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Church and Hospital of Mercy, Olinda, PE

The old church only had a main chapel and a small chapel, which was later replaced by the altar of the Holy Trinity.

Church and Hospital of Mercy, Olinda, PE

Article available in: PT-BR

Last update: 13/02/2017

By: Semira Adler Vainsencher - N/I

In 1630, at the southern end of Rua Nova, in Olinda, the Mercy Hospital and its church were functioning. But with the great fire of 1631 caused by the Dutch, the buildings were in ruins, and the brothers of Mercy retired to Arraial do Bom Jesus, where today is Sítio da Trindade, remaining there until 1635.

In order to take care of those wounded in battle during the period of the Pernambuco Insurrection, these brothers set up their hospital on the former lands of the São João da Várzea plantation, and only returned to the city of Olinda after the departure of the Dutch in 1654.

A year later, in 1655, the temple was rebuilt in the same place it had occupied in the past, but in smaller dimensions. The old church only had a main chapel and a small chapel, which was later replaced by the altar of the Holy Trinity.

This work must have lasted for several years, since there are different dates engraved in several localities of the church: 1771 on the arch; 1736 above a gate; 1710 in the side of a building alongside the temple; and 1707 in the east consistory. The building later gained two more altars.

Because it was poorly managed for many administrations, in the first half of the 19th century, the Olinda Holy House of Mercy was in decline, failing to service its target audience. In 1860, the hospital was closed, becoming an asylum for mentally disabled from 1864 to 1883.

When the administration of the building was turned over to the confraternity of St Vincent de Paul, the old hospital turned into a shelter.

In 1896, however, the hospital and church were ceded to the Benedictine Order of the Olinda Monastery, and an arts and crafts college for orphaned children was founded. The monks, on the other hand, continued to pay the Holy House a certain amount as a kind of rent.

In the Church of Mercy, two carvings can be appreciated on the doors of the main chapel, both in D. João V style; and in the cross-arch are two busts symbolising Hope and Faith, as well as a carved decoration that presents a date in its centre: 1771. In the temple there are also two eagles at the base support of the tribune.

The roof of the building is composed of several oil panels enclosed in thick carved frames depicting scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary. In the centre, one can see the image of Our Lady of Mercy. The set is very harmonious.

Inspired by biblical motifs, there was a strip of tiles along the skirting board of the church and the main chapel. Of these, however, only eight panels remain below the chorus.

In addition to a two-colour marble washbasin – an old Portuguese sculpture – the sacristy contains several pieces carved in jacaranda: the central niche, some wardrobes to store vestments, and piece of furniture in which objects of worship are kept.

The pulpit of the Church of Mercy was entirely made of gold carving and its collateral altars present niches. In addition, there are four panels in the chancel, representing scenes from the life of St Elizabeth and works of Mercy. It should be noted, however, that much of the current church building is the result of reforms undertaken during the 17th century.


Recife, 20 November 2003.

sources consulted

BARBOSA, Antônio. Relíquias de Pernambuco. São Paulo: Editora Fundo Educativo Brasileiro, 1983.

FRANCA, Rubem. Monumentos do Recife. Recife: Secretaria de Educação e Cultura, 1977.

GUERRA, Flávio. Velhas igrejas do Recife, Olinda e Igarassu. [Recife?: s.n., 196?].

_________. Velhas igrejas e subúrbios históricos. Recife: Fundação Guararapes, 1970.

IGREJA e Hospital da Misericórdia [Foto neste texto]. Disponível em:<http://www.historia-brasil.com/colonia/colonia.htm>. Acesso em: 10 fev. 2017.

MENEZES, José Luiz da Mota. O Recife e as construções religiosas. Arrecifes: Revista do Conselho Municipal de Cultura, Recife, a. 3, n. 2, p.27-31, 1987.

MUELLER, Bonifácio. Olinda e suas igrejas: esboço histórico. Recife: Livraria Pio XII, 1945.

SILVA, Leonardo Dantas. Pernambuco preservado. Recife: Edição do Autor, 2002

how to quote this text

Source: VAINSENCHER, Semira Adler. Igreja e Hospital da Misericórdia (Olinda, PE). Pesquisa Escolar Online, Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Recife. Disponível em: <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar/>. Acesso em: dia  mês ano. Ex: 6 ago. 2009.