Throughout the day the soldiers constructed a rampart of hundreds of thousands of manuscripts. The collective wisdom of the entire peninsula lay in the old silk market below the Bab al-Ramla.
This was the ancient space where once Moorish knights used to ride and joust to catch the eye of their ladies; where the populace would assemble in large numbers, children riding on the shoulders of fathers, uncles and elder brothers as they cheered their favourites; where catcalls greeted the appearance of those who paraded in the armour of knights simply because they were creatures of the Sultan. When it was clear that a brave man had allowed one of the courtiers to win out of deference to the King or, just as likely, because he had promised a purse full of gold dinars, the citizens of Gharnata jeered loudly. It was a citizenry well known for its independence of mind, rapier wit, and reluctance to recognize superiors. This was the city and this the place chosen by Cisneros for his demonstration of fireworks that night.
—- Tariq Ali, Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree
(Context: In 1490 a number of Hebrew Bibles and other Jewish books were burned at the behest of the Spanish Inquisition. In 1499 about 5000 Arabic manuscripts were consumed by flames in the public square at Granada on the orders of Ximénez de Cisneros, Archbishop of Toledo. Photograph: Pomegranates, like still life.)
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