The Question of Conversion
Nevertheless, Fernando was not alone in desiring a fuller separation of the Mudejars from the Christian population. There certainly were elements in Christian society who viewed the Muslims with resentment and fanatical hatred. They were willing to go much further than the king to solve the Mudejar problem. They advocated either the expulsion or the baptism of the Mudejars. Both methods would have the same result: a wholly Christian society. Economic and political considerations combined with the weight of tradition advised against the former course of action. The history of the Conversos strongly argued against the latter. Since 1391, when widespread anti-Jewish pogroms saw approximately one-third of Spain's Jews forcibly baptized, Spanish society had been plagued with the problem of Conversos. The Conversos either refused to assimilate and continued practicing Judaism, or, when they sincerely sought assimilation, Old Christian society rejected them on the grounds of their Jewish origins. From the 1440s until the reign of the Monarchs the issue of the Conversos was hotly debated, particularly in Castile, where acute social and religious discontent gave rise to numerous anti-Converso riots. It was the gravest of problems, to which the Monarchs responded with the establishment of the Spanish Inquisition, hoping to separate true Christians, both Old and New, from the crypto-Jews. When this proved impossible, to a large extent because of the persistent contact between the Converso and Jewish communities, the Jews were expelled from the peninsula. This was not, however, part of a larger plan to impose religious uniformity on Castile and Aragon; rather, it was a measure meant to solve a widespread socioreligious problem, of which the Mudejars were not a part. Even though these initiatives against the Conversos and Jews might have suggested to some that the conversion or expulsion of the Mudejars was the next step, Fernando himself did not entertain such designs. The Converso problem had shaken Castilian urban society to its very foundations and had raised serious questions about the premises on which Christian identity was based. It is highly unlikely that Fernando had the intention of creating a new class of Moriscos, thereby reenacting the Converso-Jew-Old Christian scenario. Whatever distaste Fernando had for Islam, his eyes were open wide enough to see that the Mudejar clung to his faith as stubbornly as the Jew.
Fortunately, the existence of a few documents in which Fernando speaks clearly on the question of Mudejar conversion enables us to move to more solid ground. One incident, in 1498, involved a young Muslim of Zaragoza (moratiço ) who had expressed to the archbishop his desire to convert to Christianity. Rather than urging the immediate
baptism of the Muslim, Fernando hesitated, requesting further information. He inquired whether the Muslim was of the age of discretion, that is, whether he was old enough to make a reasoned and sound decision in so important a matter as the abandonment of Islam for Christianity. He also wanted to know whether the Muslim had the consent of his parents or guardians to convert. Fernando did not wish to see an adolescent accept baptism on a whim, only to revert to Islam years later upon the realization that he had foolishly erred. The king reasoned that without parental consent the young proselyte would constantly be under familial pressure to abandon Christianity. Furthermore, Fernando was concerned that if the baptism were administered too hastily to an adolescent against the wishes of his family, the Mudejar community would perceive it as a form of forced conversion and, consequently, would be all the more opposed to Christianity. As the king summed up: "because if the said moratiço were baptized not having years of discretion against the will of the abovesaid [parents] it would be an exemplary case for all the others [Mudejars]. We would not allow such a thing to be done without considering it well." It is probable that Fernando had the Conversos in mind when he pondered this decision. It was notorious—certainly by 1498, when the Inquisition had already brought to light so much information on Converso practices—that adult Conversos often resumed a wholehearted observance of Judaism after having been raised as Catholics, and that the Conversos' crypto-Judaism was rooted in a closely knit family and communal life.
Fernando's other enunciations on the proselytizing of Mudejars stem from his efforts to shield them from the attacks of overly zealous Christians. In one case, a preacher of the crusade was inciting the Christians of Zaragoza against the local Muslims with his inflammatory sermons. Fernando admonished him to preach without mentioning the Mudejars, pointing out that by defaming the Mudejars and provoking the Christians against them he would not make much progress toward their conversion. The king added significantly:
if you know some things that ought to be done with respect to the said Moors concerning their satisfactory and tranquil coming to the zeal of the holy Catholic faith, those things you should tell secretly to our governor so that he may provide in the matter, or you should intimate them to us by your letters.
