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Reviewed by:
  • Creating Christian Granada: Society & Religious Culture in an Old-World Frontier City, 1492–1600
  • James B. Tueller
Creating Christian Granada: Society & Religious Culture in an Old-World Frontier City, 1492–1600. By David Coleman. (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. 2003. Pp. xii, 252. $39.95 clothbound.)

"When did Granada become a Christian city?" With this question, David Coleman begins his book, insisting that the superficial response, "1492," is only the beginning. Coleman's answers illuminate complex processes of the early modern world. He clarifies the Castilian incorporation of Granada, the influx of immigrants, the transformations of the indigenous inhabitants, and the religious reforms developing in the frontier city. Although a unique example, Granada's [End Page 541] history framed Spanish American experience, Tridentine reforms, hoaxes, multiethnic societies, and, according to Coleman, a better way to understand the "policy that underlay early modern Catholic reform."

People and events of post-conquest Granada vividly emerge. Domingo Pérez de Herrasti, a Castilian soldier, benefited so successfully from his public positions that he was often accused of corruption. Or Yaya el Fistelí, a Muslim from Málaga, who lived in Granada, and when baptized in 1498, became Fernando Morales with positions on both city councils. Francisco Núñez Muley lobbied both Charles V and Philip II but remained frustrated in defending his morisco traditions. Pedro Sánchez and Juana González, Christian immigrants, came for frontier opportunities but ended up beggars.

Coleman balances archival materials with secondary histories. He examines cathedral sources, chancellery cases, municipal notes, and notarized documents. He blends the histories of Granada and analyzes religion in the sixteenth century. Council of Trent details are retold through the experience of Pedro Guerrero, Archbishop of Granada from 1546 to 1576 and leader of the Spanish delegation during the last period. At home in Granada, Guerrero overruled clerics who wanted to challenge his authority. Coleman points to the force with which Guerrero signed "PETRUS granatens" and not just the normal "P. granatens." Coleman sympathizes with the Archbishop of Granada, but the portrayal conforms more to an Italian observation that Guerrero was "harder and more obstinate than a rock." Coleman notes the irony of the surname: guerrero means warrior in English. Even Pedro, Guerrero's given name, is apt. The fighting, rock-like Archbishop of Granada had to work in a world of compromises. No one leads by brute force.

The first chapters of Creating Christian Granada identify the Christian immigrant community and Granada's indigenous inhabitants, the mudéjares and moriscos. Chapter Three addresses the paradoxes that developed in a divided and yet shared city. Dividing connotes loss and tension; yet sharing is beneficial. For example, city ordinances prohibited morisco men from going to river areas where immigrant women washed their clothes. The first archbishop of Granada banned good Christian women from wearing the morisco almalafa, the morisca overgarment. The fact that proscriptions existed attests to the sharing. The daily interaction was, for the most part, peaceful. The mixing fostered beliefs and practices that Coleman argues would become significant to Catholic reform.

The concluding half of the book clinches the argument that lay initiative created an influential Catholic culture in Granada. Juan de Dios created "common cause" in Granada by opening his hospital to all, participating equally in collecting alms and maintaining a vivid public presence in the religious life of their city. Juan de Avila influenced many leaders in the city he called "my Granada" by stressing the need to obtain personal internalization over external observation of rules. As a conclusion, Chapter Eight describes the changes due to the Morisco rebellion and their expulsion from Granada. Even the forged lead tablets of Sacromonte are evidence for the invention of local Christian culture. [End Page 542]

Coleman's book is immensely rich. I often placed my finger back in the endnotes simply to read the detailed research. Footnotes below the narrative would capture the behind-the-scenes information immediately. An endnote on page 213 provides us with the thirty-one surnames from six bundles in the Royal Chancellery Archive along with six other scholars who have written about families on Granada's city council. Information like this reveals the author...


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pp. 541-543
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