The Alpujarras Rebellion Begins

The spark that would become the Rebellion of the Alpujarras hit the powder keg of the Kingdom of Granada, Crown of Castile on 18 December 1499. The Muslims of the Kingdom of Granada, which had been the Emirate of Granada until it was ‘reconquered’ by the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, revolted after nearly a decade of the forced mass conversions of the population to Christianity.

On 25 November 1491, Boabdil, the sultan of Granada, and Ferdinand and Isabella had ratified the Treaty of Granada at the end of the Granada War. Spain was now officially in control of Granada, but the “treaty guaranteed a set of rights to the Moors, including religious tolerance and fair treatment in return for their surrender and capitulation.” Part of this fair treatment was that none of the Moors – either Muslim or Jewish — would be forced to convert to Catholicism against their will.

At first it was all going fairly well. Queen Isabella may have felt that it was her Christian duty to ignore the treaty and covert the infidel at sword-point, but King Ferdinand didn’t want to stir up resistance after having fought such a drawn-out, vicious war to reclaim former Spanish territory.  He didn’t want to risk pissing off more than 250,000 devout, well-armed Muslims. Isabella and Ferdinand made do with simply persecuting, forcibly converting, or murdering and expelling 10,000 Jews via the Alhambra Decree in 1492.  The Muslims weren’t thrilled to see their Jewish neighbors done this way, but they were leery of starting another war with the might of Catholic Spain, so they let is slide.

The Muslims of Granada would thus learn that atrocities you passively let be committed against ‘them’ will come around to ‘you’ sooner or later.

Moors were safe for a few years, at least, because friar Hernando de Talavera, “known for his moderation and piety,” was named Archbishop of Granada. He didn’t believe that torturing people until they ‘converted’ was what God actually wanted Christians to do. Jesus, he thought, had been against that sort of thing. As a result of the tolerance and kindness under de Talavera, Muslims were happy to remain productive citizens of Granada. A fair number even voluntarily converted to Christianity out of sincere respect for de Talavera’s message.

Alas, fundamentalist authoritarian twatwaffles abound in any religion, and soon enough a Catholic fundamentalist authoritarian twatwaffle came to Granada to stir up trouble.

In the summer of 1499, 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.”

Cisneros didn’t care if what he was doing was illegal and unethical. He was making people believe the right thing! God HAD to be on his side!

It’s odd how fundamentalist twatwaffles are always 100% sure that God, an omnipotent and omniscient being, always has the exact same take on things as they do. They literally cannot conceive that there might any opinion, an truth, any reality, other than theirs. The hubris of that kind of thinking appalls me even as it repulses me.

Cisneros was soon forcibly converting thousands of Muslims, much to the growing anger of the Muslim community. One of his prime targets for conversion were elches, former Christians who had converted to Islam of their own free will. How very dare they! Cisneros would imprison the elches, who were often the wives of Muslim men, until they ‘chose’ to return to Christianity. As you can imagine, Muslim men didn’t like having their wives dragged away and tortured into recanting Islam.

After a few months of this mess, Albayzín, the Muslim quarter of Granada, was seething with rage. The rage erupted into violence on 18 December 1499 when Velasco de Barrionuevo, a constable working for Cisneros, and an assistant were dragging yet another elche from her home in Albayzín to be ‘questioned’ about her conversion in prision. As they were haling her bodily out of the Muslim quarter, the woman desperately shouted out that she was being taken with intent to be forcibly returned to Catholicism. An angry mob soon formed, determined to free the captive. In the resulting melee, de Barrionuevo was killed, and his assistant only survived because a local Muslim woman came to his aid and gave him shelter in her home.

A lynch mob also marched on Cisneros’ house, but armed gaurds were sadly able to keep him safe. Meanwhile, Archbishop de Talavera and the Captain-General Marquis de Tendilla worked with Muslim leaders to restore peace. After many “gestures of good-will” to the Muslim community by de Talavera and de Tendilla, “the uprising ended as the Muslims handed in their weapons and handed over the constable’s killers, who were promptly executed.” 

Cisneros, who had caused all the problems in the first place, had to go to Seville and answer to a livid King Ferdinand. However, once he was there, Cisneros ‘tweaked’ the facts of the rebellion until it was all the fault of the Muslims. He told them that the only way to make sure there was peace was to demand that the whole city become Christian. Listening to Cisneros’s wretched advice, Ferdinand and Isabella made amnesty for the revolt conditional upon the rebels’ conversion to Christianity.

This worked about as well as you would expect. Muslims who refused to convert fled to their kin and friends in the Alpujarra mountains for safety. The Muslims in Alpujarra was unhappy in the extreme to hear about the fact Albayzín was now ‘officially’ full of nothing but Christians. The rural Muslims let it be known that they were NOT going to convert, and by February of 1500 “eighty thousand Christian troops were mobilized” to put down the Islamic “rebellion” against Spanish authority.

The thing is, this wasn’t an organized rebellion by Muslim insurrectionists. It was just a bunch of Muslims not wanting to be forcibly converted to a religion they didn’t believe. Because there was no organization to the rebellion or leader behind it, “the Christian forces to proceed by defeating the rebels in one area separately, then moving on to the next.”

Although most defeated rebels were baptized and declared Christian whether they liked it or not, thousands were slaughtered ‘in God’s name’ by zealous Spanish troops. In Andarax, “Catholic forces under Louis de Beaumont took 3,000 Muslims prisoner and then slaughtered them … women and children who took refuge in a local mosque were blown up with gunpowder. During the capture of Velefique, all the men were killed and the women enslaved. At Nijar and Güéjar Sierra, the whole population was enslaved except children who were kidnapped in order to be brought up as Christians.”

The fight wasn’t all one sided, however. On 16 March 1501 Spanish troops commanded by Captain Alonso de Aguilar attacked the rebel forces in Sierra Bermeja, only to discovered the rebel forces were much more forceful than had hitherto be expected. The Spainsh army was nearly wiped out, and de Aguilar himself was killed in battle. Afterwards, King Ferdinand issued an edict meant to end the rebellion, promising freedom for any Muslim who could who could pay ten gold doblas, but anyone who couldn’t pay to leave Grenada had to stay and be baptized. The king kept his word, and any Moors who couldn’t afford to emigrate to North Africa suffered baptism and returned to their homes nominally Christian.

morisco family

Understandably, many of the baptized moors, called nuevos cristianos (“new Christians”) or conversos or moriscos, had remained Muslim in their hearts. Many subsequent Catholic monarchs of Spain would send members of Ferdinand and Isabella’s pet project, the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, AKA the Spanish Inquisition, to decided how many of these conversos were faking their Catholicism. With the application of sufficient torture by inquisitors, many crypto-Jews and hidden-Muslims confessed to their ‘crimes’ and either stopped any hint of their former religions or were killed their stubborn heresy. The worst deaths – being burned alive at the stake – was saved for crypto-Jews rather than moriscos, because anti-Semitism was much more deeply ingrained in Iberian culture than Islamophobia.

Although later scholars insist that anti-Catholic hysteria on the 19th and 20th century would exaggerate the breadth and depth of the Inquisition’s atrocities, I doubt that any of the people burned alive in an auto-da-fé  would have considered the Inquisitions nasty reputation unearned.  They might not have been as bad as advertised, but BOY HOWDY they were bad enough.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *