Tour Locations | The Soul of Alfama
LOCATION 56 | The Soul of Alfama
Moorish Wall & Manueline Windows 2
During the middle ages this area became the Jewish district. But in November 1496, King Manuel I married Princess Isabel, the eldest daughter of the Catholic Spanish crown. A mandatory condition for the alliance marriage was to expel the Jews from Portugal.
So King Manuel I decreed the expulsion order and the Jews had to leave the country by the end of the following year. If they didn’t, they would be condemned to death and their properties would be confiscated by the crown. The same expulsion had already happened in Spain four years earlier, with a huge part of the Spanish Jewish community seeking refuge in Portugal.
Up until then, the Jewish community benefited from a relatively tolerant and peaceful environment, because many Jews were mathematicians, doctors and astronomers from King Manuel’s team.
But the decision did not reach consensus in the State Council, which warned of the country's capital drain, because it was a very valuable community. Intending to retain the Jews in Portugal, the king then ordered that those who would convert to Christianity could remain in the country. The ones that remained and accepted those conditions were then know as “New Christians” and were given new names. They were given twenty years to lose their traditional Jewish customs, a promise which proved hollow over the next decades of prejudice and imprisonment. Nevertheless, many of the New Christians persisted, in secret and at great risk, in their beliefs.