Friday, 12 February 2021

Remembering the Holocaust
in a new museum in Porto

The Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue in Porto is one of the largest in western Europe (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

The first museum on the Iberian Peninsula specifically dedicated to the Shoah or the Holocaust opened in Porto in Portugal last month. The Holocaust Museum of Porto is the creation of the local Jewish community, some of whose members lost family in the Shoah. It depicts the Holocaust in detail, alongside the story of the Jewish refugees who arrived in Porto between 1940 and 1941, hoping to flee to the US.

Portugal was neutral during World War II and gave refuge to thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis and their allies and occupied territories.

The museum combines traditional exhibits and information panels with installations and audio-visual presentations. One section includes a reproduction of barracks at Auschwitz, including part of the Arbeit Macht Frei gate.

The exhibits include artefacts and documents left by Jews who sought refuge in Porto. They include two Sifrei Torah presented to the city’s synagogue by Jewish refugee families.

The museum has a cinema, study centre, conference hall, and a memorial hall with the names of thousands of people who perished during the Holocaust written on its walls.

The museum opened at a small ceremony on 20 January, attended by some members of the local Jewish community, and by the Bishop of Porto and the President of the Muslim Community.

The educational activities at the museum will be coordinated with the state-led Nunca Esquecer (‘Never Forget’) project, which aims to promote initiatives that foster knowledge about the Holocaust, the Portuguese victims, and the Portuguese citizens who helped victims of the Nazis.

Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Portuguese consul in Bordeaux, saved thousands of people fleeing from France after the Nazi invasion in 1940 and was recognised by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations in 1966. His home in Cabanas de Viriato, Portugal, is being renovated as a museum and cultural space.

The museum curator Hugo Vaz is also the curator of the Jewish Museum, which opened in Porto 2015 in the synagogue complex and tells the complex history of Jews in Porto. The Jewish community in Porto dates back to ancient Roman times. At the Inquisition, Jews were expelled from Portugal in 1496, putting an end to open Jewish life for centuries. Jews started to settle again in Porto in the late 19th century. A modest cultural revival in the 1920s and 1930s was led by Captain Arturo Carlos de Barros Bastos, who tried to bring back to Judaism the conversos or descendants of Jews who had been forced to convert to Christianity during the Inquisition.

The Portuguese and Spanish congregation at Bevis Marks Synagogue in London and other members of the Sephardic diaspora funded the building of a synagogue in Porto. The art deco-style Kadoorie Mekor Haim synagogue opened in 1938. It is set in a large garden filled with towering palms, and is one of the largest synagogues in western Europe. It was named after the family of Sir Elly Kadoorie of Shanghai, who provided much of the funding. Lady Laura Mocatta Kadoorie was a descendant of Sephardic Jews from Portugal.

Today, the Jewish community of Porto has over 500 members from 30 countries. This growth follows a law in 2013 and 2015 that grants Portuguese citizenship to anyone who can show they have Jewish-Portuguese origins.

The generosity and sense of community and unity that has helped to rebuild the Jewish community in Porto reminds me in my reflections this Friday evening that this is Shabbat Shekalim, the Shabbat before Rosh Chodesh Adar, which begins at sundown this evening (12 February 2021) and ends at nightfall tomorrow (13 February 2021).

Shabbat Shekalim (‘Sabbath [of] Shekels’ שבת שקלים) is read in preparation for Purim, and each adult male Jew is asked to contribute half of a Biblical shekel to charitable, educational purposes in their community (see Exodus 13: 11-16; II Kings 12: 10-16).

The egalitarian nature of this contribution is emphasised: ‘the rich shall not pay more, and the poor shall not pay less than half a shekel.’ The requirement that all individuals contribute equally to the community helped develop a sense of unity crucial to the new nation created by the Exodus.

Shabbat Shalom



Visiting churches and
places of worship in
Lichfield and Staffordshire

Lichfield Cathedral … I have been visiting the cathedral since my teenage years (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I have been visiting churches in Lichfield and throughout Staffordshire since my teenage years. But when I began this blog over 13 years ago (10 November 2007), my blog postings were without order and organisation, and so my blog postings on these churches have appeared randomly over the years.

