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The Long Journey of Gracia Mendes

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Marianna D. Birnbaum

Chapter 3. Life in sixteenth-century Antwerp

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1In the summer of 1540, a lavish wedding was celebrated in the Onze Lieve Vrouwekathedral (Our Lady’s Cathedral) of Antwerp. The pride of the city and site of its most important events, the cathedral had a gigantic spire, which rose to nearly four hundred feet and was topped by bronze bells. The church, completed in 1521, had taken more than two centuries to build and remained the largest gothic structure in the Low Countries. If not for a fire in 1533, chances are that construction of a new cathedral with nine naves would have been underway at this wedding; however, all available resources had to be allocated to the restoration of the existing structure.

2On that day, Diogo Mendes, the famous banker and spice king, married a young and enchanting Portuguese woman, Brianda Luna, the younger sister of Beatrix (Gracia) Luna Mendes, the rich widow of Diogo’s older brother.

3Who was this elder sister who had closed her home in one country to undertake a dangerous journey to relocate with her family in another? And how is her (and her family’s) story, unique as it is, important for the understanding of early modern Jewish–Christian relations, the dynamics of early modern trade, the construction (and reconstruction) of Jewish self-identities, and of women’s history?

4To begin to answer these questions, one must consider the role of Antwerp in the trade and geopolitics of the time.

5Antwerp’s principal asset, then and now, remains its location at the estuary of the river Scheldt, about fifty miles from the open sea. Already occupied in Roman times, Antwerp was sacked by the Vikings in 836 C.E. While Ghent and Bruges (at the Swin estuary) had been the major trading centers during the Middle Ages, by the fifteenth century Antwerp, which earlier had traded primarily with Brabant, rose to prominence as Bruges declined. England could no longer satisfy the growing market for fine wool, which was needed in Bruges. Meanwhile Antwerp took over the spice trade, organized by the Portuguese, who had found a seaway to India.

  • 1 Antwerp’s Golden Age: The Metropolis of the West in the 16th and 17th Centuries, an exhibition org (...)

6The first Portuguese ship, laden with exotic cargo, reached Antwerp in 1501.1 Typical shipments included pepper, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, cloves, pimento, and medicinal spices such as ginger, as well as sandalwood, galbanum, and ivory. In the 1520s, vessels from Lisbon ported in Antwerp almost daily. In favorable weather, it took ten days for the boats to make the trip between the two cities.

7Primarily a river harbor at first, Antwerp accommodated small vessels at its Great Wharf, near the “Steen,” where a network of canals permitted passage of ships for loading and unloading. As the port became a trade center for cheap wool, cloth, linen, tapestries from the Low Countries, spices, English cloth, and German copper, the town began manufacturing silk products, imitating Italian ware. Diamond cutting, printing, and the publishing of books and maps further increased Antwerp’s commercial activity and importance.

8In the city, traders bartered for copper and silver, needed in Africa and India, with South German traders like the Fuggers, the Welsers, and the Hochstetters, entrepreneurs of the ore trade and veritable billionaires of the times. The Spaniards purchased the goods with silver from the Peruvian mines of the New World.

  • 2 Antwerp’s Golden Age, p. 12.

9Antwerp later took advantage of the growing need for cheaper cloth (woven with Spanish wool), thereby forcing the English out of competition. Having covered the market, the textile industry of the Netherlands boomed. Netherlandish farmers grew flax, which they wove into linen and marketed in Antwerp, now an international metropolis whose population had increased from 40,000 to 100,000 in 50 years.2

  • 3 The building was closed in 1533, and the so-called Old Exchange, extant today, was built in 1616.

10Along with the cloth industry, guilds also prospered, evident in the architectural splendor of Butchers’ Hall (Vleeshuis, built 1501–4), designed by Domien (Domenicus) and Herman de Waghemaekere, as well as in the more modest courtyard of the leatherworkers on the Bontwerkersplaats (on Wolstraat), whose smallish, early fifteenth-century dwellings had originally housed only the furriers’ guild. Domenicus de Waghemaekere also designed the first rebuilt Stock Exchange. Since 1485, there had been a “gemeyne Borze” in Antwerp, but in 1515, pillars of natural stone replaced the old, wooden structure to become a courtyard with a gallery. However, by about 1526, the merchants found this Old Exchange (Oude Beurs) too small and petitioned the City Magistrate for a larger area.3 By the middle of the sixteenth century, the city truly merited the epithet “Antverpia Mercatorum Emporium.”

11This prosperity, however, came to an end during the reign of Philip II (Habsburg, 1555–1598). A victim of the political and religious upheavals of the Eighty Years War (1566–1648), Antwerp lost its position of commercial supremacy to Amsterdam after 1580. Still, until the 1585 capitulation, the city thrived and continued as a center for the southern Netherlands, albeit with a much reduced population.

  • 4 See E. Scholliers, De levensstandaard in de xve en xvie eeuw te Antwerpen (Antwerp, 1960), pp. 263 (...)

12Even before the war, crises in the stock market occurred. The years 1521–1522, 1530–1531, and 1545–1546 marked times of financial insecurity.4 These economic lows necessitated the importation of wheat, barley, rye, and oats from the Baltics.

  • 5 Scholliers, p. 269.

13Despite the economic fluctuations of the first half of the sixteenth century, until 1588, prices seem to have risen less in Antwerp than in other places, thanks to its relatively easy accessibility to sea and rivers. Transportation was ten times more expensive on land than on water. Butter and cheese prices also changed little. Spice prices, however, could vary capriciously, although they increased less in the sixteenth century than other products. Working hours (12–14 hours per day) kept the labor market even. Between 1504 and 1546, the purchasing value slowly decreased, whereas between 1546 and 1586, both purchasing value and prices rose.5 During the war the value of gold and silver had dropped 70 percent, a result not of the war alone, but also of changes in worker wages and budgets.

  • 6 Scholliers, p. 272. But while the textile industry grew throughout economic fluctuations, social a (...)
  • 7 The building of the cathedral of Our Lady was completed; the churches of St. James and St. Andrews (...)

14On October 7, 1531, an ordinance by Emperor Charles V, designed to avoid a fundamental monetary devaluation after the crisis of 1530–1531, readjusted wages and falling bread prices. However, by 1532, the prices climbed back to their previous level.6 Later, the crisis of 1545–1546 actually heralded a boom of building and rebuilding in Antwerp, followed by a project of urbanization.7

15In the first half of the sixteenth century, many famous typographers were active in Antwerp, such as Michel Hillen van Hoochstraten, Willem Vorsterman and Jan Grapheus. In the second half, after Gracia had already gone, the city could boast of Christopher Plantin.

  • 8 Souterliedeken ghemaekt ter eeren Gods op alle die Psalmen Davids, (Antwerp: Simon Cock, June 12, (...)

