Granada

That which is lacking in sober Toledo is evident everywhere in glowing
Granada. The fiery Andalusian sun gilds and colours the city, and the
whitened houses cast a deep blue shade in the narrow streets. No
forbidding portals bar the way to the flowing patios, those courtyards
that are to-day one of the chief charms of the Andalusian towns. The
climate is soft and languorous; the air laden with the scent of blossoms
and roses, and the people gayer in their garb and bearing than the
natives of Castile.

On twin outlying hills stands Granada, divided into two parts by the
deep ravine of the Darro River, whose waters flow into the Genil at the
base of an eminence crowned by the noble Alhambra Palace and the old
mosque.

Around stretches a territory of singular fertility, where fruits of many
kinds are plentiful, and the earth yields lavish crops of grain, with
scarcely any period of inactivity. Grapevines and olive-trees flourish
here, and the orange, lemon, and pomegranate thrive. In the distance
gleam the snow-capped peaks and blue ridges of the Sierra Nevada, a
savage range, with foothills here and there under cultivation, glens of
exceeding beauty, and rocky streamlets that swell to torrents when the
snows melt. The vegas (plains) are dotted with hamlets and farms;
vineyards clothe the lower slopes; the ferruginous soil is well watered
by innumerable runnels from the hills, and so made richly productive.

Christianised Granada remains Moorish in aspect to this day, and so it
will remain until the end, a mighty “living ruin.” We cannot escape in
modern Granada from signs of the Moslem influence; the architecture, the
decorations of the houses within, the utensils of daily use–everything
recalls the Moors. Before the coming of the North African hordes to
Spain, there was probably a city on the banks of the Darro and Genil,
called Illiberis, which was seized by the invaders. Rival tribes of
Moslems strove for Granada for centuries until Al Ahmar, a doughty
general and ruler, became the sovereign. It was he who began the
building of the splendid palace during his long sway. Al Ahmar was
succeeded by Mohammed, his son, in 1273, who, like his father, was
cultured, and an encourager of learning and the arts.

Another great monarch of Granada, who added to the Alhambra, was Yusuf
I. He was murdered in the palace by a fanatic, and following him came a
line of Mohammedan rulers, all more or less distinguished in arms and in
the art of governing.

Granada was the last stronghold of the Moorish sovereigns in Spain; and
hither, in 1491, came the Christian host, led by the zealous Queen
Isabel, who camped within a few miles of the walls. No succour came
during the long siege for the imprisoned Moors, who at last besought
their leaders to make a sortie on the foe. This course was, however,
disapproved by Boabdil, the leader, and a treaty was made with the
Christians, in which it was enjoined that the city should yield within
two months. But the starving populace preferred to surrender at once,
and the last of the sultans in Spain went forth to bend the knee to
Fernando, the Christian king.

The capitulation of Granada broke the last link of the Moorish chain of
dominion in southern Spain. A Christian governor was appointed, and
soon the “reconciled” Moors learned that their conquerors were faithless
in their promises of toleration. Libraries of Arabian literature were
destroyed, and force was used in imposing the rites of the Christian
Church on the subdued Mohammedans.

“There was crying in Granada when the sun was going down,
Some calling on the Trinity–some calling on Mahoun.”

To quell the Moorish malcontents, Cardinal Ximenes was sent to Granada,
with the royal permission to enforce baptism or to compel exile. The
Cardinal carried terror into the city. There was no more clemency for
the heretics and “heathen”; their temples were desecrated, and they were
coerced into acceptance of the Catholic religion. “The Knights of
Granada, gentlemen, though Moors,” as the Spanish poets had written of
them, were treated with callous cruelty. Some fled to the fortresses of
the Alpujarras; others remained in ignominy in the city of their birth,
exposed to harsh exactions.

It was the humane Archbishop Talavera of Granada who opposed, with all
his courage and energy, the importation of the Inquisition into Spain.
Let it be clearly remembered that this tyrannous institution was
resisted by all the enlightened Spaniards, and that the mass of the
people regarded its introduction with horror. Many of the chief
Inquisitors went in fear of their lives through the hatred which they
aroused in the people.

Ximenes was of a very different cast from Talavera. He was sufficiently
powerful to have contested the establishment of the tribunal, but he
was, on the contrary, responsible for many of its worst excesses of
persecution.

The Moors in Granada, after the reconquest by Fernando, were commanded
to wear the garb of Christians, to speak the Castilian language, and to
abandon their ritual of cleanliness. Philip II. even destroyed the baths
of the Alhambra, to prevent the ablutions of the “infidels.” The
beautiful Morisco painting and decorative work were plastered over with
whitewash. Christian vandalism ran riot in the fair city of the
art-loving sultans.

The Moors who sought refuge in the glens of the mountains soon began to
till the land, and to transform the wilderness into a garden. After a
spell of peace, and a recovery of some measure of wealth, the community
of refugees rebelled. Terrible is the tale of reprisal. Christians were
driven to bay and slaughtered ruthlessly. The Moors gained sway over the
district until their leader was slain by one of his own race. Then came
the final routing by the Christian soldiery by means of the sword and
firebrand, and Moorish might was for ever crushed in Andalusia.

For what counted all this bloodshed? The answer is written in the
history of Spain after the expulsion of the intelligent, industrious
Moriscoes. The lesson is plain. The fall of Granada was the beginning of
the decline of Spain, and not, as the Spaniards thought, the dawn of a
golden epoch. With the Moors went their culture, the arts and industry;
and only traditions in craftsmanship remained among the Spanish
artisans. The half million inhabitants at the time of the surrender of
Granada very quickly dwindled under the Catholic kings. To-day there is
scarcely a sign of industrial and commercial energy in this city of the
past. The population seem to subsist principally upon providing for the
continual influx of visitors, while there are hundreds of beggars in the
place.