Jul 22, 2022

Documents Detailing Portuguese Inquisition to Become Available Online

Rare documentation of the Portuguese Inquisition with detailed information about the sentencing trials which took place 500 years ago have been digitized for the first time in the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People Jerusalem’s National Library of Israel.

The documents include printed versions of sermons preached by two priests at the end of the trials they presided over and a bound 60-page manuscript from the 18th-century that documents the first 130 years of the Portuguese Inquisition tribunal’s activities.

The trials mainly occurred in Lisbon, with a brief mention of trials in Tomar.

Written in Portuguese, the manuscript holds information about trials conducted by inquisitors from 1540 to 1669 against Jews newly converted to Catholicism who were accused of continuing to secretly practice Judaism. Included are details of the trials including dates, names of priests who participated and numbers of victims sentenced in each one.

The document is known in English as “An Accounting of All the Autos-da-Fé that Took Place in Lisbon.”

Autos-da-fé, or acts of faith, were public spectacles in which the sentences of Inquisition victims were read and executed by the authorities.

The summaries were written at a time when the inquisitors, or someone who took part in the trials, felt the need to keep a record of the work of the Inquisition as a positive thing, noted archivist Pnina Younger. Based on the handwriting, all of the summaries were written by one person, she said.

Those summaries were later bound into a volume in the 18th century as a memorial to the cruelty of those trials, she explained. The volume also includes a summary list of the trials written on separate paper which she believes was compiled in the late 19th or early 20th century based on the handwriting and the type of paper used.

You can read more in an article by Judith Sudilovsky and published in the National Catholic Reporter web site at: