The Jewish community in Portugal, of unquestionable cultural and financial value, contributed actively to the development of the country. From the late fifteenth century, persecutions, convictions, and forced conversions, destroyed this community. However, many of those who were then nicknamed “New Christians” continued, in the secrecy of their homes, to honor their religion and to impart orally prayers resisting assimilation.
The Portuguese Jewish heritage is more than just the history behind it, or the simple fact of its existence before Portugal became a nation. In fact before 1147 in Lisbon, there was a large nucleus of Jews with synagogues and infrastructure to support their Jewish life. In the 5th century the Jews were already expelled by the Visigoths or forced to be converted and only in the 7th century some communities were re-established between, Leiria and Lisbon. Some Jews were military leaders in Morocco, Ibn Yachya, then for the 1st King of Portugal, Afonso Henriques he was rewarded for services fighting against the moors, and became the Lord of a village colonized by the Jewish warriors who followed him who fought alongside the Christians and their Portuguese brothers after the taking of Obidos in 1148. By the time all the mosques all along Portugal were changed to Cathedrals, something that will happen later on in the 15th century, when King Manuel ordered the transformation of all Synagogues into churches, the extinction of all Jewish quarters and the Jews began to be called New Christians.
The truth is that they never stop to attend their own believes or the quest for a better life always supported and with the purpose to keep their own religious traditions in secrecy, to preserve their Jewish identity. These religious traditions in secrecy were the key to survive to all of them. These secret Jews started a secret Hebrew culture that would become, the Crypto-Judaism, a unique Jewish culture that defines the Portuguese Jews over the inquisitorial centuries.
Discover the hidden gems of Jewish Portugal! Experience the hidden history of the Crypto-Jews, how they managed to escape the Portuguese inquisition and somehow kept their religious traditions century after century to the next generations! Explore with us the unique places of Jewish communities, the secret Synagogues, and find out how they have managed to communicate between them using the Kabbala; numbers, letters, symbols, like secret codes engraved on the frame doors. These religious traditions in secrecy were always with the purpose to preserve their Jewish identity. These secret Jews started a secret Hebrew culture that would become, the Crypto-Judaism, a unique Jewish culture that defines the Portuguese Jews over the inquisitorial centuries.
Some of these communities were hidden for more than 400th years resisting and being resilient to the persecutions and still kept their faith in spite of showing to the outside that they were Christians. Marriages were done inside the community that results in some handicap problems for some of the newborns.
Travelling all along this hidden legacy, through the most unexpected places is a unique chance for you to explore the Jewish History in Portugal. Let us guide you through a magnificent historical legacy, discovering your ancestral routes and walking in the footsteps of your ancestors. Learn the ancient traditions and ways of life of your ancestors, whilst discovering the lands they called, and still call, home.