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Portugal - Simply Jewish

posted 1 Jul 2019, 23:41 by Charles Greene

Portugal - Simply Jewish

 

A MATTER OF CONVERSION:

Living in Portugal as a Jew was not a receipt one could delight in, but instead a disaster no matter what direction you chose.  

I had the opportunity of visiting Portugal this last month. As a result I had a better perspective of what Jewish life may have been like. Both my wife and I have Sephardic friends whose ancestry originated either in Spain or Portugal and on occasion would learn some interesting aspects of Jews living in the Iberian Peninsula. In the following essay I explore different aspects of living as a Jew in Portugal. I found that it was not that easy to obtain detailed historical information about the Jews of Portugal.  

We started our trip in Porto, one of the main cities in Portugal. The region is famous for its Port wines and beautiful scenery. We were fortunate enough to find accommodations in the very center of the city. We walked each day approximately 12 kilometers, the city is constructed on hills and narrow streets and no matter where you placed your foot, the roads and walkways were strewn with cobble stone.

JEWS OF PORTO:

It is as hard to trace back the arrival of the first Jews in Porto as it is to trace back the foundation of the city. From my research the Romans occupied most of Portugal and then for whatever reason left behind ancient walls and buildings. What we know for sure is that during the High Medieval Ages there were already Jews in Porto, close to the cathedral and inside the primitive walls of the city. It is interesting to note that 30% of Porto comprised of Jews.

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Train Station, Porto

SO WHERE WERE THE JEWISH QUARTERS OF PORTO?

The Jewish community of Porto moved in a circle since the beginning, all the way until the late fifteenth century.

There are some records that prove that the first Jewish community of Porto used to live close to the main cathedral, just around the corner where we were staying. This would be the place where the first Porto’s Jewish quarter was built.

Later on, the community started to move closer to the Douro River, where most of the Jewish businesses were conducted. Then slowly but steadily they started moving West, but always close to the riverside. In fact, there used to exist two Porto’s Jewish quarters at the same time, until the late fourteenth century.

In 210 BC Romans invaded Iberian Peninsula. They left behind fortresses, walls and aqueducts however by the middle of the 3rd century AD the Roman Empire was in decline, in 139 BC Romans defeated by Celtics and in 409 Germanic peoples invaded the Iberian Peninsula. Then a race called the Suevi invaded Portugal. However in the 6th century another race called the Visigoths ruled Spain and they attacked the Suevi. By 585 the Visigoths had conquered the Suevi. The Germanic invaders became the new upper class. They were landowners and warriors who despised trade. Under their rule trade was dominated by the Jews.

PORTUGAL IN THE MIDDLE AGES:

In 711 Moors from North Africa invaded the Iberian Peninsula. They quickly conquered what is now southern Portugal and they ruled it for centuries. However they were unable to permanently subdue northern Portugal.

A little Visigothic state let slowly grew in the north. By the 11th century it was known as Portugal. The Counts of Portugal were vassals of the king of Leon but culturally the area was quite different from Leon. In 1095 the king of Leon granted Portugal to his daughter Dona Teresa and her husband. When her husband died Dona Teresa ruled as regent for her son. She married a Galician noble. However the Portuguese nobles were alarmed at the prospect of a union with Galicia. They rebelled and led by her son Dom Alfonso Henriques they defeated Teresa at the battle of Sao Mamede. Afterwards Alfonso Henriques became ruler of Portugal.

Portugal gradually became independent of Leon. By 1140 Alfonso called himself king of Portugal and asserted his country's independence. From 1179 Papal diplomats also called him king. Meanwhile Alfonso set about recapturing territory from the Moors. In 1139 Alfonso defeated the Moors at Ourique.

Meanwhile trade continued to thrive in Portugal. Jews continued to be important in the towns. The first parliament or Cortes met in 1211. At first only clergy and nobility were represented. However King Dinis (1279-1325) allowed the merchant class to have representatives - a sign of their growing importance. From the mid-13th century Lisbon became the capital of Portugal. In 1290 Portugal's first university was founded in Lisbon. (Although it soon moved to Coimbra). Also during the reign of Dinis pine forests were planted and marshland was drained for farming. Agriculture flourished.

However in 1348-49, like the rest of Europe, Portugal was devastated by the Black Death which probably killed one third of the population.

Then in the late 14th century Portugal was drawn into a war. When King Fernando (1367-1383) died his daughter Beatriz became queen. However she was married to Juan of Castile. Some Portuguese feared that Portugal would become united with Castile and cease to be independent. They rose in rebellion. The king of Castile invaded Portugal to support his wife. The war went on for 2 years. Finally the Castilians were routed by a Portuguese army supported by English archers, at the battle of Aljubarrota. Dom Joao then became king and Portugal remained independent.

In 1386 Portugal made an alliance with England. Then in the 15th century Portugal became a great maritime nation. In 1415 the Portuguese captured Ceuta in Morocco. Madeira was discovered in 1419. The Azores followed in 1427.

At that time Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460) made navigation into a fine art. He also provided ships and money to Portuguese captains. Portuguese mariners ventured further and further afield. By the time Prince Henry died the Portuguese had sailed as far as Sierra Leone. Then Tangiers was captured in 1471. Finally in 1488 Bartolomeo Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope.

In 1492 Columbus discovered the West Indies. I have read different sources, some claiming that Columbus was Jewish and he secretly tried to take Jews to other lands to escape the Inquisition. He was able to transport some Jews to Brazil and the Caribbean Islands..

PORTUGAL IN THE 16 AND 17TH CENTURY:

Asia was the source of spices, which were very expensive in Europe. Huge profits could be made by importing spices by sea. At first the Portuguese dominated the spice trade. In 1510 the Portuguese annexed Goa in India. In 1511 they took Malacca in Indonesia. In 1514 they reached China and in 1557 they established a trading post at Macao. The Portuguese also colonized Brazil.

Meanwhile in 1536   the Inquisition was formed in Portugal. The first execution in Portugal took place in 1541. The last was in 1765.

King Sebastiao (1557-1576) led an expedition to Morocco. It ended in complete disaster. Thousands of Portuguese were killed including the king and most of the nobility. Sebastiao was succeeded by Henrique, who died childless. Afterwards King Philip II of Spain claimed the throne of Portugal on the grounds that he was the nephew of King Sebastiao. The Spaniards won the battle of Alcantara and Philip II of Spain became Philip I of Portugal.

From then until 1640 Spain and Portugal shared a monarch. However the union grew gradually less and less popular. In 1640 Portuguese nobles staged a coup in Lisbon. They deposed the governor of Portugal. The Duke of Braganza was made King Joao IV. Spain did not recognize Portuguese independence until 1668 when the treaty of Lisbon was signed. Yet Portugal was declining in the 17th century. In 1600 the Portuguese dominated the spice trade with Asia. However in the 17th century they lost their position to the Dutch.

JEWS OF PORTO:

At the end of the fourteenth century the Jewish community of Porto created a Jewish quarter inside the city walls, under the rule of D. João I.D. Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, nominated the rabbi Yahia Ben Yahia for the position of Finance Minister of the kingdom. The good relationship between the royal Crown and the Jewish community was kept intact for a period of time. In 1496, that Jews were expelled from Portugal which had a terrible impact in the Portuguese economy and destroyed the Jewish Heritage of Porto.

It wasn’t until the twentieth century that it was during the beginning of a new Jewish community of Porto was born, mostly due to the courage and tenacity of the Captain Barros Basto. This First World War hero not only founded the community but also raised the funds to build a Synagogue in Porto and gather around him dozens of Jewish families. It should be further noted that there are approximately 1000 Jews who live in Portugal today. At this time there is not a Jewish quarter in Porto. It is interesting to note that if you have a conversation with some of the Tour Guides they have little knowledge of Jewish history. I could only imagine that they probably never even seen a Jew.

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Kadoorie Synagogue, Porto

CAPTAIN BARROS BASTO:

In 1497 the Sephardic Jews of Portugal ceased to exist. They were all ordered to be baptized by the King who promised the ‘New Christians” that there would be no inquiry into their private religious practices for 20 years (later extended). Secretly observing the essential rituals of Judaism, the New Christians maintained their Marrano (secret Jew, in Hebrew, “anousim”, for “forced one”) identity for over 300 years despite relentless persecution by the Inquisition. Thousands were tortured and/or burned alive. The national archives of Portugal, “Torre de Tombo” contains over 40,000 Inquisition files.

