chapter  11
30 Pages

Franciscans and the Parish in Early Modern Brazil

ByIvan Cavalcanti Filho

From its establishment, the Catholic Church in colonial Brazil followed a difficult and lengthy road due to the extent of its territory, the long distances between the settlements established by the Portuguese and, above all, the difficulties in pacifying the indigenous peoples as part of the process of colonization. In spite of the discovery of Brazil at the start of the sixteenth century, the Portuguese only began to settle there after 1534 when the territory had been divided into captaincies.1 The Catholic Church was only officially established in 1551, with the formation of the diocese of Salvador based in the colony’s capital.2 Parishes were established as part of this new ecclesiastical organization, but it took much longer to extend Catholic worship throughout the colony’s settlements. Although the Jesuits had been active in Brazil since 1549, they were more focused on missionary activities than the religious life of the colonial towns. However, the introduction of other religious orders, most notably the Franciscans came to supplement and contribute to the limited parochial provision within the colony.