Portugal Jewish history
Portuguese Jewish history reaches back over 2.000 years ago. Jewish populations have existed in the area before Portugal became a nation, back to the Roman era.
In Portugal Jewish history, since ancient times, there were Jews. Unlike what happened in other European countries, here they found some balance and peace. Some of our Kings provided them social and economic prosperity in return of services to the Portuguese Crown. Off course they have had violent episodes such as massacres and prohibitions from the Inquisition period. Some of this episodes were the forced conversions to other religions. But, the most important prohibition of all was the fact that they couldn’t position themselves as Jewish.
Portuguese Jewish Culture In the North center area of Portugal named by Beiras is the region that Jews have lived as communities. Here they stayed for hundreds of years practicing their religion and culture in secrecy. These secret communities have created a unique Hebrew culture that would become the Crypto-Judaism. The Portuguese Jewish Culture. This phenomenon of Crypto-Jews will remain until the twentieth century. The Jewish legacy left by this people in this region is undeniable and part of Portugal’s history. From Jewish typical products, buildings and old traditions there is a Jewish historical legacy as a testimony of Portugal Jewish history. This Jewish identity is still visible in Portugal in the present days.
Jews and New Christians
Jews in Portugal as well New Christians are a prove in this ancient region by the high number of cruciform inscriptions. This is a testemony of their “Christianization” in Portugal and Jewish identity.
Different sets of houses stand out from the main churches, dating from the 15th-16th century. Inside the one closest to the Catholic temple we can find a Hekhal or Aron-ah-Kodesh (Law Cabinet) adapted by the Jews in Portugal.
Some types of cruciformes are for example, a fact of Jewish presence in different urban groups. But however, the Latin Cross, has a double interpretation in it’s decoration – Jewish and Catholic. In adition and consequently, the Star of David can be seen in manor and emblazoned houses, bridges and fountains of medieval architecture.