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Book Notes: Sentenças Da Inquisicão de Coimbra, D. Frei Bartolomeu dos Mártires (1567-1582), Elvira Azevedo Mea (ed.)

Edgar Samuel

<plain_text><page sequence="1">SENTENQAS DA INQUISIC?O DE COIMBRA em metropolitanos de D. Frei Bartolomeu dos Martires (1567-1582). Edited by Elvira Azevedo Mea. Arquivo Historico Dominicano Portugues. Movimento Bartolomeano. Porto. 1982. This book comprises the sentences of the Coimbra Inquisition between the stated dates and an 82-page introduction by the editor. In practice it is a treatise on the activity of the Coimbra Inquisition during the 16th century with a documentary appendix. Taken together, they give a clear impression of the way in which the Inquisition acted during this period, when it was pretty firmly under the control of the Portuguese Crown. First of all, there is nothing stereotyped about the sentences. They show that crypto-Judaism was ex? tremely strong among the New Christians and not all that divergent from mainstream Judaism. Secondly, the Inquisitors appear to have been engaged in enforcing conformity to the Catholic Faith, rather than trying to drive the Judaizers abroad as they did under Philip II and later; or lining their own pockets; or punishing successful merchants for rising in society, as seems to have happened in the 17th and 18th centuries. Dr Mea's introduction is particularly valuable in the light it sheds both on the nature of Portuguese crypto-Judaism and on the workings of the Inquisition. The evidence gives little support to Professor Saraiva's notion that crypto-Judaism was a myth fostered by the Inquisitors, at least not in the 16th century; and even less ground for the extraordinary notion put forward by Professor Herman Salamon of New York, in his Novos Pontos da Vista pamphlet, that crypto-Judaism was introduced into Portugal from outside during the 19th century. Here we see the victims of the Inquisition Confessing to keeping the Day of Atonement, saying the Psalms without the Catholic Doxology, standing for prayer and observing the Sabbath in various ways. The distinctive practices of Portuguese crypto-Judaism are also well-entrenched at this time. The three-day Fast of Esther, which I suspect may have been introduced by the religious leaders of crypto-Judaism during the long period when they were</page><page sequence="2">Book Notes 183 negotiating to prevent the establishment of the Inquisition, and the practice of fasting on Mondays and Thursdays, which may have been linked with the compulsory taking of the Eucharist at Easter - for was not fasting on Monday and Thursday the traditional Jewish invocation against drought, and was not drought the Biblical punishment for Avodah Zarah? The pattern of persecution seems to have been a family one, as might be expected from the Inquisitors' manner of operation. There was no way in which all the thousands of New Christians could have been arrested by the three Inquisitions, so a small-scale operation was mounted, in which a few families found to be practising Judaism were hit hard and punished severely, usually by disgrace and the confiscation of property, in order to pressure the rest into conforming to the state religion, and to avoid divine punishment falling upon Portugal because of the toleration of heretical practice or lack of religious zeal in promoting the Christian faith. As well as its historic interest, this book is of value in tracing New Christian genealogies and in furnishing biographical information, by making available in a readable form a part of the decaying and almost illegible 16th-century Coimbra processos. The Dominican Order of Portugal are to be commended for subsiding this objective work of scholarship together with a series of others of the same kind. Edgar Samuel</page></plain_text>

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