That Fernando was interested in the conversion of the Mudejars there is little doubt; the crucial point is that he demanded peaceful methods in the attainment of that end. This is corroborated by the stance taken by Fernando in the years 1500–1503, when, after the rebellion and con-
version of Muslims in Granada, rumors were spread in Valencia, Aragon, and Catalonia to the effect that the king planned to convert all Mudejars, by force if necessary. Fernando firmly repudiated such plans and proclaimed that: "our holy Catholic faith in the conversion of the infidels admits neither violence nor force but [only] full freedom and devotion." The survival of the Crown of Aragon's Muslim communities intact throughout Fernando's reign is testimony to the king's sincere opposition to forced conversion.
As has been indicated, Fernando was pleased to accept the voluntary conversion of Mudejars. When the Marquesa de Moya, one of the queen's ladies-in-waiting, sponsored her Muslim slave Casamito, who had expressed his intention of converting and marrying a Christian woman, by apprenticing him to a Christian dyer of Valencia, the king approved of the idea. When, after four years of apprenticeship, Casamito had a change of heart and ran off with Muslim companions, Fernando ordered Casamito seized and turned over to the Marquesa.
Whereas the king gingerly handled the case of the young Muslim of Zaragoza in order to avoid upsetting his parents and community, he had no doubt that Muslim children bereft of family and legal guardians were valid objects of proselytizing. After learning that Valencian Mudejars had bought a number of captive Malagan children ranging from three to ten years of age, Fernando commanded the bailiff general to take the children from their new masters, "so that they do not remain in their infidelity and may be turned to the Christian faith." Similarly, it was decided that black slaves from Guinea, who were perceived as having no religious status, should not be sold to Jews and Muslims, so that they, too, might be instructed in the Catholic faith. The same approach is evident in the royal decree of 12 February 1502, ordering the expulsion from Castile of all male Muslims older than fourteen and of all females older than twelve. Children, without the contrary influences of their families, could be raised as true Christians.
Once a Muslim accepted baptism, the king took care to see to it that the convert was well treated and that he or she did not feel in any way burdened by the new faith. In a litigation between Caterina, the daughter of a convert, and the Gaçenis, a Mudejar family of Tortosa, over the inheritance left to Caterina by her Muslim grandmother, the local bailiff had ruled in favor of Caterina. When the Gaçenis tried to appeal the decision, Fernando rejected their appeal on the grounds of its tardiness, but added that Caterina ought to remain in possession of the inheritance "lest she feel injury from the reception of baptism."
Fernando was truly enthusiastic for the voluntary conversion of all his Mudejar subjects. The willing acceptance of baptism by the entire aljama of Teruel (Aragon) in 1502 filled the king with joy and high hopes.
After relating how all the Castilian Mudejars "converted to our holy Catholic faith out of free will," Fernando continued:
it seems to us that they have done the same in the city of Teruel, that marvelously, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, there all the Moors of that aljama have converted ... may it please God that all the others that remain in our kingdoms do the same ... from this we would receive much consolation.
Although Fernando did not employ coercion with the Crown's other Muslim communities in the pursuit of wish fulfillment, the alleged freedom with which the Mudejars of Castile and Teruel converted demands scrutiny. The conditions for emigration offered to Castilian Muslims by the Monarchs—the abandonment of their children and Egypt as practically their only destination—makes one wonder whether they had any other choice but to accept baptism. The precise circumstances which led to the conversion of Teruel's aljama are unknown, but, given Teruel's proximity to Castile and the great anxiety that the rebellions and conversions in Granada and Castile must have caused them, it may be surmised that Teruel's Muslims accepted baptism under considerable psychological duress. Still, in an age when Muslims and Jews who opted for the baptismal chrism instead of the blade of a sword were judged by theologians to have acted out of free will, Fernando's definition of freedom was perhaps more reasonable than many.
It is worthwhile to consider briefly the conversion of the Muslims of Granada and Castile, in order to raise a few points regarding the contrasting views of Fernando and Isabel on the methods of conversion. Although Fernando and Isabel ruled jointly, the final responsibility for policy in Castile and Granada fell on Isabel's shoulders. The same can be asserted for Fernando with respect to Aragon. While the Monarchs differed on the use of coercion in conversion, they seem to have agreed on the measures to be implemented in treating the problem of neoconverts, either Jewish or Muslim.
The surrender treaties reached between the Monarchs and the conquered Granadans were quite similar to the Mudejar treaties of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Even the efforts of Hernando de Talavera, the first archbishop of Granada, to proselytize the Muslims of Granada had their precedents in the activities of the Mendicant Orders in Valencia in the wake of that kingdom's conquest. That until 1499 the Monarchs had no intention of breaking the treaties is indicated by their permission to Portugal's expelled Mudejars to settle in Granada and Castile in 1497. However, by autumn 1499, it seems that the Monarchs, particularly Isabel, had grown impatient with Talavera's
policy of gradual conversion. Desirous of some results, a pretext was found for sending Cardinal Cisneros to Granada, namely, that Cisneros, acting with the powers of an Inquisitor, was to return to the fold of the Church the elches , Christians who had converted to Islam. This in itself was a breach of the capitulations, but Cisneros went further, not only pressuring the elches to convert but also proceeding against their children. Consequently, the Muslims of the Albaicín quarter of Granada exploded into rebellion.
Fernando expressed disapproval of Cisneros's methods, noting that one might have expected as much from a man "who never saw Moors, or knew them." Isabel's silence suggests that she had few objections, and her approval seems to have overruled her husband's misgivings. In any case, the methods of Isabel and Cisneros were employed, so that the Muslims of Granada had to submit to baptism in order to be pardoned for their rebellion. While revolts were breaking out in the Alpujarras, once the Muslims there had heard of the treatment of their brethren in Granada, the Monarchs still did not envision the conversion of the entire kingdom. Letters were sent assuring the Mudejars of Ronda and Málaga that they would not be forced to become Christians. Yet, all the while, Cisneros was writing in terms of baptizing all Muslims. It is clear that the Monarchs' great error, if Isabel even considered it as such, was to send Cisneros to Granada, for he set in motion a train of events that was extremely difficult to stop. As successive rebellions were quelled in the Alpujarras and elsewhere in the kingdom (1500-1501), and baptism continued to be offered as a condition of pardon, along with the incentive of a partial remission of taxes, it became increasingly clear to the Monarchs that the bulk of the Muslim population was becoming Christian.
In effect, a Morisco problem was in the making. López and Acién suggest that the Monarchs' final decision to "Christianize" the entire kingdom was financially motivated and came after the papal concession to the Monarchs of two-thirds of the tithes to be paid to the Church by all New Christians (bull of 22 March 1500). Although this was probably influential in the timing of the Monarchs' decision, the most telling factor was the fear of Morisco-Muslim contact and all the danger that implied for the Catholic faith. The Monarchs expressed this concern in their instructions for Cisneros and the governor, the Count of Tendilla, just after the rebellion in the Albaicín:
it seems to us that those who convert should not be around the Moors for the necessity that they have of being instructed in the things of our faith ... they [Cisneros and Tendilla] should write to us if it appears that it ought to be provided that they [the converts] not live among the Moors.
Prevention of the contamination of the recent converts by Islam prompted the royal proclamation of 20 July 1501, forbidding all Muslims to enter the, by now, Christian kingdom of Granada, "under pain of death and of loss of all their property." Fernando and Isabel made clear their desire "that the said conversion remain for always in the said newly converted, so that they might be good Christians." Only the threat of extreme penalties could ensure that the neophytes would "not have any cause to err in the things of our holy faith by communicating with the said Moors, who could come from other parts to this said kingdom."
By September 1501 the Monarchs had decided that the Mudejars of Castile must also accept baptism or abandon the peninsula. They ordered the corregidor of Córdoba not to pressure the Mudejars to convert, but to inform them that if they remained Muslims, they would have to leave the kingdom. Finally, on 12 February 1502 the order was issued that all Muslims must depart from Castile. In the order an explicit connection is made between the earlier Converso-Jew dilemma and the potential for a similar Morisco-Muslim problem:
Considering ... that since the major cause of the subversion of many Christians that has been seen in these our kingdoms was their participation and communication with the Jews, that since there is much danger in the communication of the said Moors of our kingdom with the newly converted and they [the Moors] will be a cause that the said newly converted may be drawn and induced to leave our faith and to return to their original errors ... as already by experience has been seen in some in this kingdom and outside of it, if the principal cause is removed, that is, to expel the said Moors from these our kingdoms and lordships, and because it is better to prevent with the remedy than to wait to punish the errors after they are made and committed ... it is right that they be expelled.
In the final analysis, the protection of the faith of the neoconverts was the determining factor in the Monarchs' steps to "Christianize" Granada completely and to present the Castilian Mudejars with the choice of baptism or expulsion. Once a large number of Muslims in Granada had been converted, the threat to the health of the entire Christian body was too great if the New Christians were allowed any contact with the contagion of Islam. That much the Monarchs had learned from the Jews and the Conversos.
