|General Council of the Holy Office of the Inquisition in Portugal
Conselho Geral do Santo Ofício
Seal of the Inquisition
Council under the election of the Portuguese monarchy
|Established||23 May 1536|
|Seats||Consisted of a Grand Inquisitor, who headed the General Council of the Holy Office|
|Grand Inquisitor chosen by crown and named by pope|
The Portuguese Inquisition (Portuguese: Inquisição Portuguesa) was formally established in Portugal in 1536 at the request of the King of Portugal, João III. Manuel I had asked for the installation of the Inquisition in 1515 to fulfill the commitment of marriage with Maria of Aragon, but it was only after his death that Pope Paul III acquiesced. In the period after the Medieval Inquisition, it was one of three different manifestations of the wider Christian Inquisition along with the Spanish Inquisition and Roman Inquisition.
The major target of the Portuguese Inquisition were those who had converted from Judaism to Catholicism, the Conversos, also known as New Christians or Marranos, who were suspected of secretly practising Judaism. Many of these were originally Spanish Jews, who had left Spain for Portugal. The number of victims is estimated around 40000.
As in Spain, the Inquisition was subject to the authority of the King. It was headed by a Grand Inquisitor, or General Inquisitor, named by the Pope but selected by the king, always from within the royal family. The Grand Inquisitor would later nominate other inquisitors. In Portugal, the first Grand Inquisitor was Cardinal Henry, who would later become king. There were Courts of the Inquisition in Lisbon, Coimbra, and Évora, and for a short time (1541 until c. 1547) also in Porto, Tomar and Lamego.
It held its first auto-da-fé in Portugal in 1540. Like the Spanish Inquisition, it concentrated its efforts on rooting out those who had converted from other faiths (overwhelmingly Judaism) but did not adhere to the strictures of Catholic orthodoxy.
The Portuguese Inquisition expanded its scope of operations from Portugal to Portugal's colonial possessions, including Brazil, Cape Verde, and Goa, where it continued investigating and trying cases based on supposed breaches of orthodox Roman Catholicism until 1821.
Under João III, the activity of the courts was extended to the censure of books, as well as undertaking cases of divination, witchcraft and bigamy. Originally aimed at religious matters, the Inquisition had an influence on almost every aspect of Portuguese life — political, cultural, and social.
In Portuguese India, the Goa Inquisition also turned its attention to Indian converts from Hinduism or Islam who were thought to have returned to their original ways. In addition, the Inquisition prosecuted non-converts who broke prohibitions against the observance of Hindu or Muslim rites or interfered with Portuguese attempts to convert non-Christians to Catholicism. It was established in Goa in 1560 by Aleixo Dias Falcão and Francisco Marques, who occupied the palace of the Sabaio Adil Khan. The coastal south Indian ancient Christian community of Malabar Nasranis was also persecuted in the Portuguese Inquisition. The Portuguese described the Malabar Nasranis as Sabbath keeping Judaizers and burnt their Syriac-Aramaic manuscripts at the Synod of Diamper.
In 1674 the Inquisition was suspended in Portugal; autos-da-fé were suspended and inquisitors were instructed not to inflict sentences of relaxation, confiscation, or perpetual galleys between 1674 and 1681, much of this by the action of António Vieira in Rome, in order to put an end to the Inquisition in Portugal and its Empire. Vieira had earned the name of the Apostle of Brazil. At the request of the pope he drew up a report of two hundred pages on the Inquisition in Portugal, with the result that after a judicial inquiry Pope Innocent XI suspended it for five years (1676–81).
António Vieira had long regarded the New Christians with compassion and had urged João IV, in which he had much influence and support, not only to abolish confiscation but to remove the distinctions between them and the Old Christians. He had made enemies and the Inquisition readily undertook his punishment; his writings in favor of the oppressed were condemned as rash, scandalous, erroneous, savoring of heresy and well adapted to pervert the ignorant. After three years of incarceration, he was penanced in the audience-chamber of Coimbra, December 23, 1667, and his sympathy for the victims of the Holy Office was sharpened by his experience of its unwholesome prisons, where he tells us that five unfortunates were not uncommonly placed in a cell nine feet by eleven, where the only light came from a narrow opening near the ceiling, where the vessels were changed only once a week, and all spiritual consolation was denied. Then, in the safe refuge of Rome, he raised his voice for the relief of the oppressed, in numerous writings in which he characterized the Holy Office of Portugal as a tribunal which served only to deprive men of their fortunes, their honor and their lives, while unable to discriminate between guilt and innocence; it was known to be holy only in name, while its works were cruelty and injustice, unworthy of rational beings, although it was always proclaiming its superior piety.
In 1773 and 1774 Pombaline Reforms abolished autos-da-fé and ended the Limpeza de Sangue (blood cleansing) statutes and their discrimination against New Christians, the Jews that had converted to Christianity, and their descendants regardless of genealogical distance, in order to escape the Portuguese Inquisition.
The Portuguese inquisition was extinguished in 1821 by the "General Extraordinary and Constituent assembly of the Portuguese Nation" .
In 2007, the Portuguese Government initiated a project to make available online by 2010 a significant part of the archives of the Portuguese Inquisition currently deposited in the Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo, the Portuguese National Archives.
In December 2008, the Jewish Historical Society of England (JHSE) published the Lists of the Portuguese Inquisition, in two volumes: Volume I Lisbon 1540-1778; Volume II Évora 1542-1763 and Goa 1650-1653. The original manuscripts, assembled in 1784 and entitled Collecção das Noticias, were once in the Library of the Dukes of Palmela and are now in the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. The texts are published in the original Portuguese, transcribed and indexed by Joy L. Oakley. They represent a unique picture of the whole range of the Inquisition's activities and a primary source for Jewish, Portuguese, and Brazilian historians and genealogists.
The archives of the Portuguese Inquisition are one of the best preserved judicial archives of early modern Europe (with notable exception of the Goa tribunal). Portuguese historian Fortunato de Almeida gives the following statistics of sentences pronounced in the public ceremonies autos da fe between 1536 and 1794:
|Tribunal||Number of autos da fé with known sentences||Executions in persona||Executions in effigie||Penanced||Total|
These statistics, although extensive, are not wholly complete, particularly in the case of Goa. The original documentation of this tribunal is almost entirely lost. List of autos da fé in Goa presented by Almeida has been compiled by the officials of the Inquisition in 1774, but is certainly only partial and does not cover the whole period of its activity. Some minor gaps concern also the remaining tribunals, e.g. there is no usable data about some fifteen autos da fé celebrated in Portugal between 1580 and 1640, while the records of short-lived tribunals in Lamego and Porto (both active from 1541 until c. 1547) are yet to be studied.