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Written Remains: Materiality and the Religious Heritage Complex of the Jewish Portuguese Past

  • Isnart, Cyril
Publication Date
Dec 05, 2023
DOI: 10.3390/rel14121504
OAI: oai:HAL:halshs-04393778v1
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Hebraic written stones represent the primary surviving physical testimony to the Jewish past in Portugal, apart from a Medieval synagogue in the city of Tomar. As it is true for other religious objects, medieval Hebraic epigraphic stones have become a heritage asset, opening the way to specific recognition of the Jewish materiality of Portugal. Long after the forced conversion of Portuguese Jews to Catholicism or their exodus, a few epigraphic testimonials were collected, maintained, and displayed. A group of 20th century Jewish and non-Jewish amateur archaeologists and historians assembled manuscripts, books and stones and attempted to establish a museum in the medieval synagogue of Tomar. They dedicated themselves to the study and preservation of this written religious legacy and proposed to focus on the letter as the principal material heritage to represent the Portuguese Jewish past. Drawing on the concept of religious heritage complex, this article describes how letters, as material remains, lead to the cultural renewal of a religious minority’s past. The study also sheds light on the cultural and religious consequences of this attention to letters on the heritage-making process itself. Through a combination of archival study, ethnographic fieldwork and comparison, the study sought to better understand the late destiny of the written remains of Judaism in Portugal.

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