The Conquest of Granada

By the end of the year 1491, Christopher Columbus was in at attendance at the Spanish court in Malága, from where, since 1480, the Catholic Monarchs had been waging war on the last stronghold of the Muslims in Iberia, Granada. Ferdinand and Isabella were determined to expel the Moors from the peninsula once and for all. Since their marriage in 1469, they had been sending Isabella’s Castilian armies, aided by King Ferdinand’s navy, guns, and money into Al-Andalusia in an effort to topple the Muslim fortresses. The armies typically left in spring, but were home by winter.

Since 1417, the leadership in Granada had been weakening. The Muslim leaders suffered succession problems of their own. But in Spain, forces were unifying under Ferdinand and Isabella. Their combined armies had adopted the large Genoese guns that could shoot stone balls and demolish stone fortifications.

The Spanish finally won. On January 2, 1492, the Emir of Granada, Mohammad XII, known as King Boabdil, stood in front of his exquisite palace called Alhambra and bowed in surrender to King Ferdinand, Queen Isabella, and fourteen-year-old Crown Prince Juan. The monarchs stood proudly at the head of their combined armies.

Christopher Columbus was also standing there, watching from among the audience. He later wrote, “I saw Your Highnesses’ royal banners placed by force of arms on the towers of the Alhambra, … and I saw the Moorish king come out to the city gates and kiss Your Highnesses’ royal hands and those of My Lord the Prince.”(1)

The Catholic Monarchs immediately demanded that all infidels – Muslims and Jews – convert to Christianity. Some of them left the Iberian peninsula forever. Those who refused were enslaved, shipped off, and sold around the Mediterranean. Others were put to death. Ferdinand and Isabella had ended the 700-year-long Reconquista and begun a new Inquisition.


  1. Quote from Douglas Hunter’s book The Race to the New World: Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, and a Lost history of Discovery, Palgrave Macmillan, a division of St. Martin’s Press, New York, NY 1001 p. 42.

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