Castelo Branco has a well-defined and walled medieval area, with a striking number of 16th century buildings from the time when Jews settled here after their expulsion from Spain. At the time the population increased by 60% and many houses were built. The latest inventory included 291 bevelled doorways six of which with lancet arch, 112 bevelled windows, a significant number of lintels and windows, two clearly Jewish religious symbols (one Menorah damaged by a superimposed cruciform image and one Mesusah) and 63 cruciform symbols related to the presence of New Christians. The remains of the damaged Menorah with superimposed cruciform are at Rua D’Ega no. 10.
From the end of the 14th century there are signs of the existence of a Jewish community and their Jewish Quarter. There was a synagogue, which is thought to have been located, despite no archaeological confirmation, at Rua da Misericórdia No. 10.
The Castelo Branco Jewish Quarter was located between Rua D'Ega and the northern part of the city walls. Its main streets were Rua D'Ega running east-west and the northern part of what is now Rua da Misericórdia.
Belmonte is the only true heir of the former presence of Sephardi Jews in the Iberian Peninsula.
Throughout the inquisition it managed to preserve many of its rituals, prayers and social relationships. Despite pressure towards dilution with Portuguese Catholic society many New Christian residents of Belmonte married within their community for centuries.
In 1989, the Community was officially recognised an in 1996 the “Beit Eliahu” (Son of Elias) synagogue was inaugurated on one of the old streets of the former Jewish Quarter. The Jewish cemetery was also opened in 2001. The Jewish Museum (the only one in Portugal) has been open to the public since 2005. It retells the history of the Sephardi presence in Portugal, its habits and customs and includes a memorial to the victims of the inquisition.
The birthplace of one of the most famous doctors in Portuguese history: Ribeiro Sanches. A New Christian accused of Judaism, Ribeiro Sanches (1699-1783) was persecuted by the Inquisition in Portugal. He was a renowned member of the court of Catherine II of Russia.
Penamacor has the remains of an old Jewish Quarter from the 1500s around Rua de S. Pedro, one of the town’s most historical streets. The increased population following the expulsion of the Jews from Spain occurred due to the town’s proximity to the Spanish border.