Dona Gracia (Nasi) (1510-1568)
As a 'Maranna', Dona Gracia (Nasi) was married to Francisco Mendes of the House of Nasi. Her husband ran a large trading
enterprise. He died in 1535, leaving her a widow at twenty-five. The Inquisition, an increasingly mortal threat, forced
her to leave her homeland and flee with her children to Antwerp. Later, from 1549 to 1553, she lived in Ferrara where
the tolerant Duke Ercole d'Este allowed her to practice her true religion. Nevertheless, she was still persecuted in Italy
because of her Jewish faith. It was only in Constantinople that she found the personal freedom she had sought throughout
her life. In the tradition of her religion she devoted herself to good works. She built houses of prayer and teaching and
supported needy fellow Jews. She died in 1568, the 'heart of her people'.