The Marrano Diaspora in Italy and France



The Marranos, who were constantly threatened and persecuted by the Inquisition, tried in every way to leave the country, either in bands or as individual refugees. Many of them escaped to Italy, attracted thither by the climate, which resembled that of the Iberian Peninsula, and by its kindred language. They settled at Ferrara, and Duke Ercole I d'Este granted them privileges, which were confirmed by his son, Alfonso I., to twenty-one Spanish Marranos, physicians, merchants, and others (ib. xv. 113 et seq.).

Spanish and Portuguese Marranos settled also at Florence; and Neo-Christians contributed to make Leghorn a leading seaport. They received privileges at Venice, where they were protected from the persecutions of the Inquisition. At Milan they materially advanced the interests of the city by their industry and commerce, although João de la Foya captured and robbed large numbers of them in that region. At Bologna, Pisa, Naples, Reggio, and many other Italian cities they freely exercised their religion, and were soon so numerous that Fernando de Goes Loureiro, an abbot from Oporto, filled an entire book with the names of the Marranos who had drawn large sums from Portugal and had openly avowed Judaism in Italy. In Piedmont Duke Emanuel Philibert of Savoy welcomed the Marranos from Coimbra, Pablo Hernando, Ruy Lopez, and Rodriguez, together with their families, and granted them commercial and industrial privileges, as well as the free exercise of their religion. Rome was full of Marranos. Pope Paul IIIreceived them at Ancona for commercial reasons, and granted complete liberty "to all persons from Portugal and Algarve, even if belonging to the class of Neo-Christians." Three thousand Portuguese Jews and Marranos were living at Ancona in 1553. Two years later the fanatical Pope Paul IV issued orders to have all the Marranos thrown into the prisons of the Inquisition which he had instituted. Sixty of them, who acknowledged the Catholic faith as penitents, were transported to the island of Malta; twenty-four, who adhered to Judaism, were publicly burned (May, 1556); and those who escaped from the Inquisition were received at Pesaro by Duke Guido Ubaldo of Urbino. As Guido was disappointed, however, in his hope of seeing all the Jews and Marranos of Turkey select Pesaro as a commercial center, he expelled (July 9, 1558) the Neo-Christians from Pesaro and other districts (ib. xvi. 61 et seq.). Many Marranos were attracted to Dubrovnik, formerly a considerable seaport. In May, 1544, a ship landed there filled exclusively with Portuguese refugees, as Balthasar de Faria reported to King John.

In France

At this same period the Marranos were seeking refuge beyond the Pyrenees, settling at St. Jean de Luz, Tarbes, Bayonne, Bordeaux, Marseilles, and Montpellier. They lived apparently as Christians; were married by Catholic priests; had their children baptized, and publicly pretended to be Catholics. In secret, however, they circumcised their children, kept the Sabbath and feast-days as far as they could, and prayed together. King Henry III of France confirmed the privileges granted them by Henry II of France, and protected them against such slanders and accusations as those which a certain Ponteil brought against them. Spanish and Portuguese Marranos petitionedHenry IV of France to permit them to emigrate to France, saying that should he do so, a large number of their fellow sufferers, "good men all of them," would choose France as their home; but many Neo-Christians who entered French territory were obliged to leave within a short time. Under Louis XIII of France the Marranos of Bayonne were assigned to the suburb of St. Esprit. At St. Esprit, as well as at Peyrehorade, Bidache, Orthez, Biarritz, and St. Jean de Luz, they gradually avowed Judaism openly. In1640 several hundred Marranos, considered to be Jews, were living at St. Jean de Luz; and at St. Esprit there was a synagogue as early as 1660.