Engraving by Jean Picard, 'Manner of Burning'*
Lisbon, Praça do Comercio (Blackhorse Square) before the great earthquake of 1755

* (The vicitms of the Inquisition did not actually burn to death, they were slowly roasted, death ensued usually after 2.5 hours!)



This 3-hour heritage walking tour starts in the Rossio, near the palace of the Inquisition and ends in the Judiaria of Alfama. Jews have lived in the Iberian Peninsula long before the Christian conquest of Lisbon in 1147. For the first three centuries after the birth of Portugal they prospered and served their king and country. They were shoemakers, doctors, astronomers, cartographers, boticaries, poets, blacksmiths, jewellers, traders, lawyers, financiers, civil servants, government ministers, dyers, tax collectors, tailors, etc. By 1492 they made up approximately one quarter of the Portuguese population.

Then fanaticism and intolerance reared its ugly head. First the Catholic monarchs kicked the Jews out of Spain in 1492, then Portugal in 1496. But the Machiavellian Portuguese King, Manuel I, had a plan. He had no intention of losing his most valuable subjects, so he made them all Catholics, one country, one religion.

In 1497 he forcibly baptized all the Jews of Portugal. He permitted only a few to leave, such as Abraham Zacuto, his personal physician and astronomer who developed the navigational tables that enabled Vasco da Gama to reach India and propelled Portugal into a world power.

After 1497 there were supposedly no more Jews in Portugal, only New Christians or Marranos, that is to say, Catholics on the outside but Jews in their hearts. The king expected to solve the Jewish ‘problem’ in a generation but the Marranos survived the flames and torture of the Inquisition for over 250 years, even though many were burned alive. In 1506 between 2,000 and 4,000 New Christians were slaughtered during three days of rioting in Lisbon. The national archives contain over 40,000 Inquisition files.

Come learn their story on this tour. You will also learn about the origins and destruction of downtown Lisbon as well as historical monuments and architecture.

Rossio, National Theatre, formerly the Palace of the Inquisition

Judiaria of Alfama