The Massacre of a Village

The Massacre of a Village

Antonio J. Andrade, M. Fernanda Guimarães* Translated by

During the 1700s, the village of Carção (pronounced Karssaow, in the province of Trâs-os-Montes (Behind the Mounts), northern Portugal)* had 150 households according to information collected by Carvalho da Costa, there being some who would reduce it to 120, implying that it had between 500 and 600 inhabitants.
Observe now reader, that in only the 10 years between 1691 and 1701, the Inquisition ordered the arrest of 130 New Christians there, accused of being Jews. It should be noted that all these prisoners, except for some rare cases, were working people, of the adult classes constitutive of the active population. It should also be noted that, in general, the prisons and procedures of the Holy Office were morose and involved the sequestration of the assets of the prisoners and consequently the ruination of their houses, the wasting of their farms, and the end of business contacts and networks, which very often took generations to build. Further, many people fearing being imprisoned, would abandon the village and flee abroad. Just like a good portion of those who were subjected to the Inquisition, after getting out of prison, they also looked to emigrate, seeing themselves as tarnished and humiliated, since, at any moment, there were those who reminded them of the ignominious situation of being a Jew.
Worst, meanwhile, the true tragedies occurred in the dungeons of the Inquisition. There were many who went mad there, many who became maimed and it was not rare for others to die there. Everyone, but everyone was touched, physically and psychologically. And the height of the tragedy was reached with the delivery of the prisoners to the civil authority to be “relaxed”, which is the same as saying, condemned to death by fire.
Of all this, we have clamorous examples in Carção: persons who were maimed, persons that went mad there, persons that died there, persons who chose to commit suicide…there were at least 18 who were condemned to die by fire. It seems that during those ten years, even all the forces of hell conjured against the New Christian community of Carção, which suffered a true massacre, a terrible holocaust. It is not only surprising how the community survived, but how there were people who resisted, and how 40 years later, the following generation, the sons and grandsons of these victims knew how to keep alive the flame of Marranism and demonstrate unequivocal resistance to the methods of the holy Office.
During the years of this massacre, there were moments that are important to record and correspond to public “auto de fés” in which New Christians from Carção were sentenced. Let us see:

1. As noted above, there were great waves of arrests in the years 1691-93, and all the prisoners were delivered to Coimbra. Notwithstanding, some of them were later remitted to the Inquisition in Lisbon, perhaps to deal with less common accusations. Seven such prisoners were transferred and ended up in the auto-de-fé on 16-5-1694, at the church of St. Domingo’s convent.

2. Auto-de-fé of 17-10-1694, held at the St. Miguel Square in Coimbra, the Jesuit priest Pires de Almeida preaching, 56 persons appearing, 25 of which were from Carção. Two men were condemned to the fire and one who was similarly burned, but in effigy, as he had fled to Castile and it had not been possible to capture him. He was from Carçaõ-João de Oliveira was his name, married to Catarina Pires or Lopes who was imprisoned in Coimbra from 1691 to 1694.

3. Auto-de-fé of 25-11-1696 also held at St. Miguel Square, 88 people appearing, and 43 from Carção. Fourteen were burned alive, 12 from Carção. Five were burned in effigy, one from Carçaõ. We record here the names of those victims from Carção:

* Atanásio Rodrigues, 22 years old, son of Francisco Rodrigues, nicknamed the sergeant, and Maria Lopes, married with Clara de Oliveira, who appeared in the same auto, condemned to 7 years exile in Angola.

* António Rodrigues, 45 years old, shoemaker, brother of the previous, married to Helena Rodrigues.

* Helena Rodrigues, above cited, daughter of Domingos Rodrigues and Guiomar Álvares.

* Domingos Luís, 27 years old, single, tanner, son of Gaspar Luís and Maria Dias.

* Isabel Luís, 29 years old, sister of the previous, married with Gaspar Rodrigues.

* Maria Fernandes, 31 years old, daughter of Belchior Fernandes and Violante Lopes, married to Miguel Lopes of Leão, the “Courtier” by nickname.

* Matias Fernandes, 25 years old, single, brother of the previous.

* Manuel Lopes de Leão, 36 years old, son of Francisco Lopes of Leão (burned in 1667) and of Catarina Lopes, tanner, married to Catarina Lopes.

* Maria Lopes de Leão, 54 years old , sister of the previous, married to Domingos Fernandes.

* Domingos de Oliveira, barber and dealer, 52 years old, son of Baltasar de Oliveira and Maria Lopes, married a second time with Inês Lopes.

* Francisca Lopes, 56 years old, daughter of Belchior Lopes and Ana Rodrigues, married to Luís Lopes.

* Isabel Gonçalves, 56 years old, married to Estêvão Pires, shoemaker, native of Zamora and resident in Carção.

* Manuel Henriques, the “Sendineiro” (i.e. from the nearby village of Sendin), shoemaker, married to Maria Lopes. Absent, burned in effigy.

4. Auto-de-fé of 14-6-1699, also at St. Miguel’s Square, friar Domingos Barata preacher, 88 persons appearing, 28 from Carção. Six were burned at the stake and one in effigy.

The following from Carção were condemned to the fire:

* Jorge de Oliveira, 46 years old, rent collector, widower of Maria Lopes Henriques, brother of Domingos de Oliveira, as noted above.

* Catarina Lopes, nicknamed the “worm” (i.e. silkworm), 39 years old, daughter of António Lopes, the “worm”, and of Maria Lopes, married to Miguel Luís.

∑ Bernardo Rodrigues, storekeeper, single, brother of António and Atanásio Rodrigues, who were relaxed in 1694. Bernardo had been imprisoned on 3.7.1693 and died in jail on 20.3.1695. His bones were disinterred to be burned in the fires of the auto.

5. Auto-de-fé of 18-12-1701, also at S. Miguel Square, friar Francisco Ribeiro preacher, 90 persons appearing, and two condemned to the fire. From Carção there were16 persons sentenced.

Having arrived thus far, it is up to the readers to make the necessary conclusions and find the most appropriate words for this process which we consider to be a true holocaust of a village. Needless to say, initially, the accusations that support all the cases, are basically the same: respecting the Sabbath, fasting on Kippur, participating in funeral rites…Later, alongside the interrogations, the denunciations were particularized and the cases developed. Logically, all prisoners eventually confessed to their guilt and denounced their companions. These, for their part, did the same, for they were promised mercy and forgiveness in exchange for their confessions and acts of repentance.

A new wave of arrests swept Carção in the middle of the 18th century, as has been published in previous work of the authors. This time the New Christians were accused of taking “sambenitos” from the church of their relatives burned in the autos-de-fé 30 some odd years before. (A sambenito was a sleeveless frock with a painted portrait of the condemned worn on the way to the fire. It was removed just before the person was burned and then hung in the victim’s parish church as a deterrent to others.)*
After that things calmed down, the New Christian community of Carção, the ones that survived the “massacre”, started to feel the dawn of a religious liberty with the end of the Inquisition that occurred some years later.

Antonio J. Andrade is a teacher and journalist tending his fields in Trâs-os-Montes, Portugal.

M. Fernanda Guimarães is an independent researcher at Torre de Tombo, Portugal (national Inquisition archives), and affiliated with Albert Benveniste Chair of Sephardic Studies at the University of Lisbon.

* Translator’s notes
Portuguese version of this article at