1492: the annus mirabilis, a critical period of history when great socio-political and religious changes converge - the Moors defeated by the Christians, the long deadly years of the Inquisition birthed in Spain with the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, and Christopher Columbus’s discoveries in the New World charged with a conflict of ownership. An extensive body of Arabic science and literature is claimed by the scions of the Catholic Church. Soon “mosques have become churches, in which only bells and crosses are found.”
A pivotal year in American, Spanish, Jewish and Arab history, 1492’s defeat of the Moors is of huge significance, the confluence of a five hundred-year push to conquer the infidels, the demise of eight hundred-years of Islamic Spain, the establishment of the modern Spanish state, the Spanish Inquisition, the discovery of the New World and the development of a culture that is the forerunner of the modern nation-state.
Reston links the significant players and events in this great cultural apocalypse, a legacy that reverberates today as we grapple with the age-old issues of religious doctrine and political ambition. Peopled with notorious faces from history - the ruling monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella; Christopher Columbus; Tomas de Torquemada, the Great Inquisitor; Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia (Pope Alexander VI); and the fanatic Savonarola - medieval Europe heaves a sigh and gives birth to immense upheaval.
In a stunning display of power and religious intolerance, the Spanish Inquisition is as heinous as Hitler’s purge of European Jews in more recent times. Ferdinand and Isabella’s Dogs of God (the Dominicans) root out the Moors, the Jews and other unsavory (un-Christian) citizens. “Every holocaust needs a cold-hearted organization man,” and as Inquisitor-General, Tomas de Torquemada fulfills his destiny, organizing charts, clerical appointments and regional commissions, standardizing the process for all inquisitorial tribunals.
The auto-da-fe, a horrifying symbol of the power of the Inquisition, exposes the extent of the Church’s reach, with few pockets of active resistance. Much of Ferdinand and Isabella’s success is enabled by “the illegally elected, degenerate pope, Alexander VI.” The Borgia pope holds the power of the kingdom in his hands, the future of the Americas and the Western hemisphere. Alexander issues a papal bull granting Spain sovereignty over the West and the fruits of the New World adventure. It falls finally to the fanatical Dominican friar, Giolamo Savaronola, to bring the Borgia pope to his knees.
As power and politics converge, a New World emerges, the old one trapped in the jaws of history. Given today’s climate of politics and religion at odds, this fascinating document, with black-and-white illustrations, maps, index and bibliography, brings the fifteenth century vividly to life, driven by some of the most powerful voices to affect the direction of Western civilization.