Story of Beatrice De Luna / Gracia Mendes Nasi

Among the richest Jewish women of Renaissance Europe

Did you know that Gracia Mendes Nasi, one of the most famous Jewish businesswomen of the Mediterranean, spent some time in Dubrovnik, on her escape from Venice to Istanbul?

Dona Gracia/Grace (1510 – 1569) was one of the richest Jewish women of Renaissance Europe. Born in Lisbon under the Christian name Beatrice de Luna, Gracia was a daughter of the Portuguese conversos, who, in the secrecy of their home, followed their original Jewish faith.

She married Francisco Mendes Nasi, a wealthy merchant and banker. Francisco and his younger brother Diogo were well-known experts for money transfers from one country to another.

After her husband passed away, Dona Gracia inherited half of her husband’s company, together with her brother in law. With the increase of prosecution of Jews, she and her daughter fled from Portugal to Antwerp. Soon after arriving there, her brother in law passed away, so Gracia took over the business. Due to the increase of hostility toward the Jews, and the possibility of confiscation of her fortune, Gracia Mendes escaped. She left Antwerp in 1549, with her daughter, and most of her wealth. She settled in Venice, just for a while, wanting to reach Istanbul. There was a high degree of religious tolerance in the Ottoman Empire, without restrictions toward Jews and Christians. It took her two years before she finally arrived in Istanbul in 1552.

In planning how to run businesses from Istanbul, Gracia had to find out a proper way for trade with the West. The most ideal was the neutral Republic of Dubrovnik, skilled trade and political player between the Ottoman Empire and Western Catholic countries.

A SECRET WELCOME TO DUBROVNIK

For that reason, Gracia, on her way to Istanbul, stopped in Dubrovnik in September 1552. Of course, there was no formal, grand welcome. The authorities have made sure that the sailing of her ship into Dubrovnik waters goes unnoticed. A secret house became her Dubrovnik residence.

During her stay, she concluded the first business contract with Dubrovnik. The contract was renewed regularly, every five years. For the last time in July 1562.

Since the death of her husband Fernando (1535), Gracia Mendes has been changing places of residence for seventeen years, hiding, running away, preserving family fortunes.
She had lived the same period in peace, found in Istanbul. Through which she had built her business empire for fifteen years by trading through the port of Dubrovnik.

If you’d like to hear more stories about the lives of the women who lived in Republic of Dubrovnik, on my Scent of the Women tour I will share some truly interesting historical information.

Gracia Mendes Nasi postal stamp

Beatrice De Luna – Gracia Mendes Nasi

Among the richest Jewish women of Renaissance Europe

Did you know that Gracia Mendes Nasi, one of the most famous Jewish businesswomen of the Mediterranean, spent some time in Dubrovnik, on her escape from Venice to Istanbul?

Dona Gracia/Grace (1510 – 1569) was one of the richest Jewish women of Renaissance Europe. Born in Lisbon under the Christian name Beatrice de Luna, Gracia was a daughter of the Portuguese conversos, who, in the secrecy of their home, followed their original Jewish faith.

She married Francisco Mendes Nasi, a wealthy merchant and banker. Francisco and his younger brother Diogo were well-known experts for money transfers from one country to another.

After her husband passed away, Dona Gracia inherited half of her husband’s company, together with her brother in law. With the increase of prosecution of Jews, she and her daughter fled from Portugal to Antwerp. Soon after arriving there, her brother in law passed away, so Gracia took over the business. Due to the increase of hostility toward the Jews, and the possibility of confiscation of her fortune, Gracia Mendes escaped. She left Antwerp in 1549, with her daughter, and most of her wealth. She settled in Venice, just for a while, wanting to reach Istanbul. There was a high degree of religious tolerance in the Ottoman Empire, without restrictions toward Jews and Christians. It took her two years before she finally arrived in Istanbul in 1552.

In planning how to run businesses from Istanbul, Gracia had to find out a proper way for trade with the West. The most ideal was the neutral Republic of Dubrovnik, skilled trade and political player between the Ottoman Empire and Western Catholic countries.

A SECRET WELCOME TO DUBROVNIK

For that reason, Gracia, on her way to Istanbul, stopped in Dubrovnik in September 1552. Of course, there was no formal, grand welcome. The authorities have made sure that the sailing of her ship into Dubrovnik waters goes unnoticed. A secret house became her Dubrovnik residence.

During her stay, she concluded the first business contract with Dubrovnik. The contract was renewed regularly, every five years. For the last time in July 1562.

Since the death of her husband Fernando (1535), Gracia Mendes has been changing places of residence for seventeen years, hiding, running away, preserving family fortunes.

She had lived the same period in peace, found in Istanbul. Through which she had built her business empire for fifteen years by trading through the port of Dubrovnik.

If you’d like to hear more stories about the lives of the women who lived in Republic of Dubrovnik, on my Scent of the Women tour I will share some truly interesting historical information.

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