Twenty-five crypto-Jews were burned at the stake in Ancona, Italy on this date in 1556
Twenty-five crypto-Jews were burned at the stake in Ancona, Italy on this date in 1556. In response, Gracia (Hannah) Mendes Nasi, one of the wealthiest women in Europe and herself a Portuguese Marrano who had bribed the Pope to delay the establishment of the Inquisition in Portugal, organized a merchant boycott of the Port of Ancona, which brought ruin to the town. Gracia Mendes (1510–1569; her Christian name was Beatrice de Luna Micas) earlier had developed an escape network for hundreds of conversos fleeing Spain and Portugal to Antwerp, where she and her staff provided them with money to travel by cart and foot over the Alps to Venice and beyond to Greece, which was part of the Ottoman Empire and welcoming to Jews. She ended her life in Istanbul, and was granted a long-term lease by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent to the Tiberias area in Palestine, where she sought to reestablish Jewish settlement, commerce, and learning. New York City designated a Dona Gracia Day in June 2010, and Philadelphia followed suit a year later. Israel’s political leaders honored her for the first time in October, 2010, and Tiberias has a museum dedicated to her life.
“Gracia was a woman of singular intelligence, imagination, and perseverance, whose actions were ennobled by her unyielding faith and spiritual grace. She knew how to dream without boundaries . . .” —Marianna D. Birnbaum, The Long Journey of Gracia Mendes