Treaty of Granada and the Alhambra Decree

On November 25, 1491 the Treaty of Granada was signed, ending the war between Boabdil, the sultan of Granada, and the Spanish monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella.  “It ended the Granada War which had started in 1482, culminating in the siege and battle of Granada beginning in spring 1491.”

Granada surrendered on the condition that Isabella and Ferdinand grant the many Muslims and Jews in the territory the freedom to practice their religion. Unfortunately, the Catholic monarchs, doubtlessly feeling they were “justified” by their great faith, issued the Alhambra Decree in 1492 in which the Jewish population was  targeted for expulsion or death. The Jews were given an ultimatum that they could convert to Catholicism, surrender their goods and leave the country, or die. Tens of thousands of Jews perished as a result of this decree.

There cannot be enough said about the heinousness of the results of the Alhambra Decree.

Many Jewish people died from the hazards of life as refugees, and many were murdered by covetous neighbors for their processions. Sometimes the Jewish evictees were slaughtered and disemboweled by thieves because it was rumored that they were swallowing gold and gems in an attempt to take their wealth out of Spain. The Jews who tried to leave Spain aboard ships were all too often thrown overboard to drown by greedy captains who wanted to confiscate the escapees’ belongings.

Another egregious thing rising from the Alhambra Decree was the strengthening of the Isabella and Ferdinand’s brainchild, the Spanish Inquisition. Several thousand Jewish families decided to “convert” to Catholicism rather than risk their lives and the lives of their children in flight. However, the Church suspected that many of these “conversos” were secretly still Jewish. There could be no Jews in Spain, and so hidden Jews both within and without the converso population were hunted down, tortured, and put to death.

To this day, there are still those who try to excuse the actions of the Spanish Inquisition:

“a Catholic placed sometimes in situations depressingly familiar to Catholics of today. The clergy of Castile were riddled with Jewish “converts”, some genuine and very holy, but many others enriching themselves and working against the Church from within … the prisoners of the Spanish Inquisition would hardly qualify as prisoners of conscience — they were not tried for refusing to become Catholics but rather for pretending to be Catholics in order to infiltrate Christian society. Most were reconciled with the Church — though they were warned that a second lapse into Judaism would be fatal — and some were exiled. Execution was reserved for serious relapses and horrible crimes — such as the ritual murder of a three year old boy in one of the most infamous and convoluted cases the Inquisition was called upon to try. The queen’s decision to finally exile the Jews from Spain caused and still causes even greater outrage among her detractors. To this day, the Sephardic Jews continue to protest against all moves on the part of Rome to proceed in her canonization. Whether her action was justified is still open to debate.” (NB: no it’s not)

This sugar-coated version of “nice people just weeding the bad apples out of the forcibly converted and murderous Jews infiltrating Christians” is, unsurprisingly, disputed by historians, scholars, the Jewish community, and anyone who is not delusional or anti-Semitic.  The reality is that suspected Jews:

“would be seized, thrust into inquisitional dungeons, interrogated (occasionally under torture), and sentenced to a variety punishments, ranging from terms of penitential service to imprisonment or to “relaxation,” that is, death. Thus, even in its earliest phase, between 1479 and 1481, in a ferocious reign of terror, nearly four hundred individuals were burned at the stake for heresy in the city of Seville alone. Throughout Castilian Andalusia, some two thousand persons were burned alive, seventeen thousand others were “reconciled,” that is, spared the death penalty but subjected to such punishments as imprisonment, confiscation of property, and debarment from all employment, public and private, Their wives and children faced destitution.”

Isabella and Ferdinand also began a policy of forcible conversions to Christianity that infuriated the Muslim community of Granada into a revolt in 1500. Ferdinand and Isabella used this revolt as an excuse to void the treaty and institute a pogrom against the Moors. Like the Jews before them, the Muslims were ordered to become Catholic, emigrate, or be killed. Again, there are still people who justify this ethnic cleansing because 1) it was no big deal; they converted to Christianity easy-peasy  or 2) (as everyone knows) Muslims are the dangerous Other and of course you have to get rid of them if you want peace.

After another hundred or so years of persecution, Muslims were all but eradicated from Spanish soil. Spain became a uniformly Christian country, and remains majoritively Catholic today. Muslims, largely do to recent immigration from Morocco and North Africa, are slightly more than 3% of the population, and less than 1% of Spaniards are Jewish.

In sum, this date marks the beginning of the end for the once-thriving Jewish and Islamic populations in Spain.

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