Columbus and the Capitulation of Granada
I use this image as an opening activity in my class because of the interesting connections it allows my students to make. It gives them a chance to use their growing analytical skills. They notice colors, positioning, and they search for clues about what the artist was trying to show. They also use their historical knowledge about Europe and trade and exploration at this time and try to add to what they figured out in the first examination. Finally, we read a section of Columbus’s diary and end the session with a little surprise.
This painting was created by the Spanish artist, Francisco Pradilla Ortiz in the late 19th century. It depicts an event that would have been important to nineteenth-century Spaniards still smarting from the loss of the country’s American colonies: the 1492 submission of the last Muslim ruler in Spain to Ferdinand and Isabella – the Catholic monarchs – who had been fighting the Muslims for years. The little surprise at the end comes when the students read Columbus’ diary entry and they find this:
“Whereas, Most Christian, High, Excellent, and Powerful Princes, King and Queen of Spain and of the Islands of the Sea, our Sovereigns, this present year 1492, after your Highnesses had terminated the war with the Moors reigning in Europe, the same having been brought to an end in the great city of Granada, where on the second day of January, this present year, I saw the royal banners of your Highnesses planted by force of arms upon the towers of the Alhambra, which is the fortress of that city, and saw the Moorish king come out at the gate of the city and kiss the hands of your Highnesses, and of the Prince my Sovereign...”
The image they have just been examining is a moment in time that Columbus claimed to witness. This helps my students understand why, after so many unsuccessful attempts to convince their majesties to fund his journey to the Indies, they finally said yes!
And the rest is history.