That the Mudejars of Valencia did not meet the same fate as their coreligionists in Castile was due to a number of factors, the most obvious of which was the absence of a large group of Muslim converts to Christianity in Fernando's dominions. The absence of a Morisco problem in Valencia had much to do with the king's opposition to forced
conversion and his stand against those who were proposing baptism of the Mudejars from 1500 to 1503. Fernando's forthright position in his own realms contrasts markedly with his wavering disapproval in Isabel's Castile. Moreover, in Valencia the conversion of the Mudejars could have been carried out only in the face of fierce opposition from the nobility. Throughout the years 1500–1503 the military estate warned Fernando of the dire consequences a forced conversion would have: the ruination of the economy and a bloody Mudejar insurrection. At the Cortes of Zaragoza (1502) and at the Corts of Barcelona (1503) and Monzón (1510) Fernando had to promise that he would not convert the Mudejars of the Crown of Aragon. The Mudejars of Castile lacked any substantial support. Numbering only 17,000 to 20,000 persons and located largely in urban morerías , Castile's Muslims had no great lords willing to plead their case before the queen. On the contrary, the Castilian municipal governments eagerly enforced the Monarchs' orders (1480) for the placement of Mudejars in separate morerías , and they had to be instructed to prevent Christian violence against the Mudejars during the rebellions of the Alpujarras.
There is almost no comparison between the situations in Valencia and Granada. In Valencia Muslims and Christians had been coexisting for well over two centuries, and, although there were problems, society remained cohesive. Valencia's Christians and Muslims had long ago experienced the initial shock of having to inhabit the same kingdom. As for Granada, one is hard pressed to speak of a single society; rather, it was more a case of two societies that had glowered at each other across the Granadan frontier being forced together by virtue of Granada's conquest. The Castilians, moved by crusading zeal and characterized by a religious extremism fed by the anti-Jewish and anti-Converso hysteria of the previous century, had little regard for the privileges granted to the subject Muslims in the surrender treaties. When they were thrust into close quarters with the Muslims, the latter were frequently dispossessed of their lands and otherwise abused. The Muslims' resentment of the conquerors was thus enhanced. Perhaps it was only the small number of settlers (40,000 by 1498, in comparison with 250,000 to 300,000 Muslims) that forestalled the explosive Muslim rebellion that Cisneros and the Monarchs managed to provoke.
Those historians who see in the marriage of Fernando and Isabel the creation of a unified Spain, or who see the Monarchs as having aimed at directing the destiny of one Spanish state, may well assert that the New Christians of Castile and Granada still could have been influenced by the Muslims of the Crown of Aragon and, therefore, may ask why the Monarchs did not convert the latter in order to prevent this eventuality. The answer lies in the fact that Fernando alone ruled in Aragon, and
that Aragon and Castile still had sufficiently distinct societies and governments to allow for the cordoning off of Aragon from Castile, so that Fernando's Mudejars could not enter Isabel's realms. The same interpretive framework can be employed to explain the extension of the Spanish Inquisition from Castile into Aragon. Fernando established the Inquisition in his realms because, like Castile, they, too, were plagued by the heresy of judaizing Conversos; he did not do so because he and Isabel were utilizing the Inquisition as a tool to control their Spanish state. It was reason of faith, not reason of state, that crossed state boundaries and brought the Inquisition to Aragon.
Fernando's Mudejar policy was a subtle one, comprising a number of variables that he dexterously balanced, one against the other. Mudejarism was fostered in order to increase the population of and the taxes paid by royal aljamas, while the protection afforded Mudejars by the Crown was of an ambivalent sort, compensating Muslims for the injuries perpetrated on them without providing an effective deterrent through punishment of the offenders.
Mudejar economic activity was encouraged, while their social interaction with Christians was discouraged. The Mudejars' practice of Islam was sanctioned and their forced conversion forbidden, but, at the same time, Islam was abhorred, baptism was welcomed, and the concept of free will in conversion at times bordered on the dubious. Fernando, in whom were combined the craftiness of the Machiavellian politician and the religious fervor of the crusader, could carry on in this manner because he considered all of the variables. Others were more single-minded, and, with respect to the religious minorities, this was the case of the Inquisitors.