16In addition to being a cartographic center, the city was known for printing Bibles and religious works. In 1540, a Flemish translation of the Psalms was published.8 Also, De Bijbel, in the Dutch translation of Jakob van Liesvelt, appeared in 1542, while Gracia was still in Antwerp. Liesvelt was beheaded in the same year, perhaps, because of his translation. None of those works are connected with the Mendes family. By the time Antwerp became a metropolis for the arts, Gracia and her family had already left. Although Dürer stayed in Antwerp in 1519/21, no record survives of any commission to him from the millionaire Diogo Mendes. The Mendes family, their immense fortune notwithstanding, were merchant bankers. But unlike the Fuggers, their wealth served a single purpose: to achieve security. They avoided ostentation and almost certainly always paid for protection.

CONVERSO LIFE IN LISBON AND ANTWERP

17During the boom, Antwerp, a transit center of foreign commodities, became essential for Jewish and New Christian traders, among them the family of the Mendes brothers. The townspeople of Antwerp liked to refer to themselves as “sinjoren” as if they proudly identified themselves with the Spanish overlords. However, the New Christians—or as they were pejoratively called, the Marranos—from Spain and Portugal also used that title; in fact, to the end of her life Gracia Mendes was called “la Señora.” It remains unclear which group of Antwerp’s residents first appropriated that statusconscious designation.

  • 9 There is a vast literature on the subject; therefore anything but a summary of the events is beyon (...)

18Bloody events, going back to late fourteenth-century Spain, preceded the settling of the New Christians in Antwerp. Foremost was the violence perpetrated against Jews in Seville on Ash Wednesday of 1391, and their subsequent forced conversion.9 The Edict of Expulsion of March 31, 1492, whereby all professing Jews had to leave the Spanish realm within four months, also terrified the New Christians, of whom many thousands had sincerely practiced their new faith, but had nevertheless remained suspect in the eyes of the Church.

19Jews were not new to the Netherlands. There were Jews in Huy already in the tenth century. By 1044, Jews lived in Liège, and in the thirteenth century in Brussels. Henri III expelled them in 1260, but some remained, their activities limited to trade: no money lending was permitted. The Jews also sought out the Lowlands after their expulsion from England. In 1370, the Duke of Brabant banned them, but by the end of the century, ever-larger numbers arrived from the Iberian Peninsula and other parts of Europe.

  • 10 According to Roth’s calculation, about 100,000 refugees arrived in Portugal at that time. Their to (...)

20Portugal admitted Jewish refugees from Spain and granted an eightmonth stay for those able to pay eight cruzados for each adult.10 About thirty prominent families were allowed to settle in Oporto, and about 600 families, among them most probably the Mendeses and their relatives, the Benvenistes, who paid 100 cruzados apiece, were permitted to establish residence in the towns of their choice.

21The relative tranquility Jews enjoyed in Portugal, however, ended with the marriage of King Manuel to Isabella, whose nuptial contract, signed on November 29, 1494, stipulated that the country be “purified” of Jews. A week later Jews were officially banished from Portugal and given a tenmonth deadline to leave the country.

22Not wanting to lose royal income, King Manuel issued a new order on March 19, 1497, mandating that on the following Sunday all Jews between the ages of four and fourteen had to appear in church for baptism. Actual enforcement often included other members of the families, such as parents whose baptism “of their own will” was motivated more than anything else by the desire to keep the family together. Since only about 20,000 Jews had left Portugal, the earlier refugees from Spain, too exhausted to move on yet again into another new region full of dangers and insecurities, will have constituted the majority of these new converts. With baptism, these new Christians also relinquished their Jewish names for those of their Christian sponsors, who often belonged to the nobility and who considered the enforced conversion a supreme spiritual triumph since it saved souls once destined for eternal damnation.

  • 11 In the Ferrara safe conduct (more on this in chapter 4), Gracia’s name appears as “Gracia ibn Veni (...)

23It must have been even before this time that the Mendes and Luna families, both descendents from common Benveniste ancestors, changed their names to Mendes/Miques and Luna, respectively.11 With new names and a new religion, Portugal permitted them to remain in Lisbon and prosper.

24Originally prominent and respected dealers in precious stones in the business world of Portugal, the Mendes family had increased its banking activities by the turn of the century. They became involved in the acquisition and sale of commodities, both at home and abroad, and with the transfer of payments. Indeed, they dealt in “commodities” (in the modern sense of the word) in that they transmitted clients’ money from country to country and negotiated exchanges for profit. They also loaned money on a large scale, even to royalty, accepted valuables for safe custody, and extended their services both to private individuals and to governments. To do so effectively, they had to be adept at difficult international rates and methods of exchange, including bullion, in order to gain a secure profit.

  • 12 See Roth, p. 27, for annual consignment yields. For more information and statistics, see A. A. Mar (...)

25During the second half of the sixteenth century, the Mendes family (by then also called Nasi) handled the largest share of the pepper and spice trade that extended to Italy, France, Germany, and England. With consignments of 600,000 to 1,200,000 ducats annually from their spice holdings, they also controlled the stock market in a number of countries.12

THE FAMILY BUSINESS

  • 13 Roth, p. 23.
  • 14 On a number of graphic charts, Braudel convincingly demonstrates the principal economic and financ (...)

26It is more than likely that the Lisbon massacre made the family decide on an alternate business center. By sending Diogo (1493/4?–1542/3?) to Antwerp, the family began to expand its business to the North. One of the earliest arrivals from the Portuguese converso colony, Diogo Mendes settled in Antwerp in 1512, a year after the city magistrate had given the Portuguese “nation” a splendid building on the Kingdorp to use as a center for trade activities.13 The city offered great opportunities. The hub of the spice trade, Antwerp was part of the Spanish Empire, yet eluded the interminable surveillance of the Inquisition and thereby attracted many prominent and prosperous New Christian families, among whom the young Diogo Mendes soon became the unchallenged king of the pepper monopoly.14

27Diogo, the younger brother of Francisco, had been delegated to found a branch of the Mendes enterprise at a fortuitous moment when international trade happened to be at its liveliest in the Low Countries. The young man proved to be an entrepreneurial genius: being in the right place at the right time, he created a gigantic business on an international scale.

28By the 1530s Antwerp was the true “metropolis of the West.” In addition to an ever-strengthening trade, there was a vigorous stock market, in whose hallways languages spoken from the entire world rang out. All the great banking houses, such as the Fuggers and the Welsers, had branches in Antwerp.

  • 15 See J. A. Goris, Études sur marchandes méridionales (portuguais, espagnols, italiens) à Anvers de (...)

29While Francisco and his parents were probably converted in Portugal, it is likely that Diogo was born Christian. In 1540 “Diogo’s old nurse,” Bianca Fernandez, then 75, arrived in Antwerp from Lisbon to join the family.15 Given her age at that time, she could not have nursed Diogo in Lisbon much later than in the early 1490s. Therefore, one may assume that Diogo was born shortly after the family arrived in Portugal and converted to Catholicism.

