Teixeira de Sampaio, Abraham Senior

views updated


TEIXEIRA DE SAMPAIO, ABRAHAM SENIOR (formerly Diego; 1581–1666), Portuguese Marrano nobleman. Born in Lisbon, Teixeira was the son of Dom Francisco de Melo, a gentleman of the Portuguese royal house, and Dona Antonia de Silva Teixeria, lady-in-waiting to the queen. In 1643 he moved to Antwerp, where he was appointed consul and paymaster for the government of Spain. After the death of his first wife, he married Dona Anna (Sarah) d'Andrade, a noblewoman who had borne him a son, Manoel, 20 years before. Soon after, Teixeira and, even more, his wife felt a compelling need to practice Judaism. They moved to Hamburg and there Teixeira and his sons were circumcised (c. 1648), creating a scandal in the Catholic world. The imperial Viennese court indignantly demanded the confiscation of Teixeira's property, assessed at over 250,000 crowns. The Hamburg senate, however, objecting to the loss of this new-found capital, thwarted its confiscation. Teixeira prospered, founding the international banking house that became known as Teixeira de Mattos. Taking a prominent part in Jewish public affairs, Teixeira in 1657 interceded with King Frederick iii of Denmark to secure civil rights for the Jews of Glueckstadt, a Danish port on the Elbe. For a time he headed Hamburg's Sephardi congregation and in 1659 arranged for the construction of a new synagogue. When the officials of Hamburg's St. Michael Church asked him to acquire the copper sheets they needed for roofing, he did so and refused to accept payment. Called "the rich Jew," he maintained an aristocratic home, traveling in a luxurious carriage attended by a retinue of liveried servants. Whenever Queen Christina of Sweden visited Hamburg after 1654, she stayed in his home. From 1655 until his death he was resident diplomatic and financial minister for the Swedish crown, a post inherited by his son Manoel. Two charities founded by Teixeira and Sarah, one for poor brides and the other for captive Jews, continued to function in Hamburg into the 20th century.


H. Kellenbenz, Sephardim an der unteren Elbe (1958), 278–300, 483; Graetz, Gesch, 4 (1894), 690; Roth. Marranos, 301; I. da Costa, Noble Families among the Sephardic Jews (1936), 81, 110.

[Aaron Lichtenstein]