Banished from Portugal in the 16th century, during the reign of King Manuel I, in the sequence of the Catholic counter-reformation and the pressure of both Spanish catholic kings and inquisition, Jews were forced to convert to Catholicism having many of them escaped to the profound inland of Portugal, a difficult area to access at the time.
In Belmonte, at the foothills of the Estrela mountain range, the largest and highest of Portugal (2000 Meters), was established then a Sephardic Jewish community, popular as “Marranos”, that remaining faithful to their age-old culture and religion, were able to secretly preserve alive their heritage.
After the April revolution in 1974, proud of their past, they revived their traditions, establishing contact with the Jews from Israel, making official, centuries later, Judaism as their religion.
Today the Synagogue “Bet Heliahu” (son of Eliah) and the Jewish Museum (one of a kind in Portugal), are a milestone in the Belmonte landscape, where the Portuguese navigator, Pedro Alvares Cabral discoverer of Brazil in 1500, was also born.
Nowadays many Jew citizens from the Diaspora flock to Belmonte, almost six centuries after and in homage to their forefathers they are recovering their Portuguese nationality.