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From Muslim to Christian Granada

Inventing a City's Past in Early Modern Spain

A. Katie Harris

Publication Year: 2007

In 1492, Granada, the last independent Muslim city on the Iberian Peninsula, fell to the Catholic forces of Ferdinand and Isabella. A century later, in 1595, treasure hunters unearthed some curious lead tablets inscribed in Arabic. The tablets documented the evangelization of Granada in the first century A.D. by St. Cecilio, the city’s first bishop. Granadinos greeted these curious documents, known as the plomos, and the human remains accompanying them as proof that their city—best known as the last outpost of Spanish Islam—was in truth Iberia’s most ancient Christian settlement. Critics, however, pointed to the documents’ questionable doctrinal content and historical anachronisms. In 1682, the pope condemned the plomos as forgeries. From Muslim to Christian Granada explores how the people of Granada created a new civic identity around these famous forgeries. Through an analysis of the sermons, ceremonies, histories, maps, and devotions that developed around the plomos, it examines the symbolic and mythological aspects of a new historical terrain upon which Granadinos located themselves and their city. Discussing the ways in which one local community’s collective identity was constructed and maintained, this work complements ongoing scholarship concerning the development of communal identities in modern Europe. Through its focus on the intersections of local religion and local identity, it offers new perspectives on the impact and implementation of Counter-Reformation Catholicism.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Series: The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science


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p. v

List of Illustrations

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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

In the years it has taken to research and write this book, I have incurred many debts of gratitude. Thanks are due first and foremost to Richard L. Kagan, who directed the dissertation upon which this book is based, for his able supervision and unflagging encouragement. In Granada, I was aided by Antonio Luis Cort

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pp. xi-xxi

On March 19, 1588, laborers working on the demolition of a tower known as the Torre Turpiana uncovered a parchment and a collection of saintly remains. These remarkable finds received an enthusiastic response from the citizens of Granada, who believed that the discoveries documented the ancient Christian origins of their city, the emblematic last stronghold of Iberian Islam. Their excitement intensified in February 1595, when treasure hunters digging on the Sacromonte, a nearby hillside, unearthed lead books and sacred relics that further confirmed the city’s Christian roots.

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Prologue. Old Bones for a New City

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pp. 1-7

At seven o’clock on the morning of March 19, 1588, Francisco Cano, a construction worker in the southern Spanish city of Granada, took up his tools and set to work. His task for the day was to break up and remove a large section of a building that had been pulled down the previous afternoon. Though common opinion held the Old Tower to be very ancient, perhaps Phoenician in origin, the authorities had deemed it to be out of keeping with the new, modern cathedral under construction on the site of what had been medieval Granada’s main mosque.1

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1 Granada in the Sixteenth Century

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pp. 8-27

The city that enthusiastically greeted the discoveries in the Torre Turpiana and on the Sacromonte was one in the throes of upheaval and transition. The construction boom was but the most immediately visible element of a tumultuous, century-long process by which Granada, the ultimate outpost of Islam in western Europe, was slowly transformed into a Christian and Castilian city. The metamorphosis began in January 1492, when the once-powerful emirate and its capital city fell to the forces of Isabella and Ferdinand, rulers of Castile and Aragon.

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2 Controversy and Propaganda

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pp. 28-46

In 1588, the year of the strange discoveries in the Torre Turpiana, Granada was still a multicultural, multiethnic city. Although the majority of the city’s Morisco inhabitants had disappeared into exile, the streets and structures of the urban landscape still recalled their presence. The cathedral rising on the plain at the foot of the two hills made manifest the city’s new commitment to Christianity, but one had only to turn one’s eyes upward to the Alhambra or to the Albaicín to recall the absent Moriscos and the heritage of nearly eight centuries of a culturally vibrant and politically powerful Iberian Islam.

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3 Forging History: Granadino Historiography and the Sacromonte

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pp. 47-87

While the discoveries on the Sacromonte may have raised both eyebrows and doubts among scholars and critics outside Granada, the local intellectual community responded to the discoveries with enthusiasm. Even as the excavations continued on the hillside above Granada, patriotic Granadino scholars transformed the human remains and Arabic-inscribed tablets into historical sources that documented their city’s lost Christian past. With the plomos as their point of departure, local historians were able to portray the transformation of Muslim ...

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4 Civic Ritual and Civic Identity

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pp. 88-107

At dawn on January 2, 1492, one day after the surrender of Granada to King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile, a large and well-armed party of Castilians entered the Alhambra. At the top of the fortress’s most prominent tower, in full view of the defeated Muslim city and the Catholic armies on the plain, officials elevated the cross three times, while ecclesiastics intoned the hymns “Te deum laudamus” and “O cruz ave, spes unica.”

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5 The Plomos and the Sacromonte in Granadino Piety

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pp. 108-148

On April 3, 1624, the Wednesday of Holy Week, as part of a protracted tour through Andalusia, Philip IV entered the city of Granada to the sound of cheers and artillery accolades. Accompanied by his favorite, the Count-Duke of Olivares, and an extensive entourage of grandees, the monarch took up residence in the Alhambra. On Holy Thursday, in the fortress’s famous Comares Hall, Philip performed the ritual lavation of the feet of a dozen selected paupers.

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pp. 149-158

The plomos finally reached the Vatican in June 1643. There, a team of six interpreters that included the famous Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher (1602– 80) undertook a definitive translation, a task that was not completed until 1665.1 The city of Granada, the Abbey of Sacromonte, and, to a lesser degree, the Spanish Crown, lobbied persistently for a favorable judgment, but their efforts were in vain. The voices of criticism that had dogged the discoveries since 1588 grew increasingly shrill, and it became widely accepted— ...


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pp. 159-205


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pp. 207-247


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pp. 249-255

E-ISBN-13: 9780801891922
E-ISBN-10: 0801891922
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801885235
Print-ISBN-10: 080188523X

Page Count: 280
Illustrations: 13 halftones, 1 line drawing
Publication Year: 2007

Series Title: The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science
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OCLC Number: 310122403
MUSE Marc Record: Download for From Muslim to Christian Granada

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Subject Headings

  • Granada (Spain) -- Church history.
  • Granada (Spain) -- Church history -- Sources.
  • Group identity -- Spain -- Granada.
  • Granada (Spain) -- History.
  • Granada (Spain) -- History -- Sources.
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