Book Comment: Carção, The Capital of Marranismo

A new book in Portuguese, entitled, Carção, The Capital of Marranismo, was recently launched in the village of Carção, in the province of Tras-os-Montes (behind the mountains), in northeastern Portugal.

The book, 198 pages long, is based on primary research of 50 Inquisition files out of 250 cases from Carção held at the national archives at Torre de Tombo in Lisbon. Written by Maria Fernanda Guimarães and Julio Andrade, the work is based on Fernanda’s research at the archives. Fernanda, a retired travel executive, works full time studying and transcribing archival records at Torre de Tombo.

The Inquisition files are quite detailed and in most cases in excellent condition. The files, totaling approximately 40,000 cases, read like modern-day court transcripts, rich in details of family genealogy, assets and business interests of the accused, Jewish rituals the accused allegedly participated in, the food they ate, the torture they underwent, particulars of sentencing, etc. The records survived the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755 because they were housed in St. Jorge’s castle, high up on a hill east of downtown Lisbon (Baixa), which was destroyed by successive quakes, a tsunami and three days of fire starting November 1, 1755. The largest Judaria in Portugal had been located in the area destroyed.

Portugal’s national educational TV channel, RTP2, filmed a 10-minute segment on the book launch and story about the Jews of Carção, with some great interviews of older local people who identify themselves as Jews to this day. The book launch, attended by over 100 people in a village of 400, included the local reeve and mayor who are sponsoring Fernanda in further research and who wish to reclaim the area’s Jewish heritage to promote cultural tourism. The interview with the book’s authors relates the story of a secret rabbi who travelled to Livorno to get instruction and brought books. He was the head of a Catholic confraria (fratenity) which was a cover for the secret Jews of Carção to carry out their rituals, including one entitled missa seca, (dry mass). See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eDlkoY5S6M

To see the cover of the book and read more about its contents, see the blog of the friends of Carção (http://almocreve.blogs.sapo.pt/24786.html).