The Spanish Inquisition, established to extirpate heresy from the Christian body, found it difficult to restrict itself to that task alone. The Inquisitors quickly concerned themselves with those forces threatening Christian society not only from within but also from without. Because the heresy the Inquisitors were combating was a judaizing one, the Jews themselves, the source of heresy, became the Inquisition's target. Not surprisingly, the Inquisition played a fundamental role in the expulsion of the Jews. Although before 1500 there was practically no population of converts from Islam, and therefore no threat of an "Islamizing" heresy infecting the Christian body, the Inquisitors nevertheless set their sights on the Mudejars. In the process of putting the Christian house in order the Inquisitors decided that the only way to do so effectively was to remove all nefarious influences, which meant ridding Spain of both Jews and Muslims.
Early in its history in Valencia the Inquisition displayed a tendency to
exceed the bounds of its proper jurisdiction. In 1482 Juan Cristóbal de Gualbes, the Inquisitor General of Aragon, clashed with the lieutenant bailiff general of the kingdom, Berenguer Mercader. The conflict was centered on a Jewess of Murviedro, Dolçina, whom Mercader had freed from the Inquisition's jail and refused to relinquish to the Inquisitors. Mercader maintained that although the Inquisition could interrogate Jews, it could not punish them, either by imprisoning them or, as it had done in the past, by torturing them. To do so was to encroach upon royal prerogatives, which it was the duty of the bailiff general to protect. Gualbes's argument is revealing, for it indicates the Inquisition's intention to proceed against Jews and Muslims as well as heretics. The Inquisitor cited a provision of King Martin—obviously in reference to the papal Inquisition—"in which he expressly commanded ... all his officials that they not hinder the Inquisitors in their inquisition to be made against the Jews and Moors."
Seen in this light, the Inquisition's attacks against the sale to Christians of meat slaughtered by Jews or Muslims (1488) and against the Muslims' call to prayer (1506) appear more sinister. It seems that the Inquisitors had some sort of plan in mind, first to restrict contact between Muslims and Christians, especially in matters with religious connotations, and then to suppress all manifestations of Islam. On Mallorca in 1491 the Inquisitors, among a number of other excesses, proceeded against approximately twenty unbaptized Muslim slaves for chanting the salat[*] , and by 1508 the Inquisitors in the kingdom of Aragon were going so far as to coerce Muslims to receive baptism. Officials and noblemen in Valencia, Mallorca, and Aragon complained that the Inquisitors were violating local laws and argued that they had no business meddling in these matters.
The Mudejars themselves were not slow to understand the Inquisition's intentions, and so began to fear that institution more than any other. In 1502, after news of the conversion of Castile's Mudejars reached them, Valencia's Muslims were gripped by a fear that they were next in line and that the Inquisition planned to proceed against them, as Muslims. This fear was based on the Inquisition's seizure of two Muslims, who, the Inquisitors maintained, were incarcerated for having dissuaded and threatened other Muslims receiving baptism. Significantly, these Muslims were being baptized in the palace of the Inquisition. It mattered little to the Inquisitors that neither criminal procedure against Muslims nor proselytizing Muslims fell within the realm of their duties. In their campaign against the religious minorities the Inquisitors used every opportunity to further their goal of an entirely Christian society.
It is worth repeating that the Crown of Aragon's Mudejars were neither converted nor expelled during Fernando's reign. Nevertheless,
it was Fernando who loosed the Inquisition on Valencian society. The king's view on all the Inquisition's activities is difficult to pinpoint. On the question of the Muslim and Jewish butcher shops he seems to have agreed with the Inquisitors; regarding other matters he was silent. However, on one issue—the use of force in religious conversion—Fernando did speak his mind loudly and clearly. Consistent with his stance in Valencia during the years 1500–1503, in 1508 he sharply rebuked the Inquisitors of Aragon for attempting to force Mudejars to convert, reminding them that only voluntary conversion through conviction is pleasing to God. Although Fernando and Isabel were able to control the Inquisition, it was not long before it took on a life of its own, an effective and insidious apparatus, feeding and feeding off of Spain's religious passions. However durable the Muslim-Christian modus vivendi in Valencia was, there were certainly a number of Christians who concurred with the Inquisition in its drive toward religious uniformity. The Inquisition's presence only served to augment the ever-present hostility toward the Muslim. This is not to suggest that the anti-Muslim violence of the Germanías was in any way Inquisitorially inspired; the cause of that violence was far more complex. It is only to raise the question of how long Valencia's Muslim-Christian convivencia could have withstood the assaults of the Inquisition, an institution that allowed no room for ideological alternatives and made the question of religious identity an obsession. The tradition of Mudejarism that Fernando so vigorously upheld was probably partly undermined by an institution of his own creation.