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The Pesach Lisbon Massacre of 1506


The 1506 Lisbon massacre was a massacre of converted Jews that took place in Lisbon Portugal in the spring of 1506. Because the victims were Marranos orConversos (converted Jews) and were not Jewish by religion, it  was somewhat unique among incidents of  anti-Semitic violence. Marranos often died at the hands of theInquisition. Mob violence against them was less frequent. It is also known as the Easter Massacre.

The Jews had been forcibly converted to avoid expulsion. They had reached Portugal after being expelled from Spain. Between 2,000 and 4,000 “New Christians” (also called Maranos or Conversos), Portuguese Jews who had been forcibly converted to Catholicism by order of King Manuel about 10 years before, were massacred by a mob incited by Dominican friars. In 1506, a plague that lasted for several months aroused suspicion that it was "punishment" for secret Judaizing of conversos. On April 17, 1506, several conversos ("Maranos") were discovered with  "some lambs and poultry prepared according to Jewish custom; also unleavened bread and bitter herbs according to the regulations for the Passover, which festival they celebrated far into the night." Officials seized several, but released them after a few days. The populace was disappointed.  On the same day, April 19, on which the Maranos were liberated, the Dominicans displayed a crucifix and a reliquary in glass with an odd radiance in their church. A converso who suggested unwisely that this miracle might be due to natural causes, was dragged from the church and was killed by an infuriated woman. Dominicans roused the populace. Two Dominican friars, crucifix in hand, went through the streets of the city, crying "Heresy!" and calling upon the people to destroy theMaranos.

Pogrom: Lisbon massacre of 1506
Contemporary German artist's
rendition of the Lisbon massacre.

All Neo-Christians found in the streets were killed; and a terrible massacre ensued. More than 500 Maranos were slain and burned on the first day; and the scenes of murder were even more atrocious on the day following. The innocent victims of popular fury, young and old, living and dead, were dragged from their houses and thrown upon the pyre. Even Christians who in any way resembled Maranos or had dealings with them were killed. Among the last victims, and the most hated of all, was the tax-farmer João Rodrigo Mascarenhas, one of the wealthiest and most distinguished Maranos of Lisbon; his house was entirely demolished. At least 2,000 Maranos were murdered within two days. King Manuel severely punished the rioters. The ringleaders were either hanged or quartered, and the Dominicans who had occasioned the riot were garroted and burned. All persons convicted of murder or pillage suffered corporal punishment.  their property was confiscated, while religious freedom was granted to allMaranos for twenty years. . ref; Grosser, Paul E. and Edwin G. Halpern. Anti-Semitism: The Causes and Effects of a Prejudice. Citadel Press: New Jersey, 1979, p 161; Jewish Encyclopedia A memorial to the Lisbon victims was erected on April 22, 2008 by the city of Lisbon. 2008 Report on International Religious Freedom - Portugal, United States Department of State. September 19, 2008.