De Castro family (Sephardi Jewish)

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Coat of Arms of the De Castro Family, from the Jewish Encyclopedia. Notice that this blazon does not differ from the Christian Castro coat of arms.[1]

The de Castro surname is used by a Sephardic Jewish family of Portuguese origin. Soon after the establishment of the Portuguese Inquisition, members of the family emigrated to Bordeaux, Bayonne, Hamburg, and various cities in the Netherlands. Their descendants were later to be found scattered throughout Egypt, France, Germany, Brazil, Italy, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Turkey, Panama, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Some branches of the family have continued to bear the simple name of de Castro, others are known by de Castro-Osório, de Castro Sarmento, de Castro-Castello-Osório, Pereira de Castro, de Castro Vieira de Pinto, Rodrigues de Castro, Orobio de Castro, de Castro de Paz, Henriques de Castro, etc. The name often appears as "de Crasto." Note that Castro is not in origin Jewish but an Iberian Christian name, adopted by some Portuguese and Spanish Jews after the forced conversions of the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

Abraham de Castro[edit]

Master of the mint and farmer of the coinage for Sultan Sulaiman, in Cairo in the 16th century

Through his wealth and benevolence, he gave away 3,000 gold florins a year in alms. He acquired great influence among the Turkish officials and was highly esteemed by his coreligionists, in whose affairs he took an active interest. When in 1524 Amad-Pasha, who had been appointed pasha of Egypt as a reward for his exploits at the capture of Rhodes in 1523, plotted to establish himself as an independent sovereign, and asked De Castro to mint the coins with his name in lieu of the sultan's, De Castro secretly left Egypt and hastened to Constantinople to inform the sultan of Amad's plot. The sultan received him with high honors and gave him costly presents.

Amad took revenge on the Jews. He imprisoned several of them, probably relatives of De Castro, and imposed exorbitant taxes on the community, with heavy penalties in case of non-payment. De Castro returned to Egypt after Amad's execution, but the anxiety of the Jews was allayed only by the granting in 1524 of a firman at the instance of De Castro. In commemoration of this deliverance, the Egyptian Jews for a long time celebrated the 28th of Adar as a memorial day, with special festivities (Egyptian or Cairo Purim).

Adolphe Danziger de Castro[edit]

Jewish scholar, journalist, lawyer, author of poems, novels and short stories, first president of the La Comunidad Sefardi of Los Angeles; born near Dobrzyń nad Wisłą, Russian Poland, (6 November 1859, died at Los Angeles, California, 4 March 1959)

For fuller details, see the separate article entitled Adolphe Danziger De Castro.

Balthazar (Isaac) Orobio de Castro[edit]

Philosopher, physician, and apologist; born at Braganza, Portugal, about 1620, died at Amsterdam 7 November 1687

For fuller details, see the separate article entitled Balthazar (Isaac) Orobio de Castro.

Benedict (Baruch) Nehamias de Castro[edit]

Physician in ordinary to Queen Christina of Sweden and writer on medicine, born at Hamburg in 1597, died there 31 January 1684

He attended the gymnasium of that city in 1615, received preparatory instruction in medicine from his father, Rodrigo de Castro, and later prosecuted this study at several universities. After his graduation at Padua (or at Franeker), he began to practise in Hamburg (1622), acquiring such fame that in 1645 he was appointed physician in ordinary to the queen of Sweden.[2]

De Castro was for some time president of the Portuguese-Jewish congregation at Hamburg and was a zealous adherent of Sabbatai Zevi. He was twice married. In his old age he was reduced to such poverty that he was compelled to sell his library and furniture, to obtain the means of subsistence. This 'vir humanissimus', as Hugo Grotius calls him, was interred in the cemetery of the Portuguese congregation at Altona. The tombstone erected by his relatives bears the inscription: "Do Benaventurado muy insigne Varão o Doutor Baruch Nahamyas de Castro faleczo em 15. Sebat año 5444. Sua alma gloria."

De Castro, under the pseudonym Philotheo Castello, was the author of the following works.

  • "Flagellum Calumniantium, seu Apologia in qua Anonymi Cujusdem Calumniæ Refutantur, Ejusdem Mentiendi Libido Detegitur", Amsterdam, 1631, a polemical work, in which the author defends physicians of Portuguese origin against the malicious attacks of a certain Joachim Curtius. It is said to have been published at Antwerp in 1629, under the title "Tratado da Calumnia em o qual Brevemente se Mostram a Natureza, Causas e Effeitos deste Pernizioso Vicio."
  • "Monomachia sive Certamen Medicum, quo Verus in Febre Synocho Putrida cum Cruris Inflammatione Medendi Usus per Venæ Sectionem in Brachio ...." Hamburg, 1647, a work dedicated to Queen Christina.

Daniel (Andreas) de Castro[edit]

Physician, born Hamburg 1599

Younger brother of Baruch Nahamias, with whom he attended the gymnasium and studied medicine. He was physician in ordinary to King Christian IV of Denmark, and lived at Glückstadt.

David Henriques de Castro[edit]

Portrait of David Henriques de Castro, by Gabriel Haim Henriques de Castro (1838-1897)

Numismatist and author, born Amsterdam 1832, died there 10 October 1898

Son of Moses Henriques de Castro. He was a man of much learning, member of the board of directors of the Portuguese synagogue at Amsterdam, and president of the committee of the Portuguese Jews of The Netherlands.

He possessed a rare collection of old coins and art treasures, and a library rich in Spanish and Portuguese manuscripts and printed works dealing with the history of the Jews, an elaborate catalogue of which appeared shortly after his death, under the title "Catalogue ... de la Succession de Feu M. D. Henriques de Castro", Amsterdam, 1899 (with illustrations). The whole collection was sold at auction in April 1899.

De Castro was appointed knight of the Order of the Immaculate Conception by the king of Portugal. He was a member of the Royal Archeological Society at Amsterdam, the Netherlands Literary Society at Leyden, and the Zeeland Society of Arts and Science at Middelburg.

De Castro took a keen interest in the history of the Spanish-Portuguese congregation of Amsterdam, in the renowned men identified with it - notably Spinoza - and in the inscriptions on the tombstones of the old cemetery at Oude Kerk. He laid bare an entire section of this old burial-ground and unearthed costly tombstones. He was also interested in the Jewish cemetery at Middelburg near Flushing, where he resided for some time.

The results of his investigations are embodied in the following works.

  • "De synagoge der Portugeesch-Israelitische Gemeente te Amsterdam", 1675–1875, published on the occasion of its bicentenary
  • "Keur van Grafsteenen op de Nederl.-Portug.-Israel. Begraafplaats te Oudekerk aan den Amstel", Leyden, 1883 (text in both Dutch and German).

De Castro was a contributor to several periodicals, such as the "Israelitisch Weekblad".

An extensive article by Inacio Steinhardt about the genealogy of the Henriques de Castro family, since its roots in the village of Vila Cova à Coelheira, in Portugal, through the files of the Portuguese Inquisition, "Judaizantes de Vila Cova à Coelheira", was published in Cadernos de Estudos Sefarditas" Vol. 3, 2003 - [3] The article is in Portuguese. A version in English was written but never published, however it is available in an unedited manuscript under the title of "The Henriques de Castro Saga", at the library of the Jewish Museum of Amsterdam. Catalog reference in [4]

Ezekiel de Castro[edit]

Physician, born in Portugal in the early part of the 17th century

After completing his studies at Coimbra, he began the practise of medicine at Verona in 1639. Barbosa calls him "insigne medico e subtil filosofo."[5]

De Castro possessed some knowledge of Jewish literature. He was the author of the following works on medicine.

  • "De Colostro", about 1639
  • "Ignis Lambens, Historia Medica, Prolusio Physica, Rarum Pulchrescentis Naturæ Specimen", Verona, 1642, in which he refers at times to Biblical and Talmudic matters (a work entitled "De Igni Lambente in Deserto" was published by Pedro de Castro in the same year at Verona)
  • "Amphiteatrum Medicum in quo Morbi Omnes Quibus Imposita Sunt Nomina ab Animalibus Raro Spectaculo Dibellantur", Verona, 1646.

Felix de Castro[edit]

Spanish physician, lived at Agramunt in the first quarter of the 18th century

On 30 November 1725, he was condemned by the Inquisition to imprisonment for life for Judaizing.

Hananeel de Castro[edit]

English communal worker, son of Mosseh and Judith de Castro, born London, 16 October 1794, died 23 March 1849

During 1817 to 1818, he served with the English volunteers in Barbados, and soon after returned to London where in December [1828, he married his cousin, Deborah de Jacob Mendes da Costa.

In London, De Castro at once took an important part in the communal life of the Bevis Marks Synagogue. At the time of the blood accusation at Damascus (1840) he was president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and was among the first to urge Sir Moses Montefiore's journey to the East. About the same period (20 January 1845) he laid the foundation of Sussex Hall, consisting of a library and lecture hall, which was the first Jewish literary institution in London.

During the bitter controversies following the promulgation of the herem against the Reform synagogue in 1841, Hananeel de Castro strove unceasingly to bring about a reconciliation. Finally, on 9 March 1849, a few weeks before his death, he secured the repeal of the herem insofar as it applied to Ascama No. 1.

Isaac de Castro[edit]

Author, lived probably in Amsterdam about 1612

He wrote the extremely rare work "Sobre o Principio e Restauração do Mundo", A. de 14 de Adar, 5372.

Isaac de Castro[edit]

Talmudist, born in Egypt about 1630, son of Jacob de Castro

He was distinguished for his Talmudic learning, and accumulated considerable wealth.

Isaac de Castro[edit]

Turkish printer, progenitor of the De Castro family of Constantinople, born at Venice in 1764, died at Constantinople in 1845

He founded an important printing establishment in the latter city. In 1815 he was commissioned by the government of the Sultan Mahmud II to organize the national Ottoman printing office. Of keen mind and exemplary probity, and being a great benefactor of his coreligionists, he was universally esteemed, and was decorated by the Sultan Mahmud with the Order Nishan-Iftikhar. He was an English subject. At his death he left one daughter, Dolceta, and six sons, Abram, Jacques, Moses, Nissim, Joseph, and Léon.

Jacob de Castro[edit]

First Jew born in Hamburg (1600), died there at the age of ninety-nine

He was a brother of Benedict and Daniel de Castro.

Jacob de Castro[edit]

Rabbinic authority, lived in Egypt, died there in 1610

He was a nephew (not a son, as had been believed) of the master of the mint, Abraham de Castro. On a pilgrimage to Safed he was the guest of Joseph Caro, by whom he was highly esteemed. De Castro corresponded among other of his contemporaries with Samuel de Medina, and was the author of the following works, which were published after his death.

  • "'Erek Lehem" (An Order of Bread), novellÊ and notes to the four legal codes, Constantinople, 1718
  • "Ohole Ya'akob" (Tents of Jacob), ritual decisions, Livorno, 1783
  • "Kol Ya'akob" (Voice of Jacob), derashot on the Pentateuch (cited by Azulai[disambiguation needed] as manuscripts), Constantinople
  • "Nazir", and a number of similar writings on Talmudic subjects, published by Jacob Hagis in his "Halakot Ketanot", Venice, 1704.

Jacob de Castro[edit]

Comedian, born in London 14 January 1758, died after 1815

A son of a Hebrew teacher, he was intended in his youth for the Jewish ministry, and with this in view he attended the various scholastic institutions of the Portuguese synagogue. But he showed an early predilection for the stage, at the age of fifteen arranging plays and farces in commemoration of Purim. He first appeared at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, in 1779 in a farce, then at the Royal Circus at the Haymarket Theatre in 1785. In 1786 he engaged with Philip Astley in the latter's "Amphitheater and Ambigu-Comique", remaining with him for a number of years and performing in a long list of burlesques, musical farces, and pantomimes. He was the chief of a small body of performers who were colloquially spoken of as 'Astley's Jews'.

