Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Inauguration of a memorial to the Jewish victims of the 1506 massacre in Lisbon

"Among these were two Dominican friars, who went through the city of Lisbon with crucifixes on their shoulders, inciting the people...they attacked the weak and defenseless group of ill-baptized New Christians with spears and unsheathed swords. They killed four thousand of them, robbed them..they maimed them, dashed children against walls and disembered them, defiled women and girls and then killed them. They threw many pregnant women out of windows onto spearpoints awaiting them below..."

Consolation for the Tribulations of Israel, by Samuel Usque, 1553, Ferrara (translated from the Portuguese by Martin A. Cohen, Jewish Publication Society of America, 5737-1977 (Ladina))

The Massacre, from EJP:
"Historians estimate that between 2,000 and 4,000 "New Christians" - Jews who were forced by the state to convert in 1496 - were thrown into pyres set up across the city centre before authorities regained control of the Portuguese capital.
The violence erupted on April 19, 1506 after a man believed to be a "New Christian" suggested that a light emanating from a crucifix at a chapel was likely caused by natural causes instead of divine intervention as thought by many Christians.
He was dragged from the church by a group of women who beat him to death, according to several historical accounts.
A priest then made a fiery sermon against "New Christians" while two other priests, crucifix in hand, marched through the cobblestoned streets of Lisbon inciting people to kill them.
In the ensuing violence even Catholics who were thought to look like "New Chistians" were killed or saw their homes destroyed.
King Manuel, who was outside of the Portuguese capital when the massacre began, ordered the ringleaders rounded up and hung while those convicted of murder or pillage received various corporal punishments.
When the king forced the Jews to become Christians, many of them decided to leave the country, including a number of highly educated people, such as the astronomer and mathematician Abraão Zacuto, who went to Turkey, and Baruch Espinosa's (Spinoza) parents, who went to Holland.
The massacre highlights the growing unease in Portugal at the time with "New Christians." Spain had launched its Inquisition in 1492 which aimed to expel or forcibly convert to Christianity all Jews and other non-believers, prompting thousands to cross the border into Portugal where they sought shelter.
But nearly five decades later Portugal launched its own Inquisition which led hundreds of Jews to be tortured or burned at the stake in the 16th and early 17th century after being accused by church tribunals of being heretics.
The forced conversion of Jews together with the Inquisition drastically reduced the number of Jews in Portugal, leading the memory of the "Lisbon massacre" as it has come to be known to fade.
"Since Jewish culture practically disappeared from the country, there was no one to evoke the memory of the massacre," author Richard Zimmler, who has written novels set against the purge of Jews in Portugal, said in an interview published in daily newspaper Público last Sunday. Some historians estimate that 20 percent of Portugal’s population, or 200,000 people at that time, before the start of the Inquisition were Jewish.
Many were successful traders and scientists whose international visibility made the term "Portuguese" be synonymous with "Jew" at the time.
Today there are just some 3,000 Jews in Portugal, a nation of just over 10 million people. Most are concentrated in Lisbon and the majority came to the country after Portugal’s Inquisition was officially abolished in 1821."
Read more on Friends of Marranos

1 comment:

Bennauro said...

Moving! So moving, Philo!