April 21, 1506
The three-day Lisbon Massacre comes to an end
Nine years before the massacre, the Jews in the area were forced to convert to Catholicism. The recently converted Jews were called New Christians, showing that though they were among the Catholic faith, they were still separate.
The massacre is said to have started when, during a prayer to end a recent drought, a member of the congregation swore he saw an illuminated face of Jesus upon the altar which was taken as a miraculous sign and a message from the Messiah. One of the New Christians offered a logical explanation, that candles projected the visage of Christ form a nearby crucifix onto the altar. For this suggestion, he was dragged out of the church by his hair, beaten to death, and his body burnt.
The New Christians were now held accountable as scapegoats for the drought, and all were tortured, killed, and burned at the stake. Their houses were looted, with linens and precious metals stolen. No one was spared including infants who were torn limb from limb or smashed against walls. In all, over 1900 people met violent deaths.
Members of the King’s court embarked to the site as soon as news reached them, and in the chaos the King’s squire was also killed by the locals. The locals were punished for the massacre: some were arrested and hanged, some had all their possessions taken (some of which had belong to the New Christians), and the Friars who had incited the violence were stripped of their positions within the faith then burned at the stake.
Despite the massacre, the Crown’s swift and fair justice kept the New Christians in deep allegiance to the monarchy.