will.
  • That no increase should be made to the usual imposts, but that, on the contrary, all the oppressive taxes lately imposed should be immediately suppressed.
  • That no Christian should be allowed to peep over the wall, or into the house of a Muslim or enter a mosque.
  • That any Muslim choosing to travel or reside among the Christians should be perfectly secure in his person and property.
  • That no badge or distinctive mark be put upon them, as was done with the Jews and Mudejares.
  • That no muezzin should be interrupted in the act of calling the people to prayer, and no Muslim molested either in the performance of his daily devotions or in the observance of his fast, or in any other religious ceremony; but that if a Christian should be found laughing at them he should be punished for it.
  • That the Muslims should be exempted from all taxation for a certain number of years.
  • That the Lord of Rome, the Pope, should be requested to give his assent to the above conditions, and sign the treaty himself.

Initially, the Catholic conquerors implemented and reinforced the generous terms of the treaty. A joint municipal council was established in Granada, and the Muslims were allowed to elect their own representatives. Despite pressure from the Spanish clergy, Ferdinand chose a laissez-faire policy towards the Muslim in the hope that interaction with Catholics will make them “understand the error” of their faith and abandon it. Hernando de Talavera, a friar of converso origins known for his moderation and piety, was appointed as the archbishop of Granada. He was known for his preference of preaching based on “Catholic reasoning” as opposed to “punishments and lashes”. When Ferdinand and Isabella visited the city in the summer of 1499, they were greeted by enthusiastic crowd, including Muslims.

At the same time, cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, the archbishop of Toledo, arrived in Granada and began working alongside Talavera. Cisneros disliked Talavera’s approach, and began sending uncooperative Muslims, especially the noblemen, to prison where they were treated harshly until they agreed to convert. Emboldened by the increase in conversions, Cisneros intensified the efforts and in December 1499 he told Pope Alexander VI that three thousand Muslims converted in a single day. Cisneros’ own church council warned that these methods might be a breach of the Treaty, and sixteenth-century hagiographer Álvar Gómez de Castro described the approach as “methods that were not correct”.

In December 1499, amid the increasingly forced conversions and triggered by an incident involving an attempt by the authorities to reconvert a Muslim woman who had converted from Christianity, the population of Albayzín (the Muslim quarter of Granada) began an open and armed revolt. Talavera and Captain-General Tendilla resolved the situation by negotiating with the Muslims. Meanwhile, Cisneros was summoned to the court in Seville to account for his actions. He convinced the Catholic monarchs to issue a collective pardon on the rebels, on condition that they convert to Christianity. Consequently, the whole city of Granada nominally became Christian, and the treaty began to unravel.

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