Goa Inquisition: How Inquisition came to Portugal

 Goa Inquisition: How Inquisition came to Portugal

Based on the book “The Goa Inquisition” written by Anant Kakba Priolkar.

In this second part of the series, we shall look at how Inquisition started in Portugal, the country from which this deadly virus spread to Goa.

Recall that under the Spanish Inquisition, the Jews were forced to leave the country. Many of the applied for a temporary domicile in Portugal. The king of Portugal at that point, D João II agreed to offer 8 months of temporary domicile to Jews for a capitation fee. 1,50,000 Jews took up the offer. 600 families obtained permanent domicile for 600,000 cruzados. Things seemed to be going fine. The Jews were working out means to find a safe haven in the next eight months.

Unfortunately, that’s when the plague struck Portugal.

There was a huge public outcry against the new immigrants who were blamed for the plague. King Joao  II was hence forced to expedite the exit of Jews. He gave them ships as promised. However, some of the captains took advantage of the situation of the Jews and abandoned them on the African coast after looting their belongings.

Some of the Jews who entered the country surreptitiously because they couldn’t afford capitation fee were caught and distributed to those who asked them as slaves. Their children aged 3-10 were snatched away to be baptized and eventually settled in the island of St Thome.

Now, the Jews who were native to Portugal became concerned by such moves. They contributed majorly to the king’s coffers in various ways. Despite living as second class citizens, they were allowed to practice their religion in the separate parts of the towns where they were housed. However, D Joao II didn’t allow inquisition in Portugal.

Sadly, for the Jews, D Joao II passed away in 1495. His only son had died four years earlier. So the throne went to his nephew, D. Manoel who was initially tolerant of the Jews. Then cupid struck him as he became enamoured by D Isabelle, who was the widowed daughter-in-law of D Joao II.

This D Isabelle was the daughter of Ferdinand & Isabelle of Spain. She harboured fanatical hatred towards Jews, perhaps due to her upbringing in Spain where Jews weren’t viewed in a positive light. Thus, when D. Manoel propositioned that they wed, the Spanish court agreed to the proposition but on one condition – Jewish fugitives from Spain be expelled from Portugal within one month. D Manoel agreed.

D Isabelle married D Manoel in 1497 and only after she was satisfied that the Jewish fugitives were expelled did she agree for the union!  Through her, the Spanish court exercised considerable sway on D Manoel. So much so that D Manoel passed an order that even the Jews native to Portugal be expelled within 10 months if they didn’t convert to Christianity. In order to encourage reporting such Jews who might stay back in hiding, D Manoel also issued an order to pass on their properties to the informants.

Turned out most of the Jews preferred exile to conversion. So another order was passed – children below the age of 14 would be taken away from Jews who left the country and given to be brought up in Christian faith. This order was later modified to include children below 20.  Initially Oporto, Lisbon and Algarve were the three designated ports for the departure of Jews. This was later restricted to just Lisbon where there was a huge scarcity of ships and provisions.

As the date of departure neared, Jews who hadn’t yet left the country pressed the King to allow them to hire ships at their own cost and leave. 20000 of them assembled at Estaos, a palace in Lisbon. More cruelty transpired here. Children who were not already taken away were now dragged away from their parents by the King’s soldiers to be baptized. Such was the cruelty that it shook the heart of the King as well.

Out of remorse, in May 1497, King passed an order that the new converts be given a period of twenty years for familiarizing them with the new faith and forgetting their old faith & that no action can be taken against them on the account of their religious behaviour.

The New Christians who feared an eventual imposition of an Inquisition slowly started converting their movable property into immovable so that it would eventually allow them to travel to safer lands.  Alarmed by this, in April 1499, edicts were passed forbidding the locals and foreigners from having any cash/merchandize dealings with the New Christians. The New Christians were not allowed to sell property, nor leave the country with their families, without the permission of the crown. Thus began their long ordeal in Portugal.

This cold animosity against the New Christians continued for a few years. In 1506, some new Christians expressed doubts about a miracle that was claimed by the old Christians. Soon cries of “Heresy” emerged, and there was a widespread riot leading to the death of 800 people on that day followed by the death of 2000 people in the next three days. These occurings had a further effect on D Manoel who increased the period allowed for the new converts till 1526 and revoked the orders that prevented the new converts from selling their property and moving out of the country.

D Manoel died in 1521.

He was succeeded by his son D Joao III, who had a profound hatred for the Jews. He put spies in Lisbon to enquire about the behaviours of the New Christians and collect evidences against them.  D Joao III got sufficient dirt from an Henrique Nunes, a New Christian himself, who had served in Spain under the inquisitor there. When the New Christians discovered the betrayal by Henrique Nunes, they murdered him.

This murder increased the popular anger against the New Christians. The faction that bore this anger got support from Queen D Catherine, who was the sister of Charles V, king of Spain. One can thus see the influence the Spanish court consistently had on the Portuguese.

Ultimately in 1531, the king moved to secure a papal bull from Rome for the establishment of the Inquisition. The bull was issued in December of 1531. But the actual inquisition started a decade later, in the October of 1541. By this time, Portugal had established colonies in India in the Goan region. Many Jews from Portugal came and settled here to explore the prospects of trade and commerce. The New Christians whose life had become hell under the harsh climate also moved to Goa. The Inquisition that began in Portugal in 1541 officially got extended to Goa in 1560. That’s when the reign of terror began for the local Hindus, that included my community, the Gauda Saraswata Brahmins.

But before moving to the Goan Inquisition, let us close the chapter on the Portuguese Inquisition with the atrocities that followed due to it – Until 1732, 23000 people were condemned to various forms of punishments. 1454 were burnt on stake. After these cruelties, Inquisition was finally abolished in 1820.

Aurva Bhargava

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