Catarina da Orta

Catarina da Orta  († 1569)

Catarina da Orta, sister of the celebrated Garcia, was burnt at the stake in Goa on 25th of October 1569.

It is a manuscript of about 140 pages, and curiously, two manuscript copies were made, and which are to be found in the Torre do Tombo in Lisbon under the numbers 1282 and 1283, that testify about the legacy of Catarina da Orta.

Whilst the processes of the Inquisition contain many data, it must not be forgotten that many of them were obtained under torture. In the processes against women, it is frequent to read confessions of their having had sexual relations with the devil, and other absurdities.

Catarina, was imprisoned by the Inquisition in Goa, through some slanderous rumour, in October 1568, She denounced all her own people: her husband, her daughter, her sisters, her mother, the uncles, cousins, her son-in-law, the sisters of the son-in-law, the neighbours, other “new Christians” and even relatives living in Lisbon. It isn’t strange that this should come about, because the tortures and torments of the Inquisition were not mild, nor courteous.

In this process, she confesses and then recants. She denounced her daughters, and later recanted.. She delivered her mother to the Inquisitors, and later on she declares that she had lied. With Brianda it was the same old story.

Catarina manifested that Brianda ate pork meat on the days forbidden by the Church, and that she did not have a shirt to bury her husband, but later denies twice over that she had lied.

When she was taken to be burnt at the stake, she confesses that ” the reason of her false denunciations was because it appeared to her that she might receive mercy and would save her life, and the devil would refrain from tempting her”


Alfredo de Mello

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