In 1492, Isabel I and Fernando II of Castile and Aragón signed the “Alhambra Decree,” the edict that ordered the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. Five hundred years later, King Juan Carlos of Spain would nullify the order. His retraction of the decree was accompanied by the unveiling of a facsimile of an illuminated manuscript of the Pentateuch (the Christian term for “Torah”) that has come to be known as the Alba Bible. As a gesture of reconciliation for the suffering inflicted upon the Jews by their Majesties Isabel and Fernando, in accordance with the wishes of the Holy Office (commonly known as the Inquisition), the commissioning of such a project represented an act of religious and historical significance. The Sephardic Jews were no longer stigmatized; their long contribution to Iberian culture as a people of learning and piety (not to mention the arts and sciences) honored by the restoration of a sacred artifact of importance to world culture.
Kathryn A.Kopple is the author of Little Velásquez, a novel set in 15th century Spain.