Atrocities in the War of the Alpujarra 1568-71

Nov 2010
An often forgotten tragedy, history books dont pay it a lot of attention. But the subject is dealt with by Ildefonso Falcones's heart-rending and well-researched epic novel 'La Mano de Fatima'. The main contemporary account was by Luis de Marmol Carvajal, who must have interviewed everyone he could immediately afterward, in an epic piece of work, which I am currently reading: (rebellion and punishment of the moriscos of Granada)

[ame=""]Rebelión y castigo de los moriscos: Luis del Mármol Carvajal: Books@@AMEPARAM@@[/ame]

Carvajal tows the royal line (the only good heathen is a dead heathen) but he does relate matter-of-fact all atrocities and also reasons for the uprising.

After decades of oppression and suppression following King Ferdinand's back-tracking on the surrender agreement of 1492, to cut the long story short, the Moriscos (former muslims supposedly forcedly converted to christianity) rose up throughout the Alpujarra and Almeria regions. The moriscos of Granada and the Albaicin should have joined in, but a few faint hearts and some well-placed, tipped off militia meant it was limited to the former regions.

Now the fate of the Moriscos of Granada after this war, with defeat by the Marques of Modujar, the Marques de los Velez and ultimately Don Juan of Austria immeditely before Lepanto, is quite well known - multiple atrocies and deportations north and abroad for a whole people. Their own sort of Trail of Tears.

But I am currently wading through the events in each Taa, and each village therein immediately after the uprising at Xmas 1568.

The basic pattern is that the moriscos set upon their few christian neighbours (normally churchmen, magistrates, officials etc and their families) and killed them. Pity or aid was not an option as the extensive bands of 'Monfis' (lawless bandits mostly disposessed by the harsh laws) made this impossible.

The typical and almost invariable pattern is described below. There are variations in that sometimes the christians were burnt alive holed up in the nearest tower, and sometimes they were stabbed or beaten to death, but the routine seems to have been:

Drag out the local priest, verger or magistrate, invariably naked (for humiliation)and bound
Tie him up and knock him around a bit
Cut off fingers and toes
Cut off nose
Cut off ears
Cut off hands
Cut off feet
Cut out eyes
Burn with kindling wood either dead or still alive

Then repeat this with the other men (and sometimes women and children, or off to slavery). Carvajal doesn't mention genitals, presumably to save 16th century sensitivities, but surely this featured quite early in the process. It does feature in the first defeat when Aben Aboo is suspended/dropped by his most painful parts from a tree by mercenaries (and lives to take revenge in the 2nd phase).

Nasty business.
Last edited:
Nov 2010
I forgot to add the optional bit of ripping the heart out and feeding it to the nearest dog. But that would obviously remove the option of burning alive.

When I get to Cavajal's part of the book when he describes christian reprisals I'll give a comparison. The danger was, I know, that although the Marques de Mondujar and the Marques de los Velez had regular troops and a notion of discipline and justice, many of the mercenaries/soldiers of fortune/treasure hunters/thugs that followed on were more lacking in order or piety to the rebels or anone caught up with them.