In 1803 De Castro became manager of the Royalty Theatre, but later returned to Astley, with whom he remained until his death, appearing frequently in his amphitheater in Dublin.

Jacques de Castro[edit]

Turkish physician, son of Isaac de Castro, born in 1802, died in 1876

After finishing his medical studies at Paris, Sultan 'Abd al-Majid appointed him head physician of the military hospital at Constantinople. Castro was made a senator by Sultan 'Abd al-Aziz and was appointed by Sultan Abd al-Hamid his consulting physician, receiving the Order of the Medjidie.

Jose Rodrigues de Castro[edit]

Christian rabbinic scholar, librarian, born in Spain in 1739, died about 1795

Appointed royal librarian to Charles III and Charles IV, he devoted himself to a revision of the bibliographical labours of Nicolas Antonio, producing at Madrid in 1781 the "Biblioteca Española". This contains in the first volume accounts of Spanish Jewish authors, taken mainly from Bartolocci, though there is evidence that the writer knew some Rabbinic Hebrew, as his work includes Spanish translations of two Hebrew poems on chess. He addressed to Charles III on his accession a number of Hebrew, Latin and Greek verses entitled "Congratulatio Regi", Madrid, 1759.

Leon Hayim de Castro[edit]

Ladino editor, lived in the 19th century

Editor of the Spanish (Ladino) periodical, published at Constantinople in 1853, under the title "Or Yisrael", "La Luz de Israel".

Moses de Castro[edit]

Rabbinic authority, lived in the 16th century

Presumably a pupil of Berab, he was distinguished by great learning and ascetic piety. At first the head of a Talmudic school in Cairo, he settled later (about 1530) in Jerusalem. When Jacob Berab, rabbi of Safed, sought to invest the ordination of rabbinical judges with a higher authority, and to re-establish in Palestine a kind of Sanhedrin with himself as president, it was Moses de Castro and Levi b. $abib who successfully opposed the movement.

Moses Orobio de Castro[edit]

Son of Balthazar (Isaac) Orobio de Castro and a popular physician in Amsterdam

Nissim de Castro[edit]

Astronomer, lived in the 19th century

Author of a Ladino textbook on astronomy, published at Constantinople 1850, entitled, "Una Mirada á los Cielos, ó la Puerta de la Astronomia".

Rodrigo de Castro (also David Namias)[edit]

De Universa Mulierum Morborum Medicina by Rodrigo de Castro

Physician, born 1550 at Lisbon, died at Hamburg, date disputed but probably 1 February 1627

Castro studied medicine at Évora and Salamanca and, after receiving there the degrees of doctor of philosophy and of medicine, he practised at Lisbon. Philip II requested him on the completion of his studies to make a journey to East India for the purpose of collecting medicinal herbs and studying them scientifically, but the request was refused.[6]

In order to escape the persecutions of the Inquisition, Castro settled in Antwerp with his wife, Katharina Rodriguez and their two children. Here, by effecting some fortunate cures, he soon won high esteem, but when the Spanish re-established themselves in The Netherlands, considering himself insecure, he left Antwerp, probably living in northern Holland for several years until his countryman and colleague, possibly also relative, Henrico Rodriguez, induced him to make Hamburg his permanent home (1592).

