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date: 22 May 2024

Heresies, Religious Persecution, and Intolerance in Colonial Brazillocked

Heresies, Religious Persecution, and Intolerance in Colonial Brazillocked

  • Bruno FeitlerBruno FeitlerDepartamento de História, Universidade Federal de São Paulo


Portuguese America, or colonial Brazil, was a world of multiple cultures and peoples, integrating Amerindians, Europeans and enslaved Africans. However, this integration was carried out under the exclusive dominion of the Portuguese, for whom religious unity within Roman Catholicism was a political necessity. This fact was not apparent in the early decades of the 16th century when they first landed in what would become Brazil; however, with the beginning of effective colonization and the presence of missionaries in the 1540s, while religious strife in Europe was in ascension, there was no doubt. Although a local Inquisition tribunal was never established, intolerance was the norm, and religious persecution of acts and beliefs deemed heretical (or associated with them) was a reality. This search for Catholic orthodoxy and exclusivism was ensured in colonial Brazil mainly by three ecclesiastic institutes or organizations: Inquisition representatives, members of the secular clergy, and missionaries (Jesuits, but also Capuchins, Carmelites, and members of other regular orders). While not all had the primary objective of persecuting heretics, they considered religious homogeneity as essential and thus struggled to uncover and punish potential Protestants or crypto-Jews. They also confronted practices and beliefs of local origin on a much more regular basis, such as the santidade of Jaguaripe and the mandinga pouches and calundus of African origin, associating them with devilish customs and calling those practices and beliefs “inventions,” “abuses,” or “errors” rather than a more theologically established “heresy.”


  • History of Brazil
  • 1492–1824
  • Church and Religious History

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