In the 1920s, Captain Arthur Carlos de Barros Basto, a decorated Portuguese WW1 veteran who survived gas attacks in Flanders, began a quasi-messianic movement in northern Portugal to “out” Marranos and bring them back to normative Judaism. Basto, a free mason and Republican was informed of his family’s Marrano heritage by his grandfather who announced on his deathbed that he wished to die as a Jew. Basto honored his grandfather’s message for the rest of his life. He taught himself Hebrew, becoming so proficient that he later taught it at the faculty of Arts at the University of Porto where he also conducted original research into Portuguese medieval Jewish history. Later, he traveled to Tangiers to undergo a formal return process to Judaism. Returning to Lisbon, he married the daughter of a prominent Jewish family of that community which initially had rejected him. He then settled down in Porto, near Amarante, his place of birth, to raise a family and start building his dream.

Basto’s mission attracted wide support from Sephardic Jews in Amsterdam, New York, and London (whose ancestors had escaped the clutches of the Inquisition). The London Marranos Committee and the Spanish Portuguese congregation of Bevis Marks, England’s oldest synagogue, provided moral and financial support. Prominent English Jews such as journalist and founder of the Jewish Historical Society of England, Lucien Wolf, Cambridge professor and respected author, Cecil Roth and lawyer Paul Goodman (also president of the London Marranos Committee), became friends and fans. Dr. Rabbi David Sola Pool of New York visited Basto.

Visiting isolated villages and towns, sometime by foot and donkey, the charismatic Captain, dressed in full regalia, convinced thousands of Marranos to give up their syncretism and return openly to the faith of their ancestors. He led the revival of normative rituals and established synagogues in several towns and cities, despite protests from the Catholic Church.

In Porto, a city with a strong mercantile Jewish tradition (birthplace of the world’s first secular Jew, Uriel da Costa, Spinoza’s predecessor) Barros Basto established a yeshiva (theological institute) and founded an instructional Jewish newspaper, “Halapid” (the “Torch”) which he published until 1958. At the height of the depression, with the financial backing of Baron de Rothschild of Paris and the Kadoorie family of Hong Kong, Barros Basto built a magnificent four-story art deco synagogue, which he called the “Cathedral of the North”, a beacon for the downtrodden Marranos. The Kadoorie synagogue of Porto, Hebrew for “font of life was inaugurated in 1938, the same year as Kristallnacht, the “night of broken glass” when synagogues and Jewish businesses were ransacked Barros helped many families flee the Holocaust.

I had the opportunity to visit Kadoorie synagogue, and spoke to the caretaker who was an Israeli Jew. I asked whether I could go inside the synagogue and take pictures. He informed me that there was construction taking place and would not be safe. I heard the jack hammers and I respected his wishes. He informed me that there were approximately 150 Jews members and that there were two Rabbis who looked after the premises. In addition he informed me that Portugal was the only place throughout Europe that did not harbor-Semitism. Furthermore Kadoorie synagogue was in the process of converting Jews whose great grandparents were converted to Christianity.

Kadoorie Synagogue is approximately 45 minute bus ride outside of the city. The synagogue is located next to Catholic cometary.

HIKING THE DOURO VALLEY:

We left Porto, picked up my standard vehicle, gear in tow along with our hiking sticks and headed north. The Douro Valley could as easily be called the enchanted valley, such is the beauty and magic that its landscapes offer. I am told that it is more magnificent in the summer when the rolling hills and mountain covered grape vines, beautify the land scape.  Winter still presents a pictures’ view. We walked, should I say mostly uphill for the two days, following a route between the viewpoints offering the best vistas, we crossed the river and back again. But along the way we admired breathtaking landscapes, animals and dancing birds overhead. We visited a few vineyards which are the oldest demarcated wineries in the world and met many people in, towns and villages.

THE JEWS OF COIMBRA:

The construction of Christian Portugal led the former Portuguese kings to have contact with the existing Jewish communities, accepting their help (they had a decisive role on King Afonso Henriques’s side when Lisbon was taken from the moors in 1147) and giving them some benefits as a reward for their help in the territory. The communities had spread themselves in such a way that, during the reign of King Dinis (1278 – 1324), there were Jewish communes all over the country. By the end of the 15th century, around 30,000 Jews were living in Portugal. Having mainly urban jobs, they were organized in communes. Socially speaking, they were part, at least, of three important classes: the rich bankers, traders, financiers, physicians and public position holders, a small but economically important and privileged group; the craftsmen and the small traders; and the poor and the indigent, a small minority. All of them were forced to pay very high taxes. Organized around the synagogue, they kept their habits and lived in their own quarters the Judiarias, generally separated from the Christian areas by walls and gates that were closed during the night. 

In the Middle Age, most part of the population of Coimbra lived inside the walls, crowned by a fortress. There were both a Jewish and Muslim Coimbra. Later a new Jewish quarter was established by the new king as a result of the church and the Jews were moved to a swampy area outside of the city. The original Jewish quarter was situated in and near the Santa Cruz parish. I could not take any pictures of the area as the streets are very narrow and the houses are stacked one by one next to each other.  

It was very surprised when I asked locals where the Jewish Fountain in Coimbra was. To be honest I asked people within a hundred yards of the fountain where it was located, and no one was able to even give me directions and even the locals or some of them never heard of the fountain.

FONTE NOVA OU DOS JUDEUS NEW FOUNTAIN OR JEWISH FOUNTAIN:

Described in 1139 as one of the limits of the Santa Cruz parish, it was probably located at the bottom of the Couraça dos Apóstolos, in the field named “field of the Jewish fountain”, being one of the limits of the Jewish quarter. Later, it had been remodeled and the fountain we see today is of baroque construction, carefully decorated, that was finished in 1725. It had a long inscription about its works, which had been promoted by the King’s Judge, Pedro Rodrigues de Almeida. The stairs surrounding the fountain had been designed by the Architect António Madeira Portugal and were concluded in 1986, when the fountain had been transferred from its original place, behind the Mercado D. Pedro V King Pedro V’s Market Today the market place still sells farm fresh, flowers, vegetables, fruit, fish and meat. We walked through the market on our way to the University.

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Jewish Fountain, Coimbra


Statue of King Henrie, Coimbra University

 

PATIO OF THE INQUISITION:


The Patio of the Inquisition takes its name from the buildings, with historical and architectonic value, where the Inquisition Court had worked after 1548. The houses were facing an interior patio that must have had a garden. Besides the building, that has been the siege of the Inquisition in Coimbra, the patio had also gathered the primitive College of the Arts, a cloister partially limited by 16th century ionic arcades and an interior patio, surrounded by several dependences of the Inquisition: jails, torture rooms and the houses belonging to the Inquisitors. The jails can now be seen through the thick glass. They still keep a beauty that can be seen in the old bricks used in the ovens, in the big arches of the medium floor, or in a narrow vault that we can see in a high room and that is followed by another one, in a lower and smaller room. In one of the small rooms, you can still find a painting that is what remains of an old fresco. With an indelible dark drawing, it shows simplified vegetal ornaments, a kind of embroidery. Before the Patio being abandoned, its houses had been used, during the first republic, as horse stables by the National Guards. They have left the sign of their passage on a graffiti, an influence of the Phrygian cap. On the noble floor, yod can read, on one of the walls: Liberdade Egualdade  Fraternidade (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity). The building is remarkable, not only because of its primitive architecture, but also because of the many restorations it has had, including the one that the Architect João Mendes Ribeiro had made to adapt the building to welcome the Encontros de Fotografia (Photography Meetings). Many people both Jew and non-Jew were burnt alive in the square in Coimbra.

UNIVERSITY OF COIMBRA:

The University was one of the highlights of our trip. Located high on a hill overlooking the city. I read that records were kept in the Coimbra library of the names of individuals that were either executed, left Portugal or were converted to the New Christians (Morranos) other copies are kept in Lisbon, these records could be reviewed by anyone. 
 

Founded in Lisbon, in 1290, the university was transferred to the Royal Palace of Coimbra in 1537, during the reign of King John III. In the same period, the studies had been reformed and the university had received new Portuguese and foreigner teachers. New ways of teaching and new scientific subjects were transmitted, mainly thanks to the “estrangeirados” (the Portuguese who had travelled to other countries, getting different knowledges). But this knowledge could also be reached through the Jewish the New Christian teachers who had developed and transmitted in this University, one of the oldest in Europe, important scientific studies in several different fields like medicine, exact sciences and botany. These characteristics had transformed the University in a “free-thought” center, which represented a threat to the union defended by the kingdom, concerning faith, cultural and religious politics. Anything against the Council of Trent was condemned and many teachers had been persecuted, accused of homosexuality or immorality, blasphemies against the religion, Protestantism and Judaism. Many of them had been arrested, condemned or forced to leave their jobs. Very few changes had been accepted in schools and the University had stopped its own evolution. Old methods were still used and any scientific or cultural progress was just not accepted. From those who had fought against the organized censure, very few had gone beyond the empiricism, transforming it in a clear scientific attitude.

After spending a few days In Coimbra and walking throughout the city from one end to the other, we were on our way to Cascais. The famous Portuguese resort. I remember hearing about Cascais as my Nephew a Canadian Olympic Sailor spent many summers sailing from the Yacht Club. On occasion when my daughter worked in Switzerland for Nestles in research, she would visit him and members of the World sailing teams.  My hotel was situated on the ocean next to the club and we would pass by on a daily basis heading to town. My first reaction was amazement at the beauty and magnificence of the region. With its white beaches and its cliffs, everything evolved around the center of town.

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Medical School, Coimbra University

The Jewish Community first appeared and became organised in Cascais when Pedro I declared the town independent in 1364. Many famous Jews resided in this area, other then that I could not find much information or history related to the Jews of Portugal in this area

EVORA:

Due to its well-preserved old town center, still partially enclosed by medieval walls, and a large number of monuments dating from various historical periods, including a Roman Temple, Évora is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

We headed for Evora, another interesting and Romanesc city. The capital of alto alentejo province, s. Central portugal. Evora was one of the most important jewish communities in the country. King alfonso iii (1248-79) laid down that the chief rabbi of the jewish communities in alentejo (alemtejo) should reside in evora.

In 1360, 1388, and 1434, the evora community was given privileges by the king defining the limits of its autonomy.

In 1325 the jews of evora were compelled by a special decree to wear a yellow shield of david on their hats. On several occasions the kings of portugal intervened in favor of the jews of evora who engaged in varied economic activities. In 1392 john i ordered the town authorities to desist from further confiscation of jewish property in the synagogues of evora, and in 1408 he granted the jews a privilege permitting them to enlarge their quarter. In 1478 the community paid a sum of 264,430 cruzados to the crown.

After the decree of expulsion and forced conversions of 1496/7, evora continued to be an important center of anusim. In april 1505 these were set upon by bands of rioters, who manhandled jews and set the synagogue on fire. From 1542, the year in which luis dias of setubal was burned at the stake there, a tribunal of the inquisition was active in evora.

The location of the old Evora Jewish Quarter is unknown to most people who live in the city and for visitors from the whole world. There are no signs of its existence in Giraldo Square. But the quarter truly existed, in the shape of its people and services, and today exists in its alleys.

These streets, which characterize a good part of Evora’s city center connected to its main square, are still beautiful. Almost labyrinth-like and a bit shady (because they are narrow), they invite you for a walk. Feel part of the past. Discover their white houses with colored blue and yellow decoration around the doors and windows

You can see the Jewish heritage of Evora on a wide set of Gothic pointed arch portals which belonged to the houses of the community residents. They, of course, dedicated themselves to commerce as well as artistic and intellectual activities.

During the 15th century, there were even two synagogues in Evora, together with all the services needed for a large community: school, hospital, court, temple, an inn for ritual baths (“mikve”), places for reading and interpretation of the Bible and a leprosarium. The synagogue represented the Jewish community life center

 

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Roman Structure, Evora

SINTRA:

A beautiful town at the foot of the mountain range of the same name, Sintra’s unique characteristics have led UNESCO to classify it as a World Heritage site. The Moors built two castles in Sintra in the 8th-9th centuries:  one atop a promontory near the town, and the other, located downhill, which was the residence of the Moorish rulers of the region.  This castle was conquered for the Christians by Dom Afonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal, in 1147. The first reference to the Jewish quarter of Sintra dates from the 12th century. It was a small community, with a rabbi, notary, gatekeeper, and a single street. The synagogue first appeard in a letter of tenure in 1407. The Jewish population grew along with the increased economic activity of the town. At the end of the 15th century, this community had an income of about 600 reais, which was relatively modest compared to other Jewish quarters, such as those in Lisbon, Santarém, Évora, Coimbra and Porto.

In the 15th century, King Afonso V began to receive complaints from Christians because of an attempt by the Jews to expand trade to broader sectors of the city. This led the king to decree that Jews could only use the gateway to the Jewish quarter as a place of trade.

