A paper trail of Jewish life remains in Portugal, and is preserved in the libraries of Coimbra University. It is the oldest university in Portugal, dating back to the 13th century. I was warmly greeted by the university staff, including its extremely friendly rector (president), João Gabriel Silva. He welcomed me in their historic greeting room, which was a great honor.
The university library contains an amazing collection of 15th century Judaica, including the Abravanel family Bible (I was subsequently told that it was probably not owned by the Abravanel family, during my visit to Lisbon University). They also hold documents of the Coimbra Inquisition (the other Portuguese Inquisitions were in Lisbon and in Evora). While all trial records are now kept in Lisbon, Inquisition regulations, and records of the local auto de fe, remain in Coimbra. (As we were rushing before Shabbat, I did not have time to visit the public Square where the terrible ceremonies occurred). I was also shown a collection of Jewish books, published by Jews who had come from Portugal, as indicated in their cover pages. Finally, they showed me important works written by New Christians, including the navigation charts likely used by Vasco da Gama to sail to India.
In another archive, I was shown university records (like faculty lists and diplomas) relating to important New Christians, including to those that ultimately had to flee Portugal, or were burnt at the stake.
I must admit, that I was overwhelmed by the scale of the effort put into my visit. The university ensured that my visit would be of special significance. The treatment I received was extremely welcoming. The selection of materials shown to me was done with great care, and I imagine with significant investment of time. It was a pleasure to meet with several members of the staff, including those of the libraries and the teaching faculty. Overall, the university seems eager to incorporate Jewish studies into their offerings, as they currently lack the Jewish context essential for many of their Portuguese studies. The rector made the point, that he wishes for Portugal to return to an earlier time, when Jews, Christians and Muslims shared and discussed ideas with each other, in open and respectful exchanges, regardless of religious beliefs.
I look forward to continuing these academic relations with the university. To succeed in my studies, I will certainly need to learn Portuguese, and the university invited me to do so with them. Perhaps I will!