by, Luisa Gomes
Lisbon Tour Guides
Are you spending a few days in Lisbon? ? Probably you never heard of a woman called Gracia Nasi. Let me introduce this amazing woman to you.
Gracia Nasi was born in Lisbon in 1510 under the name Beatriz Luna. She was born in a Jewish family, being by then called “New Christian”. The New Christians had to hide their religion and traditions, because since the end of the 15th century, officially, there were no more Jews in Portugal.
She married Francisco Mendes at the age of 18. Her husband was also a new-Christian. He was a successful banker and business man involved on the trade of precious stones and spices . His brother was his associated and was based in Antwerp since 1512.
Gracia became widow at the age of 25 and she decided to carry on with her husband business.
But in 1536 the Inquisition arrives to Portugal. She plans her departure from the country where now her life is in danger. She left in 1537 with her daughter Reyna, her sister and two nephews.
She stayed in Antwerp until 1545 taking care of the family empire but also trying to help other families that wanted to escape from the religious persecutions in Portugal. In 1545 she moved to Venezia to the Rialto area. She kept her religion inside her house and she keeps receiving and hiding Marranos. Unfortunately, she was denounced to the authorities and put in prison accused of practicing Judaism. Gracia was rescued by the nephew João Micas and she decided to move to Ferrara. It is in Ferrara that she will meet Benvenida Abravanel, niece of Isaac Abravanel and she will be involved in the publishment of Hebrew books such as the “Ferrara Bible”.
Gracia decides to move to Istambul in 1522 . The sultan Bejazet II had invited the Sephardic Jews to settle in his lands. It is here that she will embrace the Judaism and use her Hebrew name. She no longer hides who she is!
She died in Istambul in 1569 at the age of 59, at the town she had dreamed as a place where all Jews could settle and live peacefuly with religious freedom.
Grácia Nasi, “ The Lady” , used her courage, her responsibility and solidarity to help the poor and fragile people.
Homage to Dona Grácia Nasi in Tiberias