The Santa Casa da Misericórdia of Bahia

  • A. J. R. Russell-Wood


The earliest reference to the existence of a branch of the Misericórdia at Bahia is in 1552. Writing from Bahia in late August, the Jesuit Manoel da Nóbrega referred to the difficulty of maintaining an orphanage which ‘I gave to the Misericórdia of this city so that the brothers could look after the children, but neither they nor anyone else were willing to accept this responsibility’.1 The destruction of the archives of the Misericórdia by the Dutch and the ravages of time and ants have removed the possibility of stating precisely the date of foundation of the brotherhood in Bahia. The nineteenth-century auditor and historian of the Misericórdia, António Joaquim Damázio, cautiously placed the foundation as occurring between the arrival of Tomé de Sousa in 1549 and the death of the third governor, Mem de Sá, in 1572. The subsequent publication of documents in the National Library in Rio de Janeiro dealing with the early history of Bahia and of letters written by the first Jesuits in Brazil to the colleges in Portugal has enabled modern historians to reduce this span. In the light of the new material scholars such as Theodoro Sampaio, Ernesto de Sousa Campos, Serafim Leite, Pedro Calmon and Carlos Ott have moved back the date of the foundation of the Misericórdia in Bahia.2 The Bahian historians Pedro Calmon and Carlos Ott have even asserted that as early as 1549 a branch of the Misericórdia was functioning in Bahia. We may commence our history of the brotherhood by examining the evidence, albeit fragmentary, relating to the foundation.


Religious Order Royal Decree Civil Jurisdiction General Supervision Hemp Cloth 
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  1. 3.
    The lands in the city were of a leasehold value of 600$000, Pedro Calmon, História da Casa da Tôrre (2nd ed., Rio de Janeiro, 1958), p. 26, n. 16.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© A. J. R. Russell-Wood 1968

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. J. R. Russell-Wood
    • 1
  1. 1.St Antony’s CollegeOxfordUK

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