 

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Sintra Palace, Sintra

 

ALGARV:

LAGOS:

This city was one of the main points of departure for the fleets of Portuguese ships setting sail for the African coast. Lagos therefore attracted so many Jewish merchants that they could not all fit into the quarter originally set aside for them and asked Prince Henry the Navigator for permission to settle in Christian areas, a privilege which was granted to them and later ratified in the reign of Afonso V (1438-1481). However, the conflicts that arose between the Jewish and Christian populations led to boundaries being set for a "new Jewish quarter" in 1481, in the reign of Dom Joao II. Although the earthquake of 1755 destroyed part of the city and removed all traces of the Jewish presence there, the historical center and the waterfront of the fishing port are areas that still evoke memories of the Jewish community in Lagos

FARO:

The capital of the Algarve, mediaeval Faro had a Jewish quarter that was noted for being the site of' the first real experience with printing in Portugal, with the publication of the Pentateuch in Hebrew by Samuel Gacon in 1487. After the order was given for the expulsion of the Jews in 1496, the decline in the Jewish quarter and the consequent dispersal of its inhabitants were not reversed until the 19th century, when a prosperous community of Jews from Gibraltar and Morocco settled in Rua de Santo Antonio making a great contribution to the growth of local trade. Around 1830, this community took the initiative of building two synagogues and a cemetery, which later, with the almost complete disappearance of the Jewish population, was to fall into ruins. Through the combined efforts of several Portuguese and foreign organizations this cemetery, situated between Rua Leao Beneto and Estrada da Penah was restored in 1993 and is worth a visit.

LISBOA:

Lisbon is the capital of Portugal. It had one of the largest Jewish populations. In 1492 over 100,000 Jews lived in Lisbon, many of them escaped persecution from the Spanish Inquisition In 1497 the Jews were forced to be Baptized or be executed..

We arrived in Lisbon on our last leg of our trip. The city was once surrounded by a great wall. You could see the wall above our hotel, which was located in the center of the city. Just around the corner we located the main square where the Jewish monument stood and looking down towards the river, stood great arches and a wide pedestrian street, which led to the old Jewish quarter. I took some pictures and sent them to some members of Lodger Synagogue. Some of these pictures are attached.

MASSACRE OF JEWS IN LISBON:

The massacre began, as it is reported, in the São Domingos de Lisboa Convent on Sunday, 19 April 1506. The faithful were praying for the end of the drought and plague that swept the country when someone swore they had seen the illuminated face of Jesus on the altar — a phenomenon that could only be explained by the Catholics present as a message from the Messiah, a miracle.

A New Christian, one of the converted Jews, thought otherwise, and voiced his opinion that it had been only the reflection of a candle on the crucifix. The men gathered for Mass, hearing this, grabbed the man by his hair and brought him outside the church where he was beaten to death by the crowd and his body was burnt in Rossio Square, one of the main squares of central Lisbon.

From that point the New Christians, who were already not trusted by the population, became the scapegoats for the drought, famine and plague. Dominican friars promised absolution for sins committed over the previous 100 days to those who killed the "heretics", and a crowd of more than 500 people (many of them sailors from Holland, Zeeland and the Kingdom of Germany) gathered and killed all the New Christians they could find on the streets, burning their bodies by the Tagus or in Rossio. That Sunday, more than 500 people were violently sent to their deaths.

The Court and the King had earlier left Lisbon for Abrantes in order to escape the plague, and were absent when the massacre began. King Manuel I was in Avis when he was informed of the event in Lisbon, and dispatched magistrates to try to put an end to the bloodbath. Meanwhile, in Lisbon, the small group of authorities present were unable to intervene, as the crowd grew and the violence spread.

By Monday, 20 April, more locals had joined the crowd, which carried on the massacre with even more violence. The New Christians, no longer found on the streets, were dragged from their houses and from churches and, along with their wives, sons and daughters, were burnt in the public squares alive or dead. Not even infants were spared, as the crowd ripped them to pieces or threw them against the walls. The crowd proceeded to loot the houses, stealing all the gold, silver and linens they could find. More than 1000 people were killed on the second day. There is also record that more than Jews were killed that day. Some accused their neighbours of heresy, and these unfortunates met the same fate as the New Christians.

On Tuesday, members of the court arrived at the city and rescued some of the New Christians. João Rodrigues Mascarenhas, the King's Squire, was killed by mistake in the massacre, and this triggered the arrival of the Royal Guard. The death count had, however, already reached more than 1,900. Aires da Silva and D. Álvaro de Castro, head of the Lisbon Freguesia and Governor, respectively, were among those who tried to stop the crowd, and they were backed by the Prior of Crato and D. Diogo Lopo, Baron of Alvito, who had special powers from the King to execute members of the crowd.