My first blog postings on these churches were about Pugin churches or repostings of magazine features. But, before this blog began, I had written extensively about Lichfield Cathedral, the chapel in Saint John’s Hospital, and the church in Comberford village, among other churches. In time, they multiplied, although occasionally they were only brief reference or a photograph or two in more wide-ranging posting.

As my blog postings roll over, year after year, it becomes increasingly difficult to scroll through these posting or to find them.

Some of my recent posts on Lichfield churches have had so many ‘hits’, I thought this guide to my postings on churches and cathedrals in Lichfield and Staffordshire would be helpful.

I have similar guides to cathedrals and churches in Limerick, cathedral, churches and chapels in Wexford, and to synagogues I have visited around the world.

Each church name has a built-in hyperlink that enables readers to click and move to that posting.

I plan to update this guide as I visit more churches, and as I find more photographs in my files.

Saint Mary’s Church, Market Square, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

1, Lichfield Cathedral (a feature in the Church Review not yet available on this blog

2, Saint Chad’s Church, Saint Chad’s Road (2 March 2019)

3, Saint Michael’s Church, Greenhill (18 January 2015)

4, Saint Mary’s Church, Market Square (19 September 2019)

5, Christ Church, Leamonsley (27 June 2015)

6, The Chapel, Saint John’s Hospital (27 November 2018)

7, The Chapel, Dr Milley’s Hospital, Beacon Street (31 May 2015)

8, Holy Cross Church, Upper Saint John Street (13 August 2011)

9, Former Roman Catholic chapel, corner of Bore Street and Breadmarket Street (17 February 2018)

10, The former Franciscan Friary, Lichfield (2 April 2017)

11, The former Augustinian Friary (2 April 2017)

12, United Reformed Church, Wade Street (18 September 2019)

13, The Methodist Church, Tamworth Street (26 March 2020)

14, The former Quaker Meeting House, Cruck House, Stowe Lane (1 June 2015)

15, Christadelphian Hall, Station Road (6 June 2016)

The Church of Saint Mary and Saint George, Comberford … closed in recent years (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Churches within the Lichfield District Council area:

16, Saint John’s Church, Wall (21 April 2017)

17, Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Farewell (7 June 2016)

18, Saint Mary’s Church, Weeford (24 April 2018)

19, Saint Mary and Saint George, Comberford (5 June 2013)

20, The private chapel at Haselour Hall (27 January 2021)

21, The Church of Saint Michael and Saint James, Haunton (28 January 2021)

Houses in the Cathedral Close and Vicars’ Close, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Ecclesiastical Buildings in Lichfield:

22-32, The Cathedral Close, Lichfield (12 May 2014):

The buildings discussed in my walking tour of the Cathedral Close in 2014 include:

22, the former Bishop’s Palace (now Lichfield Cathedral School and Chapel)

23, the Bishop’s House (No 22)

24, The Deanery

25, The Precentor’s House (No 23)

26, The Chancellor’s House (No 13)

27, Selwyn House or ‘Spite House’ (also 7 October 2014)

28, Saint Mary’s House

29, The Visitors’ Centre

30, The former Lichfield Theological College

31, Vicars’ Close (Flats) and Vicars’ Hall

Other church buildings in Lichfield:

32, The Library

33, Former Bishop’s Lodgings, The Friary (25 June 2015)

Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Other churches in Staffordshire and the Diocese of Lichfield:

34, Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth (7 July 2019)

35, The former Wesleyan Temple, later Victoria Street Methodist Church, Tamworth (12 June 2016)

36, Central Methodist Church, Aldergate, Tamworth (12 June 2016)

37, The former Congregationalist Church, Aldergate, Tamworth (12 June 2016)

38, The Unitarian Chapel, Colehill, now Victoria Road, Tamworth (12 June 2016)

39, The former Baptist Church, Church Street, Tamworth (12 June 2016)

40, The former Dominican Hawksyard Priory, Spode Hall, near Rugeley (2 October 2019)

41, Saint Michael’s and All Angels, Penkridge (4 December 2016)

42, Saint Mary’s Collegiate Church, Stafford (3 August 2014)

43, Saint Chad’s Church, Stafford (3 August 2014)

44, Saint Mary’s Church, Uttoxeter (12 June 2010)

45, Saint Giles’ Church, Cheadle (12 June 2010)

Last Updated: 12 February 2021