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Manuel I°

MANUEL I° (1469–1521), king of Portugal 1495–1521. He was termed Manuel the Great because of the achievements of his reign: Vasco da Gama's discovery of the sea passage to India via the Cape of Good Hope (1498) and the acquisition of Brazil (1500). For the Jewish citizens, however, Manuel's reign brought an end to their life in Portugal. Initially Manuel was well disposed to Jews. He retained the esteemed Abraham b. Samuel *Zacuto as his astronomer, and removed the Jewish disabilities imposed by his predecessor John II. But in 1496 the king entered a politically motivated marriage with Princess Isabella of Spain, daughter of *Ferdinand and Isabella, who made their consent conditional to Manuel's ridding Portugal of the Jews. On Dec. 4, 1496, an edict was passed ordering every Jew to leave Portugal before November 1497, on penalty of death. Manuel assured the Jews of every assistance in travel and free departure with their belongings. As the mass emigration got under way, Manuel realized that the loss of his Jewish citizenry would have dire economic results for Portugal. To stem the departures, he ordered all Jews desiring to emigrate to come to Lisbon, supposedly for embarkation. When some 20,000 had convened in Lisbon, Manuel herded them together for forced conversion. On May 30, 1497, he decreed that the Conversos would be free from the Church's discipline for 20 years. When the king learned soon after that the Conversos were emigrating in large numbers, he quickly withdrew their liberty to dispose of property and emigrate. When some 4,000 of the *New Christians were massacred by a Lisbon mob in 1506, Manuel responded by executing the Dominican friars who had incited the riot, and restored all previous rights and immunities to the New Christians, only to reverse his decision in the year of his death.


Graetz, Hist, 4 (1894, repr. 1949), 372–81, 485–8; Roth, Marranos, 55–66, 86, 196; M. Kayserling, Geschichte der Juden in Portugal (1867), 120–56, 334; J. Mendes dos Remedios, Os Judeus em Portugal (1895), 275–342; S. Usque, Consolation for the Tribulations of Israel, tr. by M.A. Cohen (1965), 5–7, 202–5.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.