A Brief Guide to Historical Granada


Granada is the capital city of the province of Granada in Andalusia, Spain and is a city rich with deep history dating back hundreds of years. Granada is only an hour’s drive to the Mediterranean coast despite sitting 738 meters above sea level. The city is also close to the Sierra Nevada Ski Station, it is here that the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships were held in 1996. It is safe to say Granada is perfectly placed for a variety of activities.

Although not the largest urban area in Spain — Granada is ranked 13th with its 470,000 inhabitants — it is steeped in rich history as you are about to discover. Granada as it is today has been inhabited since approximately 5500 BC and experienced both Visigothic and Roman influences. You can still find ancient ruins in the region known as Bastetania if you visit there today.

Large parts of the Iberian Peninsula were brought under Moorish control in AD 711 as part of the Umayyad conquest of Hispania and Al-Andalus was established. There was then a civil war in the 11th century that saw Berber Zawi ben Ziri establish an independent kingdom for himself, which he named Taifa of Granada; this has Illiberis as its capital.

It was at this time the the Jewish people were established in a nearby area to Illberis called Garnata or Garnata al-Yahud, which translate to Granada and Granada of the Jews. Also during the 11th century, the ruler of Illberis decided to move his residence to Granada as it was situated higher and therefore easier to defend from attackers. By the close of the 11th century, Granada had spread across the Darro river and reached the hill of the future site of the world famous Alhambra.

Granada had been under Muslim rulers for the majority of its existence, but on January 2 1492, Emir Muhammed XII surrendered complete control of the Emirate of Granada to Fernando V and Isabella I, who were known as the Catholic Monarchs. This happned after the last battle of the Granada War. Part of the terms of the surrender allowed the city’s Muslim inhabitants to continue the practice of their faith and customs, but seven years later the city’s Cardinal became frustrated at the efforts to convert non-Christians to Christianity and began a program that forced Christian baptisms. This in turn provoked an armed Muslim revolt.

By the end of the 16th century, the mosques in Granada had been converted to Christian churches or demolished. Those demolished or converted were replaced with impressive new structures such as the Royal Court of Appeals. As the majority of Granada’s Jewish population had now been expelled, the Jewish quarter was levelled and new Catholic and Castilian buildings erected in their place.

The fall of Granada has significant important in events of the Spanish late 15th century. Not only did it complete the Christian reconquest of the near 800-year Islamic rule, it allowed Spain to place emphasis on exploration and colonization of the world because it did not have to focus on any internal territorial conflict. Christopher Columbus discovered the New World during the same year of the fall of Granada and the resourced and riches found in the Americas help enrich the country of Spain and its monarchy. Spain went on to colonize the Americas and, for a time, boasted the largest empire in the world.