Monument in Lisbon in memory of those lost, reads: "In memory of the thousands of Jews who were victimized by intolerance and religious fanaticism, killed on the massacre that started on 19 April 1506, on this square". The base has a verse from the Book of Jobetched onto it: "O earth, cover not thou my blood, and let my cry have no place."

Some Portuguese were arrested and hanged, while others had all their possessions confiscated by the Crown. The foreigners returned to their baracks with their plunder and sailed away. The two seditionist Dominican friars who had incited the massacre were stripped of their religious orders and were burnt at the stake.

There are reports that the São Domingos Convent was closed down during the eight years that followed, and all the representatives of the city of Lisbon were expelled from the Council of the Crown—Lisbon had had a seat in the Council since 1385, when King John I gave the city that privilege.

Following the massacre, a climate of suspicion against New Christians pervaild the Kingdom of Portugal. The Portuguese Inquisition was established thirty years afterward; many families of Jewish ancestry either escaped or were banished from the country. Even banished, they still had to pay for their emigration; they had to leave or sell their properties to the Crown, traveling only with the luggage they could carry.

After the massacre, New Christians of Jewish ancestry still felt deep allegiance to the Portuguese monarch.

TOP TEN JEWISH DESTINATIONS IN PORTUGAL!:

  1. Lisbon – It is believed that Jewish life began here in the 8th century. Visit the Teatro Nacional D. Maria II (National Theatre) in Rossio square. Experience an authentic Fado dinner at a fantastic dinner in Lisbon.

  2. Cascais – Take a picturesque view of this beautiful coastal town while traveling from Lisbon to Sintra

  3. Belem – Tour the Belem Tower which was commissioned in the 15th century by King John II to be both part of the defense system at the mouth of the Tagus and as a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon.

  4. Sintra – Due to its artistic, botanical and historic richness, the central landscape is part of the UNESCO list. Sintra had a very representative Jewish Community and we still can find the site of the Jewish Quarter - "Beco da Judiaria".

  5. Evora - A city which is itself a living museum, Evora has a historical center that has been classified by UNESCO as World Heritage. The city was conquered from the Moors in 1165 by Gerald the Fearless (Giraldo o Sem Pavor, a Christian knight in the service of the first king of Portugal) and, by the end of the 15th century, it had one of the largest Jewish quarters in the country.

  6. Crato – This is a place where history blends with legend, transporting us back to the roots of the Portuguese kingdom. Consider an overnight stay in this historical city at the Monastery of Santa Maria Flor da Rosa.

  7. Marvao – Take a walking tour of Marvao, an impressive fortress town that served as an entry point to the thousands of Jews that fled Spain in the 14th and 15th centuries.

  8. Castelo de Vide – Explore the largest Jewish community that existed here in the 14th century. At the corner of Rua da Judiara and Rua Da Fonte stands a medieval synagogue. Visit the archeological museum and see the original 14th century stone arch for the Torah.

  9. Belmonte – Visit the Bet Eliahu Synagogue for Kabbat Shabbat service or take a walking tour and visit the Jewish museum or other monuments in this significant community of cryptic Jews.

  10. Tomar – Visit the national monument of Abraao Zacuto museum which was a synagogue in the 15th century.

SUMMARY:

Jews in Portugal early in history, were well tolerated by the ruling monarchs. Many of the well to do Merchant Mariners held positions in the Kings court. It wasn’t until the fourteenth century that the fate of the Portuguese Jews was in peril. It should be noted that some authors claim that Christopher Columbus was Jewish and that he intended to take Jews to the new found land, but was unsuccessful on a grand scale. Although many Jews did emigrate to Brazil, and the Carrabin Islands to escape the Pogroms in both Spain and Portugal. That leads to my preamble in my next essay to discuss a little known fact that some of the most famous Pirates were Jewish and as a result of what happened to the Jews in Spain and Portugal, these pirates took revenge for the Inquisition.

 

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Stripped Cork trees

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Portugeese men

 

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Monument to the slain Jews, Lisbon Massacre

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Portugal is famous for its baked goods, especially the Nata custard tarts


This is our journey, pictures are mine, these are the places we traveled to last month. Some of the articles are mine. Others are compiled, from research and talking to the Portuguese people.

Isi Davis

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