Between the years 1595-1606 a total of 22 books were discovered in various locations around the city of Granada, Spain. The books were written in a peculiar form of Arabic.
Local Morisco translators claimed that the Arabic was “Solomonic” pre-Islamic Arabic and then set about translating these lead books into Spanish.
Some of the books were found with human remains, which according to the inscriptions in the books, were the remains of Christians that were martyred during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero. The discovery of the books, and the associated relics, proved to be the occasion of numerous miracles that confirmed their authenticity in the sight of the local population and of the church authorities in Granada, and attracted royal support from both Philip II and Philip III.
A consistent theme of the text in the Sacromonte Lead books is to emphasize Arabic as an ancient language of Spain, Arabs in Granada as the first Christians in Spain, and Christianity as the true religion of the Arabs. The form of Christianity presented is such as to be highly acceptable to Catholics in Granada, emphasizing the veneration of relics, the cult of the Virgin, and the priority of Granada as a Christian bishopric, but also downplaying some aspects of Christianity that were most repugnant to Muslims, including the cult of images, the doctrine of the Trinity, the worship of Jesus as the incarnate Son of God and the use of wine in the Eucharist. In fact much of the terminology within the books matches closely with Islamic formulae: God is One. There is no God but God, and Jesus is the Spirit of God.
What was most suspicious about these books was the circumstances of their discovery. As the very men that had volunteered to translate the books were also instrumental in the discovery of many of them and happened to live in the nearby area. The two translators were both prominent local Moriscos: Miguel de Luna and Alonso del Castillo
. Alonso del Castillo had just recently returned to Granada from serving as the official Arabic translator to the King, and it just so happened that these lead books were discovered shortly after his return to Granada.
Nevertheless the lead books were considered to be genuine by the majority of the people of Granada (Spanish and Morisco alike). In 1642 the books were sent to the Vatican to be analyzed and after 40 years of analysis there, the books were considered to be heretical forgeries. Today the books are kept in the Abbey of Sacromonte and there is still one book, the so-called “Mute Book” that has never been successfully translated to this day.
Almost all scholars now concur with the official verdict and believe that the books are a forgery intended to promote toleration of the language, dress and customs of Christian Moriscos in the face of increasing hostility from the Spanish Inquisition and the Castilian state. If so, this exercise was unsuccessful in its general objective, as between 1609 and 1614 the entire Morisco population was deported to North Africa, where they reverted to Islam. Both Castillo and Luna escaped this fate, as the archbishop of Granada, ever grateful for the immense increase in the prestige of his see arising from the “discovery” of the lead books, extended his personal protection to them and their families. Many of the deported Moriscos remained convinced of the books' authenticity however, and transcripts continued to circulate within Tunisia, until this practice was forcibly suppressed by Islamic religious authorities there.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead_Books_of_Sacromonte
What is most fascinating to me about this case is how easy it is to forge holy relics and get a whole community to believe their authenticity. Just shows how gullible people can be.