1492 and all that

1492 is just another number but also a year redolent of change, not just in Spain but globally. In this year, in the small Andalucian town of Santa Fe, near Granada, occurred two momentous historical moments.

You will pass by the town as you drive to Los Castanos on the A92 but will probably not be ready for a stop so soon after your departure – Santa Fe is just 11 km west of Granada. And, frankly, Santa Fe pales after the splendours of the Alhambra so allow me to tell you about it.

A slight digression from my story to recall the history of Spain in one sentence or less. You will remember that Islamic people from north Africa, aka the Moors, invaded in 711, spread rapidly throughout the Iberian peninsula, sparking off the Christian reconquista. Centuries of religious war in Spain came to an end in Andalucia 700 years later.

Granada was the last Islamic stronghold and the Catholic Kings, aka Los Reyes Catolicos aka Ferdinand and Isabel, camped with their armies on the site of Santa Fe in 1491.. It was from here that they planned and launched the final assault on the city, the conquering of which would complete the reconquest of Spain.

They called the place Santa Fe, which symbolised for them the crusade against Islam. The original town plan has been retained – a cross formed by four streets meeting in a central square, each arm of the cross ending with a city gate.

Spain’s conquest is celebrated in a gruesome sculpture atop the church in the central square – Tarfe, the decapitated head of the eponymous Moor killed by a Spanish conquistador and symbol of Christian dominance. Interestingly the third century Santa Fe or Saint Faith suffered the same fate and was declared a martyr by virtue of having been “cooked and then beheaded”.

And the second fifteen minutes of fame for Santa Fe? It was while the Catholic Kings were camped here overseeing the attack on Granada that Christopher Columbus came to beg one more time for support to take those three little ships westwards to discover the Americas. They agreed in the hope that Spain would thus corner the spice market.

The fiesta celebrating Las Capitulaciones de Santa Fe (the signing of the document funding Columbus’ voyage) is in April so if you are en route to the Alto Genal in Spring, check out when the festival is on the town’s website

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