30Ample material survives on Diogo’s business activities in Antwerp, along with numerous rabbinical records (a product of later litigations between Gracia and Diogo’s widow) to shed light on Diogo’s wealth. He must have had at his disposal what today would amount to between $500 million and $1 billion. Unlike today, during his lifetime, only a few burghers controlled such vast wealth.

  • 16 Roth’s contention (p. 30) that Diogo remained in Antwerp in order to secretly help resettle the re (...)

31Instead of moving on to the Ottoman Empire where he could have freely practiced Judaism, if indeed that had been his wish, or from whence he could have aided Jewish refugees from the Iberian Peninsula, Diogo probably remained in Antwerp because of the millions he was able to amass there.16

  • 17 This issue was thoroughly discussed by the rabbis in connection with the legal case between Gracia (...)

32Although the rabbis had proclaimed that any secret Jew should move to where he could declare his Judaism, in Diogo’s case they agreed that he had committed no sin by remaining in Antwerp, despite the necessity there to conceal his faith.17

  • 18 “Los Affaittati”(Juan Bautista y Juan Carlos) son de Cremona; estableçidos en Amberes desde 1498: (...)

33For all practical purposes, the Mendes enterprise was a modern supercompany: a private profit-seeking organization operating several lines of business in very large volume in multiple, widespread locations through a network of permanent branches. Located in Lisbon and Antwerp respectively, the Mendes brothers also created temporary partnerships with other mer-chants, among them the Affaittati.18

34Diogo’s Antwerp operations extended to Italy, France, Germany, and England, where “factors,” or agents, represented the Mendes firm. Diogo also diversified his capital and often collaborated with the Fuggers or served as their trustee. His understanding of the potential gains of cash loans to monarchs in exchange for various farming and export rights, along with the recycling of the routes of merchandise as well as the loans, enabled his company to weather the political and fiscal crises in the various countries. As is known, he once lent 200,000 florins to the Portuguese factor of the Fuggers. In fact, Diogo lent the sum to the king of Portugal, who, in turn, forwarded it to the Emperor to use in the war against the Turks. The transaction is particularly noteworthy, since at that time the Sultanate provided asylum for the Jews of Europe, who had been relentlessly persecuted by the Habsburgs.

35Medieval trade, especially the organization of that overseas, was made effective largely through partnerships of countless kinds. These included one-time, quasi-partners as well as permanent employees in the countries of designation who were responsible for the effective and honest handling of affairs. It was not just convenient, but necessary to choose coreligionists for such partnerships among whom some were known from home, or for whom local coreligionists had vouched in faraway lands. In the long run, merchant communities were always multi-ethnic and multi-religious, and often when larger ventures were at stake, there was considerable cooperation among the different ethnic and religious groups. Among the conversos, as in the royal houses, where in addition to trust in business there was a question of private, personal trust, business and friendship was also cemented by marriages.

36The family business was the natural form of association, in which not only fathers and sons, but also sons-in-law, participated. Commercial agents —often chosen from among members of the more remote family—also belonged to the business and were privy to confidential knowledge of its operations. Brokers and the office of representatives completed the enter-prise. During the Renaissance, in Italy and especially in the Levant, the various consuls provided additional protection. A sophisticated bookkeeping (from 1000 C.E. on) was the sine qua non of every business. Those records, however, did not include bankers’ charges or interests received.

37Many of Diogo’s Portuguese colleagues were New Christians. With the marriage of Philip and Juana the Mad, and with the Low Countries now under Charles V, immigration gradually increased. But, at the same time, so did the danger of the Holy Inquisition.

  • 19 Mercurio de Gattimara, 1465–1530, cardinal, chancellor from 1518 to his death.
  • 20 Otto von Habsburg, Charles V (London, 1970), p. 111, based on Karl Brandi’s classic, Kaiser Karl V (...)

38The contradictory role of the Church in funding Charles V further highlights the complexities of the time. Since the estates opposed relinquishing any public funds to Charles, the emperor’s chancellor, Mercurio de Gattimara proposed creating a “reserve,” fed by contributions from the Church and overseas territories, to be put at the emperor’s disposal in case of need.19 Ironically, the fund to support Christian wars was administered by two Jews, Alonso Gutierrez and Juan de Bozmediano.20

PEPPER AND THE MENDES WEALTH

  • 21 During the sixteenth century, the conversos made great advances everywhere in the commercial world (...)

39The New Christians were more than an important asset in the commercial life of Antwerp. They also proved to be loyal citizens in times of need, contributing measurably to the prosperity and safety of the city, as well as to its cultural climate.21

  • 22 Roth, p. 31.

40Added to the merchant bankers, the Portuguese colony also boasted such scholars as the famed physician Amatus Lusitanus and the humanist poet Diogo Pires of Evora, who wrote Latin verse under the name of Pyrrhus Lusitanus and later resumed his Jewish name, Isaiah Cohen. Another remarkable man living in Antwerp, Daniel Bomberg, who was a Christian, worked as middleman in the secret transfer of crypto-Jewish wealth to Italy and the reconsignment of assets handled by the Mendes banks. He was also a printer of Hebrew books.22

  • 23 Roth, p. 23.

41Pepper, the prime commodity, was the monopoly of the king of Portugal, with the Mendes family holding virtual control over the pepper trade in the Low Countries. The monopoly provided the Portuguese Crown with one fourth of its Indies revenues.23 Moving the merchandise became easier and cheaper from port to port: the distance between Antwerp and Lisbon was 10 days “por barco,” compared to 39 “por um correio.” Not surprisingly, the kingdom of Portugal soon depended on the House of Mendes, the head of a veritable syndicate directly beneficial to the king. Emperor Charles V, by ruling over an assemblage of states and principalities, was involved in several budgets and the ensuing financial complexities.

  • 24 For details see Roth, p. 33.

42In February, 153l, however, Diogo and three others were arrested on suspicion of heresy, the easiest and most dangerous charge that could be leveled against the New Christians. Fortunately, the accused were released the same day because of an earlier safe conduct by the Emperor. But in July of 1532, Diogo was arrested again, charged with judaizing and contact with the Jews in Turkey, specifically with aiding New Christians to escape to Salonika.24 He was also charged with lèse majesté against God and the emperor.

  • 25 See Goris, pp. 526–27.

43Diogo admitted only to trading with the Ottoman Empire and to sending goods, but not people, to Ancona and Venice. He contended that the Adriatic ports were not Salonika.25 He maintained that, although of Jewish origin, he had always lived as a good Christian.

  • 26 See Grunebaum-Ballin, p. 42.

44At this juncture, the crucial role of the Mendes family in international commerce became clear. Their fall would have caused a dangerous economic chain reaction. The Portuguese consul protested that, with Mendes in jail, his king could not pay 200,000 gold ducats to the Fuggers on the emperor’s account. Simultaneously, the consuls of Spain, Genoa, Florence, and Lucca intervened on Diogo’s behalf. So did the city magistrate of Antwerp, who cited the “Charter of Privileges.” Also several merchants pleaded Diogo’s value to the city in a letter to the government, in which they referred to possible malevolence against the family “from the side of inferior competitors.”26

  • 27 Grunebaum-Ballin, p. 42.
  • 28 Bulletin d’ Archives d’ Anvers, 7: 263. According to Goris (p. 283), he had to pay less.

