We cannot speak of Portuguese gastronomy without mentioning sausages. From chorizo to black pudding, through farinheira, no one refuses a good sausage.
But among the various sausages, there are two that we can find only in Portugal: the alheira and the farinheira. The difference with the other sausages is in the fact that, when they were invented, these two sausages were produced without pork. Nowadays the original recipe is not always respected, but in its origin the farinheira was prepared with flour, wine and spices and the alheira with game or poultry meat, bread and spices.
But what is the origin of the idea of producing a chorizo without pork?
The story begins in 1492, when Fernando de Aragão and his wife, Queen Isabel of Castile, conquered the last Moorish bastion of the Iberian Peninsula – Granada – and invaded the Alhambra Palace. Profound Catholics, kings believed that practicing Jews could encourage those who converted to Christianity to return to their original religion. They hired interrogators to pursue Jews in their kingdom: we are talking about the Spanish Inquisition.
Faced with the Spanish Inquisition, Spanish Jews fled to Portugal, where King D. João II gave him hospitality until the 16th century. At the time of the Great Navigations, the Jews played an important role in the discoveries in Portugal, collaborating with the opening of new maritime and commercial routes.
This was the main reason for D. João II to allow refugees to enter in the Portuguese territory. The number surpassed 120 thousand people, according to the official site of the country’s Jewish Network. Some went to stay and others used Portugal as a transit.
With nowhere to go, the Jews of the Iberian peninsula found a way to circumvent the punishments of kings by pretending to be Christians. Thus, they participated in the Masses, discussed excerpts from the Bible and wrote their texts in Hebrew, never in Aramaic. From 1496, Portuguese Jews were also forced to convert or, alternatively, to leave the country. For the next ten years, more conservative citizens killed Jews daily. In 1536, the Inquisition formally arrived in Portugal and both Jews and converted Jews (the so-called New Christians) were captured and burned alive on the pyre, in front of a sea of people, in Rossio.
Jews began to hide and form communities in which they pretended to be Christians: they wrote in Hebrew and pretended Catholic rituals so as not to arouse suspicion.
But in Trás-os-Montes, the disguise was more original.
One of the main ways that members of the Inquisition had to discover fugitives was to understand whether they ate pork or not – because the Jewish religion forbids their consumption. In Mirandela, 426 km from Lisbon, it was common for families to leave bunches of pork sausages outdoors and, thus, it was easy to identify “foreigners”. The Jews then created a “sausage” made with bread and chicken, which looked like the traditional pork sausage, the alheira, which deceived royal officials for many years.
The original recipes demand many pieces of bread, because it was the way found by the Jews to give consistency to the sausage. Inside it were beef, chicken, rabbit, turkey or duck. Then, when the inquisition ended, the alternative sausage would have fallen in the use of the Iberian Christians themselves, who started to eat it and incorporated it into typical dishes – today, it is considered one of the seven gastronomic wonders of Portugal.
And from the Trás-os-Montes mountains it spread to the rest of the country.
Nowadays, the alheira is served with french fries, rice and a fried egg on top.
The Church of São Domingos, a baroque church located in the historic center of Lisbon, next to Praça do Rossio, dates from the 13th century and, in addition to being an important church because royal weddings were celebrated here, is also the protagonist of a history that still makes us shiver today.
The first stone of the Church of São Domingos was laid in 1241, and since then, it has undergone successive restoration and expansion campaigns.
The architectural style of the Church of São Domingos is a mixture of the different periods and influences that shaped it, including in 1748, with the reform implemented by Frederico Ludovice to the chancel, as well as the subsequent reconstruction work by Manuel Caetano Sousa and the reconstruction works that took place after the great fire of 1959. Of the various elements that constitute it, the Mannerists and Baroque stand out.
This Baroque church is classified as a National Monument. It contains mannerist features, with a single nave in a Latin cross, a prominent transept, a rectangular chancel, a circular crypt, a cloister and a sacristy. The exterior is characterized by the simplicity of lines and the interior is rich and eclectic, highlighting its large columns, marble and tiles.
But it is a story that happened here more than 500 years ago that has marked the history of this church forever.
It was in the Church of São Domingos that one of the darkest episodes in Lisbon’s history began: the massacre of the city’s Jews in 1506.
On April 19, 1506, the faithful filled the church, calling for an end to the drought and plague, when a light entered the church and someone said they saw the face of Christ illuminated. Soon everyone started shouting that it was a miracle. In the midst of this, there was a dissenting voice: a new Christian, that is, a Jew who was forced to convert, tried to argue that it was just a physical phenomenon, caused by the reflection of light. Enraged, the crowd turned on him and beat him to death.
It was the beginning of three days of slaughter in the city of Lisbon. The story goes that the Dominican friars cried out against the Jews and urged the people to kill the “heretics”. Many people had already left the city because of the plague, but those who stayed, to which were joined many passing sailors – “of ships from Holland, Zealand, Germany and other place”, wrote Damião de Góis -, did not spare the Jews who crossed their path. Men, women and children were tortured, massacred and burned at the stake, many of them right there near the Church of São Domingos. Between 2,000 and 4,000 Jews are said to have died.
Damião de Góis wrote: “And since they were unable to find new Christians on the streets, they went to rob the houses where they lived and dragged them to the streets, with their sons, women and daughters, and threw them into the mix, alive and dead, at the campfires, without mercy. ”
25 years later, in 1531, a terrible earthquake damaged the church, that was restaured. In 1755, the great Lisbon earthquake damaged the church once again and badly. And it was not the last tragedy. A fire occurred on August 13, 1959.
When the church was rebuilt (it reopened in 1994), it was decided to leave the marks of what had happened. Today the burned walls remind us of the story of the massacre of 1506 – as if the words of hatred of the Dominican friars and the sound of the angry mob and the screams of the Jews still echoed.