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A significant number converted to Christianity as a mere formality, practicing their Jewish faith in secret.
These Crypto-Jews were known as New Christians, and would always be under the constant surveillance of the Inquisition – many, if not most of these, would eventually leave the country in the centuries to come and again embrace openly their Jewish faith, joining the communities of Spanish and Portuguese Jews in places like Amsterdam, London or Livorno.
This granted them some respect, although there was always prejudice.
King Afonso I of Portugal entrusted Yahia Ben Yahi III with the post of supervisor of tax collection and nominated him the first Chief-Rabbi of Portugal (a position always appointed by the King of Portugal).
(Such was the case, for example, of the family of Baruch Spinoza).
Some of the most famous descendants of Portuguese Jews who lived outside Portugal are the philosopher Baruch Spinoza (from Portuguese Bento de Espinosa), and the classical economist David Ricardo.
The Portuguese inquisition was extinguished in 1821 by the "General Extraordinary and Constituent Courts of the Portuguese Nation".
The clergy, however, invoking the restrictions of the Fourth Council of the Lateran, brought considerable pressure to bear against the Jews during the reign of King Dinis I of Portugal, but the monarch maintained a conciliatory position.Many also had an active role in the Portuguese culture, and they kept their reputation of diplomats and merchants.By this time, Lisbon and Évora were home to important Jewish communities.In some of these places their presence can still be witnessed, as in the use of the Ladino language by some Jewish communities in Turkey, the Portuguese based dialects of the Netherlands Antilles, or the multiple synagogues built by what was to be known as the Spanish and Portuguese Jews (such as the Amsterdam Esnoga).Despite persecution, many conversos of Jewish ancestry did stay in Portugal.