45The merchants were keenly aware of the profits the town derived from the presence of such a family, which “fait d’abonder la place et bourse d’Anvers.”27 Their letter emphasized the honor and reputation of the New Christians in their business dealings. Thus, much more was at stake than Diogo’s spiritual relapse. The records report that in September of 1532, after seven weeks, Diogo was set free against a 50,000 ducats bail.28 Finally, the case against him was dropped, the main accusations were not pressed, and Diogo was a free man.

46During the first indictments against Diogo, Francisco was still alive but there are no surviving records of the Lisbon family’s knowledge or involvement in attempts to free Diogo. Was Francisco advised about his brother’s precarious situation, and if so, by whom? Did Francisco contact the Portuguese king to ask for his help, or did the consul act on his own? No records survive of the Lisbon family’s knowledge or involvement in the attempts to free Diogo. Francisco himself faced difficult times, since a Bull issued on December 17, 1531, established the Inquisition in Portugal.

47On May 23, 1536, Charles V repealed the previous bulls confirming the establishment of the Office of the Inquisition. The New Christians again succeeded in securing reprieves; but they all knew they were merely buying time. Although the first auto-da-fé was held in Lisbon in 1540, crypto-Judaism flourished not just in the Portuguese capital, but also in Evora, Coimbra, Thoma, Lamego, and Oporto.

THE MOVE TO ANTWERP

48Most probably, it was still Francisco Mendes who began preparations for the move to Antwerp, the Inquisition having launched its activities during that time in Portugal. All the New Christians felt the approaching menace. Gracia’s move to Antwerp was caused not just by her husband’s death, but also by the deterioration of the family’s situation in Lisbon.

49The anti-Jewish Lisbon riot in 1506 claimed hundreds of lives. In 1515, when the king applied for the introduction of the Inquisition in Portugal, in order to avoid the worst, the New Christians tried to negotiate with the Church. Again, the Inquisition threatened in 1535 to move in on the Portuguese. At that time the papal nuncio, Marco della Rovere, bishop of Senigallia, offered to arrange that for a payment of 30,000 ducats the Pope would prohibit the Inquisition’s activities in Portugal. The deal fell through because the wealthy Portuguese New Christians, whom Rovere visited, among them the Mendes family, could not agree upon each family’s contribution. The immediate danger probably made Francisco and Gracia consider the transfer to Antwerp.

50On May 23, 1536, the Holy Office of Inquisition was established in Portugal, based on the Spanish model. The fact that Gracia left Portugal soon after Francisco’s passing supports the view that Francisco himself had initiated the move. Plans were under way at the time of his death.

51The fiasco suffered in the negotiations gave the immediate impetus for Gracia to leave. She did so, in the company of her daughter, sister, and probably two nephews, João and Bernard, although the boys might have arrived later. João (Zuan) Miykas (Miques), later known as Joseph Nasi, was the son of Gracia’s brother, the noted physician. He became the most important partner in Gracia’s enterprise. Joseph Nasi was probably born in 1524; his brother, a couple of years later.

52Francisco wanted to save his family and his fortune from the grasp of the Holy Office, but died before he could realize his plans. After his brother’s death, Diogo arranged passage to Antwerp and safe conduct through England for Gracia, her young daughter, Reyna, and her sister, Brianda. The safe conduct does not name the nephews.

  • 29 61 Although Lucien Wolf claimed in Essays in Jewish History [(London, 1934), p. 76] that the famil (...)
  • 30 The letter is addressed to Thomas Cromwell, privy counselor of Henry VIII. The Mendes widows’ requ (...)

53Whether the family indeed made a stop in England, or for what duration, cannot be firmly established.29 At any rate, they must have used one of the traditional routes from Lisbon. Most New Christians traveled to Antwerp by boat, either stopping in England, or in an effort to avoid suspicion, sailing by way of Madeira. A letter from the mayor of Antwerp dated August 14, 1537, addressed to Cromwell, contained the request for safe conduct of the Mendes women through England.30 A friend of Diogo, John Husee, would have been in charge of the women during their stay in England.

54By the time Gracia joined Diogo in Antwerp, the situation of the Lusitanian immigrants was at its best. In 1537, the New Christians from Portugal received full rights to resettle in Antwerp and were even offered protection from charges leveled against them originating elsewhere. By July, 1549, however, Charles V changed his tactics and revoked the privileges of those New Christians who had resided in the Lowlands for less than six months and ordered them to leave within a month. An ordinance of May 30, 1550, which reiterated the same, proved that the first one was not successfully executed.

Gracia’s official entry into the family business

55Gracia brought her own and her daughter’s inheritance to the family business and immediately began to participate in the firm’s activities. Through Francisco’s will, his fortune was divided between Reyna, whom Gracia represented, and Diogo. While the will mirrored Christian traditions, it also contained details that suggest secret sums spent on non-Christian causes. The spirit expressed in Vives’s De subventione pauperum had been practiced by Jews long before.

56Gracia’s entrepreneurial talents, clearly acknowledged by Diogo, prove that she had acquired ample experience in Lisbon. She probably had managed Francisco’s business affairs during his illness and after his premature death. Since it was not unusual for sixteenth-century women to engage in trading and money-lending, even if not on the scale of the Mendeses, it is not out of the question that she was involved in business affairs even earlier.

  • 31 Natalie Davies, “Boundaries and the Sense of Self,” Reconstructing Individualism: Autonomy, Indivi (...)

57After the death of Francisco, the nuclear family and the extended one merged in Antwerp. But having moved to Antwerp did not make Gracia a ward of her brother-in-law. Here, too, family played a double role, “stemming both from its patriarchal structure and from its power as a social field for placing people.”31

  • 32 Francisco’s will is referred to in letter 314, J. D. Ford, Letters of the Court of John III (1521– (...)

58According to Jewish custom, after the death of Francisco, Diogo should have married his brother’s widow. This ancient practice was especially honored and continued among the rich converso families. Beyond the pious wish to carry on the bloodline, there was also the desire to keep the family wealth together. Yet, as it turned out, Diogo chose to espouse Brianda, Gracia’s younger sister. In fact, Sephardic Jewish law would not obligate Diogo to marry Gracia, since the widow already had a living offspring.32

59One may surmise that at the age of twenty-six Gracia was either considered too old to bear a child for Diogo, or that the prettier and younger Brianda simply crossed Gracia’s plans and got herself married to their rich relative. There is, however, a third possibility, namely that Gracia arranged the marriage herself. Assuming that she spoke for her young sister, Gracia would have remained in control even after her marriage to Diogo. In any case, if there was any friction between the two sisters over the marriage, it erupted into an open clash between them only much later.

60The reconstructed Mendes household represented two lineages, Gracia’s and Diogo’s, and had therefore a dual nucleus. But the conjugal family of Diogo did not dominate, especially not after his passing. As Diogo’s executor, Gracia became the sole authority, ruling over the entire commercial and banking network, and she probably felt a double obligation, as elder sister and executor. She not only remained involved in the entire business and made executive decisions in the large, earlier common ventures but integrated her cousins as apprentices into the firm. Eventually João became the prime force of that firm, developing it into one of the greatest of foreign operations. Although these brothers had been employed earlier in the Mendes partnership, only after the death of Diogo did Joseph Miques assume a truly significant position.

61In terms of Renaissance “self-fashioning,” the importance of keeping the family together cannot be overestimated. This was especially true for those New Christians who, as secret Jews, could feel safe only among their own kind. The economic bonds connecting the brothers to the sisters underscored the bonds carried by the ties of kinship. This was true even for the intricate relationship of Gracia and Brianda, whose later financial disagreements seemed to have originated with Brianda’s marrying Diogo.

62Brianda’s daughter from her marriage to Diogo was named Beatrice— or Gracia la Chica—confirming that, at least on the surface, the sisters remained devoted to each other. Their conflict erupted with the reading of Diogo’s will and Brianda’s subsequent anger over her “disenfranchisement.”

63Contrary to Ashkenazi tradition, Sephardic Jews were permitted to name their children after living relatives. Gracia la Chica was named for her aunt, as Reyna was named for Brianda whose Jewish name “Reina” appears in the women’s safe conduct issued in Ferrara. It was customary to translate Hebrew names into their European variants. “Gracia” is the Latin equivalent of “Hanna.”

DIOGO AND THE ACCUSATION OF JUDAIZING

64The Mendes family belonged to the social elite of Antwerp, outside the aristocracy, but with access to the court. By 1539, however, the Holy Office of the Inquisition was activated in parts of Charles’s realm. Diogo began to consider a move to safer regions, especially since in 1540 a new wave of persecution was set in motion. Gaspar Lopes, a kinsman and agent of Diogo, turned informer in Italy in order to save himself from charges of judaizing. There, he charged Diogo with the same, and the subsequent uproar reached Emperor Charles.

  • 33 See Goris, pp. 343–44, 651, who lists the sequence of events as follows: accused of judaizing July (...)

65Diogo faced a new confrontation with the authorities, but this time the magistrates intervened on his behalf. During his lifetime no further proceedings were initiated against him; nonetheless, he allegedly disappeared from view sometime in 1540. This claim is surprising and uncertain, because in that very year he celebrated the baptism of his daughter in the same cathedral where he had married Brianda. Also, his testament is dated July 12, 1540.33 After the death of Diogo, João was trained to take over the part of the family business that involved travel to trading cities, especially Lyons.

66The contents of Diogo’s testament surfaced in connection with a certain Jean Charles’s affidavit for the courts (February, 1554). Written in Latin, that testimony was used in the Italian court to provide Brianda with proof of her daughter’s legitimacy. The document was deposited in Ferrara at the time when Brianda formally challenged Gracia’s authority over her own fortune and her daughter’s inheritance.

  • 34 Bulletin des archives d’Anvers, 7, pp. 252–23. Roth (p. 40) mentions that the above were the prima (...)

67Diogo’s public testament was written in French; the private one, in Spanish. As expected of a Christian man of his station, he left money to the city of Antwerp: 1,600 Flemish pounds along with 100 pounds from their allotment to the poor, for charity, needy prisoners, the clothing of the naked, and dowries for orphaned girls.34

  • 35 In his will, Diogo appointed two other relatives, Abraham Benveniste and Agostino (Augustin) Enriq (...)

68Diogo’s private testament stated that half of the family fortune belonged to Gracia (and Reyna), while the other half, although inherited by Diogo’s widow and daughter, was to be administered by Gracia, his sister-in-law and business partner.35 Brianda could thus dispose of her own dowry only. Diogo’s last decision soon became the cause of major animosity between the sisters and led to calamities, including incarceration.

  • 36 When the testament was later contested, it turned out that their identities were hidden under fict (...)

69It is certain that Diogo consulted Gracia about his testament and the disposition of his property. It is not clear, however, whether it was Brianda’s youth or Gracia’s superior intelligence (or both) that made Diogo decide that Gracia should be made responsible for the management of his entire fortune. While Diogo appointed Augustin Enriquez and Abraham Benveniste to work together with Gracia, Brianda’s name was not mentioned.36 Although understandably disappointed with her secondary role, Brianda should have been grateful for Gracia’s unrelenting efforts to retain the family’s good investments and capital.

70After the death of Diogo, Gracia single-handedly averted the greatest danger to his heirs. Proceedings were opened against Diogo posthumously, designed to enable the Crown to confiscate the family’s economic resources. Although she achieved only a partial victory, Gracia saved the family fortune by lending 100,000 ducats to Charles without interest.

  • 37 Diogo’s will was published by Goris (p. 272). João is mentioned as Gracia’s nephew, “su mismo sobr (...)

71Some scholars believe in João Miques’ patrilineal relation to the family. Had that been the case, João would have become Gracia la Chica’s guardian, since children were usually placed under the authority of the patrilineal kin. Also the fact that the brothers were not mentioned in Diogo’s will casts doubts on the claim of blood–relationship.37

THE EMPEROR’S BLACKMAIL

  • 38 Charles’s decree regarding Antwerp and its “Judaizers” can be found in Salomon Ullmann, Histoire d (...)

72When on December 16, 1540, Charles V ordered the magistrates of Antwerp to investigate “all persons living as Jews,” as well as those who kept company with them or received Jews in the city, he created a new vehicle for blackmail whereby the emperor himself expected to receive money from the threatened Jewish merchants.38 Whoever was able, fled. On December 29, 1540, a large group of men, women, and children, accused of judaizing, left Antwerp only to be arrested and detained, in Milan and Pavia, among other places.

  • 39 See the letter of November 1540, from Contarini to the Signoria, in Norman Rosenblatt, “Joseph Nas (...)
  • 40 See Ramón Garande, “Maria de Hungria en mercado de Amberes,” Karl V, der Kaiser und seine Zeit. Kö (...)

73According to Francesco Contarini, the Venetian envoy, the edict was to bring at least 100,000 crowns of bribery money to the Emperor.39 The regent, Mary of Hungary, also plagued by permanent financial problems, repeatedly pressed the merchants for funds.40

  • 41 Ginsburger, p. 179.

74In July of 1542, Charles wrote to the “Margrave of Antwerp” that his sister would not tolerate the presence of the delinquents.41 It has been calculated that before Charles’s decree there were about 500 New Christian families in Flanders. Of those about 300 moved to Venice with some 4,000,000 ducats in gold. (The poor were less welcome.)

  • 42 Brian Pullan, Rich and Poor in Renaissance Venice: the Social Institutions of a Catholic State to (...)

75After 1549, many more Jews left for the Signoria because Charles had decided to expel all those who had arrived in the Low Countries after 1542.42 Diogo died in late 1542 or early 1543, just before the family could have completed preparations for relocation.

76In addition to blackmailing them as “relapsers,” Charles V had an even more reprehensible scheme by which he hoped to fill his imperial coffers with converso money.

THE EMPEROR’S MATCHMAKING

  • 43 Ginsburger (p. 80) wrongly claims that she was Diogo’s daughter.

77The next turn of events belongs more to the plot of an opera than to historical records of royalty. It is scarcely imaginable, yet true, that the ruler of half the world, and his sister as his partner, should be embroiled (for the sake of a percentage) in matchmaking between a New Christian girl and a Spanish nobleman. Charles urged Mary of Hungary in several letters to persuade Gracia Mendes to favor Don Fernando de Aragon, the son of a man named Núño Manuel and an illegitimate descendant of the House of Aragon as prospective son-in-law. The Spanish grandee, an elderly gentleman, had offered Charles V 200,000 ducats if the emperor could arrange a match between himself and Gracia’s daughter Reyna.43

  • 44 Alice Fernand-Halphen, “Une grande dame juive de la Renaissance,” Revue de Paris 36:17 (1929): 148 (...)

78In a letter dated April 28, 1544, the Holy Roman Emperor even urged his sister to travel to Antwerp and negotiate personally with the widow Mendes. Charles neglected to mention to his sister that he had been offered a large sum for his services.44

79At this point, however, Mary resisted: “Je n’ay jamais entendu ny desirez que assistez en cette affaire synon avec dehu honesté et sans user de nulle espèce de contraincte des raisonables” (May 25, 1544). Mary’s response was based less on her feelings of propriety than on a prudent judgment not to press the merchant class that far on personal matters, since it could have led to an economic backlash. Instead, she recommended negotiating further loans from the widow in lieu of the marriage plans. Alert to the danger, when Charles requested that Gracia pay a visit to his sister, the suspicious widow firmly declined, claiming “débilité et maladie.”

  • 45 Some authors, among them Alexandre Henne, assumed that the Mendes business had suffered great loss (...)
  • 46 Rosenblatt, p. 13.
  • 47 Much has been written about a veritable “underground railway,” an enterprise by which Gracia and D (...)

80The royal siblings believed that after Diogo’s death the House of Men-des would fall to them as their prey.45 In a communication of September 9, 1545, reference was made even to Diogo’s daughter, a mere child, claiming that at the time of her marriage, she would be given a dowry of 400,000 ducats.46 The emperor’s promoting the marriage of Reyna to Don Francisco was just one avenue by which the Habsburgs tried to lay their hands on the Mendes fortune. The vigorously-prepared posthumous trial planned for Diogo was another of their common ventures to the same end. One of the claims was based on rumors circulated during Diogo’s lifetime that the Mendes were expending large sums of money to remove the Inquisition from Antwerp and to help Jews escape to the Orient.47

81Cornered by the Emperor and the Regent, by late 1544 Gracia realized she could no longer postpone the family’s flight. Taking only a fraction of their belongings, the sisters and their daughters left for Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen), ostensibly to enjoy the waters. From there, they secretly set out on a long and dangerous voyage to Venice.

82Records show that it took approximately six months before the Mendes sisters’ disappearance from Antwerp became public knowledge. The Emperor and Mary were advised much earlier however; they summoned João Miques to Mary’s court at Chimay, to demand that the women immediately return from Venice, face the Council of Brabant, and stand trial as judaizers.

83João, who had earlier made his own entrance into the glittering world of the Habsburgs, this time appeared in Chimay to defend the sisters’ fortune.

84One must remember that the Sephardim of the sixteenth century were a culturally diverse group. Those who came to the Ottoman Empire from Africa had an entirely different educational background from those who, often as Christians, had attended excellent European universities before deciding to move to the Empire. The best examples are the Nasi brothers: João Miques who, by the name of Dominus Johannes Micas graduated on September 1, 1542, from the University of Louvain, and his brother, who, appearing as Dominus Bernardus Micas in the roster, graduated on April 1540, from the same institution. Joseph, probably born in 1524, studied in Louvain, together with Prince Maximilian (1527–1576).

85During his years in Antwerp, João, this dapper young man of impeccable manners, had become a close friend and drinking companion of Maximilian, later Holy Roman Emperor. He also knew Charles and had entry to Mary’s court. On this occasion, however, the audience was anything but amicable.

86When the women refused to return, Charles and Mary placed an embargo on their properties, including 40 coffers filled with their valuables, which they had left for safekeeping in Antwerp. Three more coffers—containing pearls, jewels, and precious stones, found in Füssen, Germany—were also seized. The royal authorities claimed that such seizures compensated for the fact that when leaving Antwerp, Gracia and Brianda had left their mansion stripped, with less than 10,000 écus’ worth of furniture and other items for confiscation. Their escape caused fury at the court, which was apprehensive that such a brazen act would serve as a model for future flights from the New Christian community.

87João appeared in Chimay during the first days of April 1546. It is his first recorded public role representing the Mendes family. Just how much João had participated in the preparations leading to their flight remains unknown. At the meeting he pleaded ignorance of the widows’ plan and presented himself not as relative, but as agent of the sisters. The Regent insisted on impounding the goods of “those heretics.” Since that was not possible without a hearing before the Council of Brabant, she wanted to force the women to return. In a letter written to Charles on April 6, 1546, Mary describes the young man’s visit.

88Represented by João, Gracia and her sister filed counter claims. Declaring themselves Portuguese subjects, they contended that the actions against them in Antwerp were illegal. They refused to take the dangerous journey back over the Alps, but stated that they could be vouched for as good Christians in Venice. In addition, João argued that the widows owned only 15,000 écus each, the rest of the wealth belonging to their daughters, too young to be charged.

  • 48 Regarding the asientos (loan contracts), the clearest correlation is shown between wars and the mo (...)

89Since Charles still owed 100,000 ducats to the widows from 1543, Miques first offered another 200,000 for a year, free of interest, in return for a final settlement. Not just the merchants of Antwerp, but the Fuggers of Augsburg supported Charles, forcefully.48

  • 49 At the colloquium mentioned above, responding to a question posed by Prof. Lapeyre (during the Q/A (...)
  • 50 This was not mentioned by Braudel, nor was it brought up during the Q/A period.

90The Mendes House used to loan money without interest to the Emperor, but in their case the reason was primarily fear, the desire to accommodate the ruler, or in other words, bribe him.49 The fact is, however, that Jewish and New Christian merchants were frequently forced to give loans without interest for two or three years, whereas the usual terms were for three to six months.50

  • 51 In Jerome Reznik’s book, Le Duc Joseph de Naxos, (Paris, 1936), copies of the letters are reproduc (...)

91Having met with João in Regensburg, in the end, Charles accepted 30,000 écus for each woman, instead of the 100,000 ducats he had originally demanded. Mary of Hungary, however, refused to return their coffers, claiming that her brother had no right to finalize the deal without her.51

92João negotiated with both Mary and Charles for approximately two years about the widows’ assets. Yet, when he finally left Antwerp, he departed without a written pardon, although he offered to lend Mary 150,000 écus without interest and 24,000 pounds—which Mary had used up anyway. At least, the charges of judaizing were dropped.

  • 52 Goris, p. 251.
  • 53 Rosenblatt, p. 18.
  • 54 Samuele Romanin, Storia documentata di Venezia (Venice, 1857), 6.272.

93Meanwhile João continued to look after his own financial interests. Alone or also representing Gracia, during 1543–44, Miques—together with the Affaittati brothers, the Quintanadmenas, and other traders— hada flourishing import business with France, where the investors shared the profits, presumably on an equal basis.52 When João left for Venice on March 10, 1548,53 he stopped for a while in Lyons, where he is mentioned as a “banker.”54 João’s stay in Lyons had a great effect on his later plans. Among his subsequent business ventures in Turkey, he undertook to import and domesticate silkworms to imitate and compete with the silk industry of Lyons.

  • 55 Goris, p. 272.
  • 56 Goris, p. 272. Could the initial “B” stand for Benveniste? Nazi or Nasi will be João’s name in Tur (...)

94Prior to their clandestine move, Gracia already established strong business ties with Italy. In 1543, the “Mendes, héritiers de Diego” are listed as exporters to Italy.55 At the same time one “J. B. Nazi” is recorded as such.56 The clandestine move to Venice brought the Mendes family one step closer to their final destination.

Notes

1 Antwerp’s Golden Age: The Metropolis of the West in the 16th and 17th Centuries, an exhibition organized by the City of Antwerp (Antwerp, 1973–75), p. 11. However, Roth claims that the first shipment arrived in 1503. See Cecil Roth, Doña Gracia Luna of the House of Nasi (Philadelphia, 1948), p. 21.

2 Antwerp’s Golden Age, p. 12.

3 The building was closed in 1533, and the so-called Old Exchange, extant today, was built in 1616.

4 See E. Scholliers, De levensstandaard in de xve en xvie eeuw te Antwerpen (Antwerp, 1960), pp. 263–64.

5 Scholliers, p. 269.

6 Scholliers, p. 272. But while the textile industry grew throughout economic fluctuations, social and religious unrest also kept pace, attested by twenty executions of dissenters between 1551 and 1553.

7 The building of the cathedral of Our Lady was completed; the churches of St. James and St. Andrews too were consecrated in the early sixteenth century. The Butchers’ Hall was built during the same period.

8 Souterliedeken ghemaekt ter eeren Gods op alle die Psalmen Davids, (Antwerp: Simon Cock, June 12, 1540).

9 There is a vast literature on the subject; therefore anything but a summary of the events is beyond the scope of this book.

10 According to Roth’s calculation, about 100,000 refugees arrived in Portugal at that time. Their total number is still under discussion, as is the actual number of expellees from Portugal in 1498. See also Lucien Wolf, Essays in Jewish History, especially the chapter, ”The Marranos of Portugal,” first published in London, in 1926.

11 In the Ferrara safe conduct (more on this in chapter 4), Gracia’s name appears as “Gracia ibn Veniste.” This is also how she is referred to in a letter to Rabbi Soncino (Roth, 16), whereas her daughter Reyna is called the “daughter of Francisco Mendes Bemveniste.” [sic.] Gracia’s name, “Luna,” might be of earlier origin, still dating back to Spain.

12 See Roth, p. 27, for annual consignment yields. For more information and statistics, see A. A. Marques de Almeida, Capitais e Capitalistas no comércio de espeçiaria: o eixo Lisbon-Antuérpia (1501–1549). Aproximação a um Estudo de Geofinança (Lisbon, 1993).

13 Roth, p. 23.

14 On a number of graphic charts, Braudel convincingly demonstrates the principal economic and financial activities of Antwerp in the first half of the sixteenth century. See Ferdinand Braudel, “Les emprunts de Charles-Quint sur le place d’Anvers,” Charles Quint et son temps: Colloques internationaux du centre national de la recherche scientifique (Paris, 1972), pp.191–201. In that survey, however, some years are missing, e.g. 1550–53, and had to be reconstructed. There was a Rui Mendes, first appearing in Antwerp in 1504, and from then on, for four years he is listed as one of the investors for the Armada. His name also appears as Rui Mendes de Brito. He must have been well off, because at one time, he alone donated to the Armada, while later he also represented the Welsers. Was he another Mendes brother who was first active in England (hence Diogo’s connections?), but who subsequently moved to Antwerp where he died, and whose role was taken over by Diogo? Or was he just another converso, with the same original sponsors in his family, who happened to be Antwerp, and in the same business of shipping?

15 See J. A. Goris, Études sur marchandes méridionales (portuguais, espagnols, italiens) à Anvers de 1488 à 1567 (Louvain, 1025), p. 653. The nurse’s and her travel companions’ arrival caused great difficulties for Diogo who, already in trouble, undertook to help them to safety.

16 Roth’s contention (p. 30) that Diogo remained in Antwerp in order to secretly help resettle the refugees cannot be verified.

17 This issue was thoroughly discussed by the rabbis in connection with the legal case between Gracia and her sister. See chapter 7 dealing with Gracia’s life in Turkey.

18 “Los Affaittati”(Juan Bautista y Juan Carlos) son de Cremona; estableçidos en Amberes desde 1498: En los primeros del XVI pasa Juan Bautista a Lisboa, atraido por el viaje de Vasco de Gama, alli se relaçiona con Francisco y Diego Mendes en negoçios de la espeçiari’a.” Ramon Carande, “Maria de Hungria en el Mercado Amberes,” Karl der Kaiser und seine Zeit, Kölner Colloquium, 23–29 November, 1958 (Köln, 1960), p. 40. Affaidati, also called Jean Charles Affaidati, was a patron of Italian and Flemish authors. See Paul Grunebaum-Ballin, Joseph Naci duc de Naxos (Paris and The Hague, 1968), p. 28. École Pratique des Hautes Études. Études juives, 13. In connection with the same affiliations, Goris (pp. 562–67) claims that Diogo disappeared in 1540, was again mentioned in 1553. However, that reference must have been made regarding his heirs. (AGR Chambre de Comptes, Reg. No. 2347, fol. 68, Archives Générales de Royaume, Bruxelles). For more on the definition of super companies see Edwin Hunt, The Medieval Super-Companies: A Study of the Peruzzi Company in Florence (Cambridge, 1994), p. 38. See also Letters of Medieval Jewish Traders trans. and ed. by S. D. Goitein (Princeton, 1973), p. 296. Giovanni Carlo (Juan Carlos) Affaidati, a close friend of Diogo, was later used by Brianda to furnish an affidavit regarding Gracia la Chica’s legitimacy. He gave a statement on February 20, 1554, in Antwerp, which was forwarded to Brianda in Venice. That declaration was the basis for dating the girl’s birth to 1540.

19 Mercurio de Gattimara, 1465–1530, cardinal, chancellor from 1518 to his death.

20 Otto von Habsburg, Charles V (London, 1970), p. 111, based on Karl Brandi’s classic, Kaiser Karl V... (Munich, 1937).

21 During the sixteenth century, the conversos made great advances everywhere in the commercial world. A colony of them requested and received permission to settle in Cromwell’s England in 1656.

22 Roth, p. 31.

23 Roth, p. 23.

24 For details see Roth, p. 33.

25 See Goris, pp. 526–27.

26 See Grunebaum-Ballin, p. 42.

27 Grunebaum-Ballin, p. 42.

28 Bulletin d’ Archives d’ Anvers, 7: 263. According to Goris (p. 283), he had to pay less.

29 61 Although Lucien Wolf claimed in Essays in Jewish History [(London, 1934), p. 76] that the family did stop in England, neither Roth (Doña Gracia, p. 196) nor other scholars could find any documentation to that effect.

30 The letter is addressed to Thomas Cromwell, privy counselor of Henry VIII. The Mendes widows’ request for safe conduct through England is similar to the situation of fleeing Jews, during the Nazi persecution, who requested and acquired visas that they finally could not, or did not use.

31 Natalie Davies, “Boundaries and the Sense of Self,” Reconstructing Individualism: Autonomy, Individuality and the Self in Western Thought, ed. Thomas C. Heller (Stanford, 1986), p. 54.

32 Francisco’s will is referred to in letter 314, J. D. Ford, Letters of the Court of John III (1521–1557) (Cambridge, Mass., 1931), p. 344, where there is mention of Francisco Mendes and his daughter “Reinha.” No other child is mentioned. Regarding remarriage, see the relevant decisions of the Salonika rabbis in chapter 7 (on the Ottoman Empire).

33 See Goris, pp. 343–44, 651, who lists the sequence of events as follows: accused of judaizing July 19,1531; freed upon payment of 43,000 florins; fugitive in 1540; his property (“biens”) confiscated in 1540.

34 Bulletin des archives d’Anvers, 7, pp. 252–23. Roth (p. 40) mentions that the above were the primary social obligations among Jews, after the promotion of study.

35 In his will, Diogo appointed two other relatives, Abraham Benveniste and Agostino (Augustin) Enriquez, to assist Gracia.

36 When the testament was later contested, it turned out that their identities were hidden under fictitious names. M. M. A. Levy identified them as they were used in the rabbinical decisions of Joseph Karo (Caro). See Grunebaum-Ballin, p. 34, note 3.

37 Diogo’s will was published by Goris (p. 272). João is mentioned as Gracia’s nephew, “su mismo sobrino,” thus her blood relative. Brianda was publicly known by that name only, probably because it was a Christian and a Jewish name as well. In general, Jewish names of women are less frequently known than those of men.

38 Charles’s decree regarding Antwerp and its “Judaizers” can be found in Salomon Ullmann, Histoire des Juifs en Belgique jusq’au xviiie siècle; notes et documents (Anvers, n.d.), pp. 38–39, and in Ernest Ginsburger, “Marie de Hongrie, Charles Quint, les veuves Mendes, et les neo-Chrétiens,” Revue des études juives 89 (1930): 179.

39 See the letter of November 1540, from Contarini to the Signoria, in Norman Rosenblatt, “Joseph Nasi. Court Favorite of Selim II,” Diss. University of Pennsylvania, 1957, p. 9. See also Ginsburger, 179–88.

40 See Ramón Garande, “Maria de Hungria en mercado de Amberes,” Karl V, der Kaiser und seine Zeit. Kölner Collegium, 26-29 November 1958, (Köln, 1960), pp. 38–50.

41 Ginsburger, p. 179.

42 Brian Pullan, Rich and Poor in Renaissance Venice: the Social Institutions of a Catholic State to 1620 (Oxford, 1971), pp. 172–73.

43 Ginsburger (p. 80) wrongly claims that she was Diogo’s daughter.

44 Alice Fernand-Halphen, “Une grande dame juive de la Renaissance,” Revue de Paris 36:17 (1929): 148–65.

45 Some authors, among them Alexandre Henne, assumed that the Mendes business had suffered great losses and was going down after Diogo’s death. See his Histoire du règne de Charles Quint en Belgique (Bruxelles and Leipzig, 1858–60), 9.106.

46 Rosenblatt, p. 13.

47 Much has been written about a veritable “underground railway,” an enterprise by which Gracia and Diogo paid for the safe transfer of many hundreds of Jews and secret Jews from the danger of the Inquisition to regions of relative safety, such as the territories of the Ottoman Empire. While, by and large, this was true, most authors, writing shortly after the Holocaust, exaggerated those tales, influenced by their feelings of frustration in the face of that tragedy. Later, Gracia indeed became involved in a largescale project to move Italian Jews to Safed, but that became, for various reasons, a controversial project. For more on this subject, see chapter 7.

48 Regarding the asientos (loan contracts), the clearest correlation is shown between wars and the mounting of “floating debts” (see note 14 above). At the colloquium referred to in note 14, responding to a rhetorical question: “Who loaned without inter-est?” Braudel answered: “Little people and people who sought advantages and honor.” The Mendes family is not mentioned, although many others—the Fuggers, the Florentine Filippo Gualterotti, George Van der Donch, and Christopher Herwart (also of Augsburg)—were discussed. Rarely did Christian bankers lend money without interest. It is worth mentioning that in Castile, under Alfonso X, Jews could extend loans to Christians to the maximum interest of 33 and 1/3 percent.

49 At the colloquium mentioned above, responding to a question posed by Prof. Lapeyre (during the Q/A period) whether the loans could have been forced, Braudel said that the “good grace” was most probably an illusion. See p. 201.

50 This was not mentioned by Braudel, nor was it brought up during the Q/A period.

51 In Jerome Reznik’s book, Le Duc Joseph de Naxos, (Paris, 1936), copies of the letters are reproduced in the appendix. Mary hoped to get 200,000 ducats for the crown. It seems from the records that Charles even paid 3,766 ducats, a small fraction of his debts, to the widows in January, 1546.

52 Goris, p. 251.

53 Rosenblatt, p. 18.

54 Samuele Romanin, Storia documentata di Venezia (Venice, 1857), 6.272.

55 Goris, p. 272.

56 Goris, p. 272. Could the initial “B” stand for Benveniste? Nazi or Nasi will be João’s name in Turkey, but it appears already in the same form on the records with the Affaittati. See also Letters of Medieval Jewish Traders, trans. and ed. S. D. Goitein (Princeton, 1973), p. 296.

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