John III of Portugal

John III was King of Portugal (1502-1557). He was also called the “Pious King”. Like Spain at the time, he took strict measures against the Jews, forbidding them to convert to Christianity under false pretenses. He also promoted measures to ban Protestantism in the country. He promoted missionary work in Brazil and East Asia, thus ushering in a new era.

Life ofJohn III (João III)

 John III’s father was Manuel I, and his mother was Maria, daughter of Isabella I of Spain. John’s daughter would later marry Felipe II of Spain. This would provide the basis for Felipe’s later accession to the Portuguese throne in 1580 and the annexation of Portugal.

 Religious Policy of the Pious King

 King John III strongly promoted various Catholic religious policies in Portugal.

 He promoted measures against Jews who had converted to the Christianity, just as was done in Spain at that time. In Spain, Jews had two choices: convert to Christianity or be expelled. Many Jews converted. However, in many cases, conversion was only superficial. Spain saw this as a serious problem. So Spain strictly enforced this conversion as a false conversion.

Many Jews who refused to convert in Spain and were expelled fled to neighboring Portugal. But they were no longer at ease in Portugal. For John also adopted the same policy in Portugal and developed a strict Jewish policy.

 In this vein, in 1536, John introduced the Inquisition. It had the same characteristics as the Spanish Inquisition. Fro it was also used as a tool to extend royal power in the country and to establish centralized authority. In both countries, the local nobility and cities maintained their power to oppose the royal authority. The Inquisition was therefore useful for subjugating them to royal power and bringing the country from a decentralized state to a centralized state. The right of appointment of the Inquisitors belonged not to the Pope, but to the King of Portugal.

In the beginning, the main target was the converso, or those who had converted from Judaism to Christianity. But the heretical acts of the old Christians also became targeted: in 1540, they were burned for heresy. Furthermore, in 1547, he established the system of the Index. This was also separate from the papal one. To begin with, it was not until 1557 that the first Papal Index was established.

 Furthermore, in 1540, John introduced the newly established Society of Jesus to Portugal. Thereafter, the Jesuits would exercise a strong influence in Portugal for a long time. For the Jesuits would be chosen as lecturers at universities and were in charge of the religious affairs of the royalty and nobility.

 John also took measures against Protestantism. The Reformation began in Germany in 1517. Measures were taken to prevent them from flowing into Portugal.

 Foreign Policy

 Overseas, He began the colonization of Brazil in earnest. Portugal had “discovered” Brazil in 1500 by Cabral. Full-scale settlement proceeded during John’s time.

 He continued to push for expansion into East Asia. Portugal had successfully pioneered the East India Sea route by Vasco da Gama during the reign of his father Manuel I. Thus, Portugal began the long-desired spice trade with India. It began full-scale expansion into India and Southeast Asia.
 However, during John’s time, Portugal ran into financial difficulties in forming vast networks in East Asia. In particular, this was due to the high cost of warfare in the East India Sea rRute and the seas of East Asia, where they were engaged in naval battles with the Ottoman Empire and sultans in these vast regions.
 Therefore, John tried to reduce the expenditures by abandoning a part of the Portuguese maritime empire. To compensate for the costs of war, he also instituted a policy of making trade in valuable spices a royal monopoly. However, this was strongly opposed by the nobility. In addition, Portuguese merchants operating in the region engaged in smuggling one after another. The Portuguese monarchy and the colonial government failed to control them. This eventually led to the abandonment of the royal monopoly policy. Nevertheless, the main income of the crown continued to be profits from overseas trade. These were mainly spices from East Asia and gold from Africa.

 John recruited missionaries to promote missionary work in East Asia and Brazil. The newly established Jesuits were to send Francis Xavier. Thus, the mission of Southeast Asia was entrusted to Xavier. As a result, Xavier started the mission to Japan and established the first Christian church in Japan. Thus began the Christian era in Japan. The greatest trade profits in the Portuguese maritime empire would come from trade with Japan.
 In addition, during John’s time, he succeeded in forming a mearchant base in Macao, in China, which did not easily open its doors to Portugal due to the sea ban policy. John attracted Italian professors to the University of Coimbra in order to train excellent missionaries who were to work in the vast missionary areas.

John III

Persons associated with John III

☆ Xavier: He started missionary work in Japan as a result of John’s request. From there, the Nanban trade began in earnest, which also brought great benefits to Portugal.

Manuel I: King of Portugal who was John’s father. He had Vasco da Gama open up the East India se route and began Portugal’s expansion into East Asia in earnest.

Recommended or Selected references

金七紀男『図説ポルトガルの歴史』河出書房新社, 2022

Charlotte de Castelnau-L’Estoile(ed.), Connaissances et pouvoirs : les espaces impériaux (XVIe-XVIIIe siècles) : France, Espagne, Portugal, Presses universitaires de Bordeaux, 2005

E. Michael Gerli(ed.), The Routledge Hispanic studies companion to medieval Iberia : unity in diversity, Routledge, 2021