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Gracia Mendes in Dubrovnik

Vesna Miović
Relja Seferović

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 429 Kb

str. 155-194

preuzimanja: 1.052



The name of Gracia Mendes alias Beatrice de Luna has attracted the attention of many historians researching the life of this exceptional business woman, a Portuguese conversa, from the middle of the sixteenth century. Although much of Gracia's life has been reconstructed – from her birth in Lisbon around 1510 until death in Constantinople in the early months of 1569 – yet her final decision to choose the sultan's haven over the West remains obscure. A most recent discovery at the State Archives in Dubrovnik has helped elucidate this gap, providing evidence on Gracia's stay in Dubrovnik in 1552, where she and her daughter Ana found temporary shelter having fled from the Apennine Peninsula. Realising that the Western potentates were a threat to her wealth and person by suspecting her of heresy and return to the faith of her Jewish ancestors, Gracia decided to follow the path of many compatriots before her. However, Gracia's established business ties in the commercial and financial centres of West Europe were a solid enough reason for her to act warily, not only by protecting her own property but by making sure that her decision would not harm her loyal business partners. For this reason, on 20 September 1552 Gracia Mendes registered four documents at the Dubrovnik notary office, by which her former partners were exempted from any liability and responsibility, and by which she settled all her debts towards them. Although her arrival in Dubrovnik was clandestine, the Senate offered her protection and support. By acting against certain influential individuals from the political and Church circles who strongly disapproved any collaboration with a crypto-Jewess in exile, the Ragusan authorities once again displayed their mercy, but equally so proved to have a sharp eye for anything that could be of concrete benefit for the state. The rightness of their step manifested in Gracia's decision to choose no other but Dubrovnik for her main port in trading with the West, which she was soon to conduct from Constantinople. To mutual satisfaction, the business relations lasted for almost twenty years, until Gracia's death. The episode of her visit to Dubrovnik bears a twofold meaning. On the one hand, it represents an important element in the multilayered mosaic of Gracia's meandring life path, by which she largely propagated the consciousness of her people and of the ability of women in general. On the other, by offering her hospitality and showing disregard for the possible consequences such an act may have caused on the domestic and foreign scene, Ragusan Senate was not solely led by the expected financial gain but also proved its greatness through a lasting spiritual good: by supporting the threatened minority, they truly shielded the weak.

Ključne riječi

Gracia Mendes, trade, the Jewish community, conversos, Ottoman Empire, Dubrovnik, inquisition

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Podaci na drugim jezicima: hrvatski

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