Inquisition and New Christians in Brazil

Exhibition

05.12.21 — 29.05.22

Since the 1st century CE, there are records of the presence of Jews on the Iberian Peninsula. For centuries they lived, prospered and participated in politics and the economy, contributing to the development of the region. Thanks to the coexistence of Jews with Christians and Muslims, the Iberian nations (Portugal and Spain) flourished intellectually and culturally.

However, the Christian Reconquista and the new policy led to conflicts that culminated in the expulsion of Jews from Spain, in 1492, and in their forced conversion to Catholicism in Portugal, in 1497.

But, even after abdicating their Jewish faith, many New Christians sought to preserve their traditions secretly over the almost 300 years of church imposed social and religious control.

With their ideas, literature and secret practices, they challenged the partnership between the crown and the church, of which the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition was the instrument of control. Many came to Brazil in search of opportunities for a life far from the eye of the Inquisition. Despite the discriminatory legislation, they integrated into colonial life, occupied public posts and assisted in the development of the economy, agriculture and commerce, forming an intellectual elite. The Holy Office, however, tracked them down and returned many Luso-Brazilian New Christians to the prisons of Lisbon.