Morisco Revolt
The Morisco Revolt also known as War of Las Alpujarras or Revolt of Las Alpujarras, in what is now Andalusia in southern Spain, was a rebellion against the Crown of Castile
Crown of Castile
The Crown of Castile was a medieval and modern state in the Iberian Peninsula that formed in 1230 as a result of the third and definitive union of the crowns and parliaments of the kingdoms of Castile and León upon the accession of the then King Ferdinand III of Castile to the vacant Leonese throne...

 by the remaining Muslim converts to Christianity from the Kingdom of Granada.

The defeat of Muslim Spain

In the wake of the Reconquista
The Reconquista was a period of almost 800 years in the Middle Ages during which several Christian kingdoms succeeded in retaking the Muslim-controlled areas of the Iberian Peninsula broadly known as Al-Andalus...

most of the Moors continued to live in Spain. They became known as Mudéjares, and until the 16th century were granted religious freedom, albeit subject to some legal discrimination. The Kingdom of Granada, the last Muslim-ruled state in Spain, was defeated in 1492, and the Muslim population was tolerated by the terms of the Treaty of Granada. In 1499, Queen Isabella I
Isabella I of Castile
Isabella I was Queen of Castile and León. She and her husband Ferdinand II of Aragon brought stability to both kingdoms that became the basis for the unification of Spain. Later the two laid the foundations for the political unification of Spain under their grandson, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor...

 decreed that all Muslims must convert to Christianity or leave Spain; she had many Arabic books burned in Byazien Square in Granada. This led up to a rebellion in Granada (1499-1501), so the Muslims violated the terms of the Treaty of Granada, and were thus forced to choose between conversion to Christianity or exile. In 1502 Queen Isabella rescinded official toleration of Islam in all of the Kingdom of Castile, although the Kingdom of Aragon continued to tolerate its large Muslim population. But after the Revolt of the Brotherhoods in Valencia in 1526, King Charles V
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his voluntary retirement and abdication in favor of his younger brother Ferdinand I and his son Philip II in 1556.As...

 rescinded toleration of the Muslims in the Kindgom of Aragon.

Spanish Muslims officially ceased to exist, and the converted Catholic people of Muslim ancestry were known as Moriscos. Many Moriscos continued to speak Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 and Berber languages
Berber languages
The Berber languages are a family of languages indigenous to North Africa, spoken from Siwa Oasis in Egypt to Morocco , and south to the countries of the Sahara Desert...

 and to wear Moorish clothing. Despite their public conversion, the Moriscos were held in suspicion by the existing Christians of Spain, who considered them insincere converts and secret Muslims.

The Ottoman threat

In the mid-16th century, the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 emerged as the dominant Muslim power in the Mediterranean
Mediterranean Basin
In biogeography, the Mediterranean Basin refers to the lands around the Mediterranean Sea that have a Mediterranean climate, with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers, which supports characteristic Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub vegetation...

. There were increasing clashes between the Ottoman Empire and Spain. Philip II of Spain
Philip II of Spain
Philip II was King of Spain, Portugal, Naples, Sicily, and, while married to Mary I, King of England and Ireland. He was lord of the Seventeen Provinces from 1556 until 1581, holding various titles for the individual territories such as duke or count....

 feared that the Moriscos of the former Kingdom of Granada might support a Turkish invasion of Spain. The Ottoman court planned an armed intervention in favor of the Moriscos, but the Ottoman
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 Sultan, Selim II
Selim II
Selim II Sarkhosh Hashoink , also known as "Selim the Sot " or "Selim the Drunkard"; and as "Sarı Selim" or "Selim the Blond", was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1566 until his death in 1574.-Early years:He was born in Constantinople a son of Suleiman the...

, was persuaded to instead take Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

 because of its strategic position for overcoming Christian power in the Mediterranean.

The reaction of the Spanish crown

In 1567, Philip II issued a royal decree ending all toleration of Moorish culture. He banned the Arabic and Berber languages, prohibited Moorish dress, required Moriscos to adopt Christian names, ordered the destruction of all books and documents in Arabic script, and decreed that Morisco children would be educated only by Catholic priests. It is possible that Philip issued this decree with the intent of provoking rebellion so that the Moriscos could be eliminated or expelled, or it could be that Philip wanted to ensure the loyalty of the Moriscos by complete assimilation.

