I. Introduction

Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabel I of Castile anticipated great change in 1492. The Treaty of Granada ended a 700-year-long war in which Christians fought to retake the Iberian Peninsula from Islamic rule. The “Reyes” further fulfilled their self-proclaimed purpose of championing Catholicism with the expulsion of the Jews from their region. All of the necessary measures were in place to begin the unification of the land they respectively controlled. It was, however, the land not yet under their control—the discovery of continents not yet within their realm of knowledge—that changed the course of human history in 1492. In a time charged by religious conflict, the founding of completely different people groups and territory represented an opportunity to expand Catholicism and Empire. Much has been written about the impact of Spain on the Americas—often neglected is a study of how the New World affected the existing order of life in Spain. The Counter-Reformation is thought to have begun in the 1560s. However, the desire to spread Catholicism in the west dramatically exposed the need to address issues within the faith in early sixteenth century Spain. First, history, literature, and art  provide insight into the evangelization of the New World; secondly, it reveals the necessity and existence of religious debate on the Iberian peninsula before the Council of Trent; finally, one of the greatest impacts of contact with the Americas on Spain was the resulting debate concerning the treatment and humanity of the Indians.


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