Routes of Sepharad

Routes of Sepharad

On Jun 27, 2017 it was sign the Project contract between the Regional Directorate of the Culture of the Center (Programme Operator) and the Portuguese Network of Jewish Quarters (Project Promotor).

This Project, called “Routes of Sepharad – Enhancement of the Portuguese Jewish Identity in an Intercultural Dialogue”, comes from two points. On the one hand, the immense Jewish heritage which Portugal has; on the other hand, the difficult relationship established between the population and this memories during the 20th century.  The objectives of this Project are: to provide the territory with resources, whether material or human, that will grant the recognition of this heritage’s value, with a strong economic component, but also to create mechanisms that, beyond their economic nature, will motivate and create links, valuing this heritage in mentalities, recreating their  own national identity, now in an intercultural framework.

In fact, it is undeniable the place and weight that the Jewish heritage has in the History of Portugal, whether in culture and science, or in the language itself and in the demeanour of the people, or even in the diasporic dimension, that Portugal still has today. However, after the extinction of the Inquisition in 1821, the acceptance of this inheritance was not immediate. Throughout the 20th century we find in Portuguese culture a significant group of anti-Semitic authors. This justifies that, despite a legal climate of religious freedom, the crypto-Jews still preferred to remain in the shade and not assuming their identity, fearing social stares.

The application’s presentation was a special moment in the history of this relationship with memory and identity. The creation of the Portuguese Network of Jewish Quarters and the presentation to the EEA Grants coincides with as effective awareness of the importance of this subject by a group of municipalities, assisted by tourism organizations and even by the two most significant Jewish communities.

The challenge was to use this entirely new desire to value this heritage and to make this small group a significant strength to change the national tourism strategy and to catalyse a large group of investors in finding a demanding economic niche, yet highly lucrative. Essentially, it was intended to serve as a lever for mentally building in the valorisation of this heritage as a fundamental part of collective memory and identity.

So, all these actions had a very strong defining ethical line: while during the centuries of the Inquisition in Portugal the interior territories were the most affected, thus beginning a desertification and abandonment that has come to the present days, this project has potentiated the annulment of these systematic asymmetries. The heritage of small interior communities was valued, the economy was invigorated with the participation of many businesses and entities from those areas, a regional identity, previously forgotten, was valued, the small scale job producing industry was increased, and it was also created the basis for quality tourism, differentiated and directed towards these regions which were usually seen as peripheral.

The interventions were mainly focused on recovering or equipping museological or interpretative spaces. Altogether, the Programme has allowed 16 municipalities, in Trás-os-Montes, in the Center and in the Alentejo, to be equipped with public facilities dedicated to the Sephardic memory. Since these spaces were rooted in local and regional memories, the exhibitions bridge the gap between the global, which the Sephardim helped to create, a modern, open and innovative Europe and the local: the connection to smaller social structures, families and local history.

Promotional video from Regional Directorate of the Culture of the Center of Portugal (Programme Operator)


Program “Paths” | RTP Portugal


In the Central Region of Portugal, related to the Rout of Sepharad, the following monuments can be visited and enjoyed:

  • Memorial of Aristides de Sousa Mendes life – Vilar Formoso (Almeida)
  • Recovery of Synagogue of Almeida – Malhada Sorda (Almeida)
  • House of Jewish Memory and the New Christians - Castelo Branco
  • Inter-cultural Dialogue Centre – Leiria
  • António Ribeiro Sanches House of Memory of Sephardic Medicine – Penamacor
  • House of the Jewish History of the Sabugal Border – Sabugal
  • Bandarra Museum – Trancoso
  • Recovery of the Vila Cova à Coelheira Synagogue – Vila Nova de Paiva


Other monuments related to the Routes of Sepharad:

  • Damião de Góis and the Inquisition Victims Museum – Alenquer
  • Jewish Museum of Belmonte
  • Sephardic Memorial and Archive Center – Bragança
  • Garcia D’Orta Interpretative Centre – Castelo de Vide
  • House of Jewish History – Elvas
  • Jewish Meseum of Lisbon
  • Recovery and Identification of the Hejal – Porto
  • House of the Inquisition – Reguengos de Monsaraz
  • Tomar Synagogue
  • Story Centre Devoted to the Jewish Presence in the Middle Ages – Torres Vedras