The rebellion

Philip's new harsh approach sparked the outbreak of armed rebellion in the former Kingdom of Granada. The revolt was planned by Ferag ben Ferag, descended from the royal house of Granada, and Diego Lopez Ben Abu. They carefully estimated the feelings of the people of the Alpujarras
thumb|250px|A typical Alpujarran village, [[Busquístar]].La Alpujarra is a landlocked historical region in Southern Spain, which stretches south from the Sierra Nevada mountains near Granada in the autonomous community of Andalusia. The western part of the region lies in the province of Granada...

, where the best stand could be made against the Spanish forces, solicited aid from the kings of North Africa, and persuaded local bandits to embrace their cause.

On Christmas Eve of 1568, monfi
The monfíes were moriscos who lived during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in the mountains around Granada.The first monfíes were people driven to the mountains as a result of the disorder and repression associated with the conquest of Granada by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492...

es and Moriscos of Granada, the Alpujarras, and elsewhere secretly assembled at the Vale de Lecrin. They repudiated Christianity, and proclaimed Aben Humeya
Aben Humeya
Aben Humeya was a Spanish leader who commanded the Morisco Revolt against Philip II of Spain in the Alpujarras region, near Granada.-Early life:...

 (born Fernando de Valor) as their ruler and heir of the Caliphate of Córdoba
Caliphate of Córdoba
The Caliphate of Córdoba ruled the Iberian peninsula and part of North Africa, from the city of Córdoba, from 929 to 1031. This period was characterized by remarkable success in trade and culture; many of the masterpieces of Islamic Iberia were constructed in this period, including the famous...

. The insurrection took the form of guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 with military and economic support from Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

. Aben Humeya was assassinated in 1569, and replaced by Aben Aboo.

To suppress the revolt, Philip sent his half-brother John of Austria with a large force of Spanish and Italian troops. Among those who fought was the writer El Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, who became a captain because of his service during the revolt. The rebels, despite their number (which increased from 4,000 in 1569 to 25,000 in 1570, including Berber
Berber people
Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. They are continuously distributed from the Atlantic to the Siwa oasis, in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean to the Niger River. Historically they spoke the Berber language or varieties of it, which together form a branch...

 and Turkish
Turkish people
Turkish people, also known as the "Turks" , are an ethnic group primarily living in Turkey and in the former lands of the Ottoman Empire where Turkish minorities had been established in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Romania...

 mercenaries), soon lost their gains, made a last stand during which Abén Aboo was killed by his followers in a cave at Bérchules
Bérchules is a village and municipality in the central Alpujarra, in the province of Granada in Spain. The origins of the village are Arab. There are two villages in the municipality, Bérchules , and Alcútar...

, and were defeated by 1571.


After the suppression of the revolt, almost the entire population of the Alpujarras was deported
Ethnic cleansing
Ethnic cleansing is a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic orreligious group from certain geographic areas....

 to Castille
Kingdom of Castile
Kingdom of Castile was one of the medieval kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula. It emerged as a political autonomous entity in the 9th century. It was called County of Castile and was held in vassalage from the Kingdom of León. Its name comes from the host of castles constructed in the region...

and western Andalusia and some 270 villages and hamlets were repopulated with settlers brought in from Northern Spain. The remaining villages were abandoned. This led to the destruction of the silk industry over the course of several centuries.

Philip had ordered the dispersal of 80,000 Moriscos of Granada to other parts of the country. Philip expected that this would fragment the Morisco community and accelerate their assimilation into the Christian population. However, the Moriscos from Granada, having been dispersed throughout the Kingdom of Castile (notably to Andalusia and Extremadura), actually had some influence on the local Moriscos who had until then become more assimilated.


  • Kaplan, Benjamin J., Religious Conflict and the Practice of Toleration in Early Modern Europe, Harvard University Press, 2007, pp. 310-311.
  • Zagorin, Perez, Rebels and rulers, 1500-1660, Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1982, pp. 13-15.
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