The Context

Religious Discrimination and Intolerance in Spain in the 15th-17th Centuries


According to the old children’s rhyme: “In fourteen hundred and ninety two Columbus sailed the ocean blue”. But other momentous events also happened in that year. The 800 year-long re-conquest of the Iberian Peninsula finally came to an end with the surrender of Granada, the last Moorish stronghold of Al-Andalus. The terms of surrender allowed the city’s Muslim and Jewish inhabitants to retain their faith and continue their religious practices. But three months later the Joint Catholic Monarchs of Spain, Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, issued the Edict of Expulsion which required all Jews in their joint kingdoms to either convert to Christianity or leave. Some of these Jews sought refuge in Portugal. However, in 1497 the Castilian Jews residing in Portugal were expelled by King Manuel 1 of Portugal. In that year he married  Princess Isabella, eldest daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand, heiress to the Crown of Castille, and widow of the former heir apparent to the Portuguese throne.  The expulsion of the Jews was part of the negotiated wedding agreement. 


What was happening in the Iberian Peninsula at that time was not unique. Elsewhere in Europe in the Middle Ages, Jews and members of religious sects that were regarded as heretical by Rome were also being discriminated against, expelled, persecuted or executed.