An online Museum that displays special exhibitions, and aims to become “the largest consolidated resource for Jewish Portuguese artifacts and information in the world.” The MPJH has developed extensive institutional experience in preservation, conservation and collections management, supporting the fulfillment of its mission to present and preserve the material culture of Portuguese Jews.
Based on the Spanish model and founded in 2011, a national network linking former Jewish quarters and heritage sites in 18 towns around Portugal: Alenquer, Belmonte, Castelo Branco, Castelo de Vide, Elvas, Évora, Fornos de Algodres, Freixo Espada à Cinta, Guarda, Lamego, Lisboa, Penamacor, Penedono, Sabugal, Tomar, Torres Vedras, Trancoso, Vila Nova Foz Côa
Evidence has been discovered that Jews lived in Portugal as early as the 4th or 5th century CE.
You can find information on most Jewish heritage sites in Portugal by following the links above. Here below we note places that have their own web sites or other web resources.
Portuguese archipelago of nine islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
In Ponta Delgada on the island of San Miguel and the capital of the Azores, there were once five synagogues but only one, the Shaar Hashomaylum Synagogue, at 16 rua de Brum, remains. It was built around 1820 and consecrated in 1836; it reopened in April, 2015 as a museum and archive devoted to Jewish history in the Azores..
Jewish cemeteries are known to exist on San Miguel and several of the other islands: on Fayial (a Jewish cemetery established in 1852, had at least 17 graves remaining in 1991); Flores; Terceira.
A farming and wine-making area in the northern province of Beira Alta, Belmonte is the spiritual center of Crypto-Jewry, a place where an entire community of Conversos kept large parts of their faith intact and, after 500 years, returned to it en masse.
In recent years, Jewish culture has been revived in Belmonte. A new synagogue, a striking building of white stone with a red-tiled roof, stands at the edge of the old Jewish quarter. Services take place every night in summer and there are Shabbat and holiday services throughout the year. There is also a mikveh in Belmonte, as well as a Jewish Museum.
Belmonte Jewish Museum and Adriano Vasco Rodrigues Jewish Studies Center (Museu Judaico de Belmonte/Centro de Estudos Judaicos Adriano Vasco Rodrigues)
Rua da Portela 4
Tel: +35 (0) 275 088 698
This city was a famous center of Hebrew printing in the 15 century. Samuel Porteira published the first printed book in Portugal, a Hebrew edition of the Pentateuch, here in 1487. Faro is the capital city of the Algarve province of Southern Portugal, from which Jews were expelled in 1497. Many continued to live there as Conversos and resettlement began in the early 19th century. A few Jews live there today, but there is a Jewish cemetery dating from 1820 and a small Jewish museum.
Tel: +35 (0) 289 829 525
This institution, located on Rue Leao Penedo, next to the hospital, encompasses the Jewish cemetery and the small Jewish museum in the cemetery’s tahara house, and it works to restore and maintain these places as well as carry out other projects. The cemetery, opened in 1820, is listed as a Place of Public Interest in the Portuguese’s National Register of National Historical Monuments.
The land for the cemetery was purchased in 1851 by three community leaders: Joseph Sicsu, the chazan (cantor), Moses Sequerra, and Samuel Amram. The Jewish calendar date 5638 (1878) above the entrance gates is thought to be when the cemetery wall was constructed. The cemetery had fallen into neglect by the 1980s. Isaac ‘lke’ Bitton, a native of Lisbon, founded the Faro Cemetery Restoration Fund in 1984 and raised funds for a restoration in 1992-3. The small Jewish museum was set up as part of the restoration. The museum exhibit includes furniture from former Faro synagogues.
The capital is home to the country’s main Jewish community.
Shaaré Tikvah Synagogue
Rua Alexandre Herculano, 59
Inaugurated in 1904 and designed by Miguel Ventura Terra, the synagogue was the first synagogue to be built in Portugal since the 15th century. Its facade faces an inner courtyard because at the time the state banned non-Catholic houses of worship from fronting on the street. It underwent restoration in the past decade.
Rua Afonso III, 44
Founded in 1868, this is the cemetery still used by the Jewish community. Its grave markers are generally horizontal, in the Sephardic fashion.
The first burial here took place in 1804, and the cemetery was used until 1865. Clean-up and restoration work, including strengthening the walls, took place in 2010 and 2014. It has about 150 graves, mostly horizontal in the Sefardic style.
Portugal’s second largest city, Porto was spared by the earthquake that destroyed much of medieval Lisbon and thus its old city is intact — including the streets of the former Jewish quarter. It was in northern Portugal that the largest numbers of Conversos lived, and in the 1920s Porto was the center of a modest Jewish cultural revival, under the leadership of an army captain, Arturo Carlos de Barros Bastos. Bastos left behind a small community almost entirely descended from Conversos, and the magnificent Kadoorie Synagogue, the largest active synagogue in Iberia, where a Jewish Museum opened in 2015.
Rua de Guerra Junqueiro 340
Built by Lord Kadoorie of Hong Kong in honor of his wife, the synagogue was intended as a home for Portuguese Conversos. Set in a large garden dominated by towering palms, it is a an almost fortress-like square stone building with an entrance made up of a series of arches. The grand interior, under a large cupola, is marked by azulejos – the tiles for which Portugal is famous. Blue tiles line the side walls, and the eastern wall features gold tiles in arabesque patterns above an Ark with wooden doors. Just above the Ark is a large Star of David. The small Jewish community holds services there, and a new mikvah was opened in 2007. A Jewish Museum opened in the synagogue in 2015.
This small, historic town in central Portugal is the site of the oldest existing synagogue in the country. Built in 1438, it functioned as a synagogue until 1496. Later it was used as a prison and then as a church. In the late 19th century it became a hay loft and then a grocery warehouse. In 1921 the building was declared a national monument and in 1939 the owner donated it to the state for use as a museum. A mikveh was discovered during excavation of the outbuilding in 1985. The Abraham Zacuto Luso – Museo Hebraico, a Jewish museum, is now housed here. Abraham Zacuto was a Jew who became court astronomer in Portugal after fleeing Spain in 1492. His astronomical tables were used by Columbus on his voyages of discovery.
The museum holds Judaica, fine art, several medieval Jewish gravestones, important architectural fragments from other buildings, including an inscribed stone from 1307 believed to have come from the Lisbon Great Synagogue (destroyed in the earthquake of 1755) and a 13th-century inscribed stone from the medieval synagogue in Belmonte.
Rua Dr. Joaquim Jacinto, 78
The web site of the synagogue includes a downloadable PDF brochure of the building, museum and Jewish quarter.
A number of carved Jewish symbolic markings have been found in Trancoso, particularly associated with the medieval Casa do Gate Negro, the former Rabbi’s house, which may also have been used as a synagogue.