The Inquisition came very much later to Portugal than to Spain. Taking advantage of the easier conditions there, many Spanish New Christians had crossed over the frontier into Portugal where their beliefs and religious practices were not at first subjected to close scrutiny. Strictly forbidden to leave without a royal license, only comparatively few of Portugal's New Christians managed at first to slip away and seek refuge overseas.

Antwerp (Belgium), which though under Spanish rule had no Inquisition, attracted some who settled there under the protection of a safe-conduct issued by Emperor Charles V in 1526. An escape route through Antwerp was established for Marranos who could obtain permission to leave Portugal for Flanders. They then proceeded overland sometimes through Italy and the Balkans until they could take ship for freedom in Turkey. A boatload of such refugees arrived in Ragusa (Dubrovnik) in 1544; and by 1564 it appears that there were few Italian cities in which Marranos could not be found.

The Ottoman Empire remained the prime goal for those wishing to return to Judaism; and Rhodes, conquered by the Turks in 1522, became a transit destination for New Christians and a place in which many Marranos returned to their preferred religion. Those among the New Christians who feared the Inquisition, but lacked the burning desire to renounce their baptism, sought asylum in other places, where they might simply dwell in peace. They spread out from Antwerp into Germany, settling in Cologne, Hamburg, Emden, Altona and Glückstadt; and some penetrated to Scandinavia. At first they all continued to live as Christians; though some eventually returned to Judaism.



From: Roth, Cecil. Doña Gracia of the House of Nasi. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1948.



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