When the plague broke out in that city in 1596, Castro distinguished himself by self-sacrificing devotion. He wrote a treatise on the plague and dedicated it to the Senate of Hamburg. Though he did not hold the office of "Medico del Senado" or city physician, as Daniel Levi de Barrios states in his "Relacion de los Poetas y Escritores Españoles", p. 55, he was a very popular and active physician and was frequently summoned by the magnates of neighboring countries, among whom were king Frederick II of Denmark, the landgrave of Hesse, the duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, and John Adolf, duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp (1590–1616) and in personal union administrator of the Prince-Archbishopric of Bremen (1589–1596).[7]

During Castro's first years in Hamburg he did not avow himself a Jew, but the first list of Portuguese Jews published in the city council makes mention of Dr. Rodrigo de Castro "together with his wife, two full-grown sons, and other small children." After the death of his wife (1603) who, since there was no Jewish cemetery in Hamburg-Altona, was buried either in the Christian cemetery or in the place obtained by Castro "within the pale of the Church", he married again. For almost fifty years, thirty-five of which were spent at Hamburg, he acted as the friend and helper of suffering humanity, being styled "master of his art", "famous physician", and "prince of medicine of his time." He was buried in the cemetery of the Jewish-Portuguese congregation at Altona.

The following works of Rodrigo de Castro appeared in print.

In Latin

  • "Tractatus Brevis de Natura et Causis Pestis Quæ Hoc Anno 1596 Hamburgensem Civitatem Afflixit", Hamburg, 1596
  • "De Universa Mulierum Morborum Medicina", ib. 1603 (1604), 1628, 1664, Venice 1644, Hanover 1654, Cologne 1689, Frankfurt 1668
  • "Medicus Politicus, sive de Officiis Medico-Politicis Tractatus", a kind of medical encyclopedia and methodology, Hamburg, 1614, 1662

In Portuguese

  • "Tratado de Herem, Em o Qual a Serca Desta Materia", etc., cited also under the title "Trattado da Halissa, En o Qual Sen a Desta Materia Dialogi xxv." 1614

Several members of his family were physicians of some repute, his uncle Emmanuel Vaëz having attended four kings of Portugal.

Members of the de Castro family sentenced by the Inquisition[edit]

The following were condemned by the Toledo Inquisition

  • Teresa de Castro (1485)
  • Manuel de Castro of Madrid (1561)
  • Francisco de Castro (1625)
  • Jorge de Castro (1664)
  • Ana de Castro, wife of Rodriguez Mercado (1676)
  • Ines de Castro, wife of Luis Cardoso (Toledo, 1679)
  • Catalina de Castro, wife of Balthazar de Castro of Guadalajara (1691)

Life sentences were imposed on the following, all of whom were physicians

  • Alvarez de Castro of Pontevedra, aged twenty-five, sentenced 21 September 1722 at Santiago
  • Simon de Castro of Badajoz, aged twenty-five, sentenced 30 November 1722 at Llerena
  • Joseph de Castro of Madrid, aged forty-nine, sentenced 30 November 1722 at Llerena
  • Felix de Castro, sentenced 30 November 1725

See also[edit]



  1. ^ GeneAll - Castro family, with coat of arms, in Portuguese.
  2. ^ Sabine Kruse, 'Rodrigo de Castro (um 1585-1640)', In: Mein Vater war portugiesischer Jude …: Die sefardische Einwanderung nach Norddeutschland um 1600 und ihre Auswirkungen auf unsere Kultur, Sabine Kruse and Bernt Engelmann (eds.), Göttingen: Steidl, 1992, pp. 73seq., here p. 74.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Barbosa Machado, Diogo (1741). Bibliotheca Lusitana (in Portuguese). p. 767. Retrieved 17 April 2015. 
  6. ^ Michael Studemund-Halévy and Gaby Zürn, Zerstört die Erinnerung nicht. Der jüdische Friedhof Königstraße in Hamburg, Hamburg: Dölling und Galitz, 2002, p. 135. ISBN 3-933374-41-3
  7. ^ Michael Studemund-Halévy and Gaby Zürn, Zerstört die Erinnerung nicht. Der jüdische Friedhof Königstraße in Hamburg, Hamburg: Dölling und Galitz, 2002, p. 136. ISBN 3-933374-41-3

External links[edit]