History - The Catholic Monarchs


Isabel and Ferdinand

Isabel I (of Castile and Leon) and Ferdinand II (of Aragon), better known as the Catholics Monarchs, were a marriage which united medieval Spain: the great houses of Castile and Aragon, which between them controlled vast tracts of the peninsula. You can see references to these monarchs all over Andalucia, as their reign marked a key turning point in Spain's history, its fortunes and its power. They reconquered Granada from the Nasrids in 1492. This was the same year Columbus sailed to the New World. 

Isabella and Ferdinand lead the Granada War, starting in 1482 and concluding with the siege and Battle of Granada in 1491. On 25 November that year, Muhammad XII (called 'Bobadil' by the Spanish), the last Nasrid ruler of Granada, signed the Treaty of Granada; by January 1492 the city had been relinquished to Christian rule. This signalled the end of Islamic power on the Iberian Peninsula.

This was the same year that Christopher Columbus sailed to the New World from Palos de la Frontera near Huelva city.

Isabel and Ferdinand are buried in the Royal Chapel of Granada Cathedral.

1500's - Wealth for Andalucia

The 1500s were a period of great wealth for Andalucia, with riches - gold, silver, spices, new exotic foods - brought back from the newly conquered colonies in South America. Columbus made three voyages in total. The second and third very different from the first with 17 ships and 1500 men.

They were followed by the conquistadors. Hernandez de Cordoba fought the declining Mayans on the Yucatan peninsula and inspired Cortes from Medellin in Extremadura to fight Montezuma and the Aztecs in what is now central Mexico.  Also from Extremadura came Pizarro from Trujillo who conquered the Incas in what is now Peru.

Andalucia became an important trading area, with Seville being Spain's largest city. Seville held the monopoly on trade from the New World for two centuries; Cadiz, Malaga, and Almeria were also key ports.

Fernando used his children to cement alliances across Europe. Princess Isabel was married to Alonso, the heir of Portugal. Fernando's heir Juan married Habsburg Princess Margaret, his daughter Juana married Archduke Philip  of Habsburg who was Princess Margaret's brother. His daughter Catherine of Aragon married Henry VIII of England.

However a series of tragedies would change the course of Spanish and European history. Fernando's son and heir Juan died.  Juana became next in line to the throne. She was known as Juana la Loca (Juana the Mad), and her husband Philip died.

Fernando's wife Queen Isabel of Aragon died in 1504. King Ferdinand of Castille annexed Navarra in 1512 creating a union that is more or less the territory of Spain today. Fernando married Germaine de Foix, teenage niece of the French King, but their only son died at birth.

In 1519 Ferdinand Magellan was the first to sail around South America into the Pacific. He died in the Philippines, so the 18 members of the crew that were lucky to survive became the first to circumnavigate the world and prove beyond doubt that it was round.  


Joanna  1504 - 1516

Joanna (6 November 1479 – 12 April 1555), known historically as Joanna the Mad (Spanish: Juana la Loca), was Queen of Castile from 1504, and of Aragon from 1516. Modern Spain evolved from the union of these two crowns.

Joanna had married by arrangement to Philip the Handsome, Archduke of the House of Habsburg, on 20 October 1496. In 1500. When Queen Isabella I died in 1504, Joanna, became Queen of Castile, while her father, the King of Aragon, proclaimed himself  'Governor and Administrator of Castile'.  In 1506 Archduke Philip became King of Castile jure uxoris, initiating the rule of the Habsburgs in Spain, and died that same year.  Though legally Queen of Castile she was declared insane and imprisoned in Tordesillas under the orders of her father, Ferdinand II of Aragon, who ruled as regent until his death, when she inherited his kingdom as well.

From 1516, when her son, Charles I ruled as king, she was nominally co-monarch but remained imprisoned until her death. | Wikipedia CC-BY-SA


Important buildings from this period include Mudejar, Gothic and Renaissance masterpieces: