HOMEM, ANTONIO: Jewish martyr; born in 1564 of Neo-Christian parents at Coimbra, Portugal; suffered death at the stake in Lisbon May 5, 1624. His father’s name was Vaez Brandão; and his mother was a granddaughter of Nuñez Cardozo, called “the rich Jew of Aveiro.” Like many secret Jews who, in order to escape from the snares and persecutions of the Inquisition, caused their sons to embrace a clerical career, the parents of Antonio had him educated for the Church. He entered a religious order and studied at the university of his native town.
On Feb. 22, 1592, he took his degree as doctor and “magister,” and after having served the Church in various offices he was appointed deacon and professor of canon law at Coimbra University. He aroused the suspicion of the Inquisition and had to appear before its tribunal (Feb. 1, 1611), but as the author of some theological works he was acquitted. His colleagues closely watched him, however; and in 1619 a secret synagogue was discovered in Lisbon in which Homem conducted the services and preached. On Dec. 18 of that year he was brought before the tribunal of the Inquisition and condemned to death; and five years later at an auto da fé at Lisbon he was burned alive. His house was demolished, and in its place was erected a pillar bearing the inscription “Præceptor infelix.”(From the Jewish Encylopaedia_
- Kayserling, Gesch. der Juden in Portugal, pp. 291-292.
On May 5, 1624, Antonio Homem – a Christian theologian and church official – was burned at the stake as a Judaizer during an auto-da-fé in Lisbon.
In 1564, Antonio Homem was born in Coimbra, the inland city in north-central Portugal that had the country’s oldest university. Both his parents were descendants of New Christians (Jewish converts to Christianity) and, in the hope that Antonio would not go through life under a cloud of suspicion, he was educated at Jesuit institutions.
Homem entered a religious order and studied at the University of Coimbra, receiving his doctorate in 1592. In 1614, he was appointed a professor of canon law there, and he also was a canon at the city’s cathedral, as well as a confessor.
In February 1611, Homem was arrested by the Portuguese Inquisition, and subject to interrogation on suspicion he was pursuing a secret Jewish life. The charges were dropped, on the basis of his theological publications, but from then on he was kept under surveillance.
On December 18, 1619, Homem was again arrested, after the discovery in Coimbra of a secret synagogue he had established. He was sent to Lisbon for questioning, the transcript of which has survived. It includes, for example, the text of a sermon he gave on Yom Kippur of 1619, during which he told his fellow secret Jews that the main difference between Judaism and Christianity is in the Jews’ Sabbath observance and in their non-worship of images.
He also declared that, when one is living under conditions of persecution, it is sufficient to have the mitzvot (Jewish commandments) in mind, even if one is not able to carry them out.
Additionally, according to the informant who reported on the synagogue to the Inquisition, Homem exhorted his fellow congregants to “live in the law of Moses,” referring to certain authorities of the Old Testament; at certain passages the people performed guayas – a lamentation similar in meaning to “oy.” He also was said to have “blown in a horn and made a low sound several times that day.”
Homem was convicted, although apparently he did not confess, and was sentenced to death – a punishment that was carried out more than five years later. In the wake of his trial, however, 131 other people were arrested and tried on charges of membership in the Jewish “cult.” These included four other canons from Coimbra Cathedral, 52 nuns and a variety of students and teachers from the University of Coimbra.
At the auto-da-fé – the public religious ceremony that preceded the execution – Friar Antonio de Sousa spoke about the perfidity of Judaism, noting that “the many Jews in all ranks that are daily discovered allow us to presume the worst about the generality” of that people.
Homem and the other condemned prisoners were then turned over to the authority of “civil justice,” and marched to the place of execution, at Terreiro do Trigo. He was garroted (strangled) and then burned.
After Homem’s death, his home was destroyed, and in its place a pillar was erected bearing the inscription “Praeceptor infelix” – Latin for “Unfortunate teacher.”
Prayer: Lord, we so grieve over the persecution of your people Israel in your name, and of Jewish believers in Yeshua who were prevented from retaining their Jewish identity as members of the body of Christ. Have mercy on your church for perpetrating such evil and injustice, and may Messianic Jews today be free to live out their faith as members of the Church and of your people Israel. In Yeshua’s name we pray. Amen
Documentos manuscritos relativos a António Homem na exposição “Coimbra Judaica”, Sala de S. Pedro da Biblioteca Geral da Universidade de Coimbra
HOMEM, António, 1564-1624. Sequitur explicandus t[i]t[ulus] Qui filii sint legitimi: ab infelicíssimo D[octore], Anno D[omi]ni 1608 [Manuscrito]. [Século XVII]. Ms. 985
HOMEM, António, 1564-1624. Sequitur explicandus t[i]t[ul]us De causa possessionis et proprietatis a D[octore] Antonio Homem anno 1615 [Manuscrito]. [Século XVII].Ms. 796
SENTENÇA de Antonio Homem Lente de Prima de cânones na Universidade de Coimbra e conego Doutoral nella, [Lisboa, 5 de Mayo de 1624] [Manuscrito]. [Século XVII]. Ms. 595