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Church of the Holy Cross, Recife, PE

The Church of Santa Cruz [Holy Cross] was completed between 1725 and 1732.

Church of the Holy Cross, Recife, PE

Article available in: PT-BR

Last update: 12/01/2017

By: Semira Adler Vainsencher - N/I

Located in Pátio da Santa Cruz, in the Boa Vista neighbourhood, the Church of Santa Cruz [Holy Cross] was completed between 1725 and 1732.

In front of the church there was a stone crucifix, but in 1821, the Pernambuco governor Luís do Rêgo Barreto had it demolished.

The oldest historical record regarding the temple comes from the third decade of the 18th century. This is Pope Clement XII’s Brief of 7 January 1732, granting plenary indulgences to the Brotherhood of the Lord Jesus of the Sacred Way, “which was to be erected canonically by the ordinary place, in the parish church of the Holy Cross, in the place of Boa Vista, of the diocese of Pernambuco, under the invocation of the same Santa Cruz, called the Via Sacra”.

There is another record that, at the request of a Jesuit missionary – Fr Gabriel Malagrida – the governor of Pernambuco, Henrique Luís Pereira Freire, on 23 September 1742, granted a licence for him to construct a women’s shelter next to the Church of Santa Cruz in Boa Vista. However, no information is available as to whether such a shelter was made.

The Church of Santa Cruz features a single tower on its left side. In it, the following Brotherhoods were formed: the Confraternity of the Lord Good Jesus of the Way of the Cross, the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and the Brotherhood of the Lady Santana. Except for the litany altars and the chancel, all other ornamental carvings were the work of the master carver Antônio Basilio de Oliveira at the end of the 18th century.

Although the temple was modest, it served the parish until 1793, the year in which the Blessed Sacrament was transferred to the church of Boa Vista – the present-day Boa Vista Parish Church – whose construction had not yet been completed at that time.

Until 1920, on the last Sunday before Easter, the procession of the Encounter left from the Pátio da Santa Cruz. According to a chronicler who lived at that time, in that procession, the palanquin of the Mother of Sorrows met the palanquin of the Suffering Son. When the two palanquins were united, the procession progressed through the streets of the Boa Vista neighbourhood.

Pátio de Santa Cruz, on the other hand, was a very familiar and well-known place in Recife. In it were the religious feasts of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and of Our Lady of Santana. These two Brotherhoods continue to maintain a chaplain there for the performing of all religious acts. However, the church feasts take place every August.

The Boa Vista neighbourhood represented in particular one of the cleanest and most modest places in Recife. In addition to processions, almost all Carnival groups, maracatu, caboclinhos and other manifestations in the Northeast Brazilian folklore paraded through it.

Rosário da Boa Vista was a strictly familiar street, with sidewalks and windows full of people at night, ending at Pátio da Santa Cruz and at Rua da Conceição, a street where the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary was built. At the time of her adolescence, recalls the author, one of the great challenges of youth during Carnival was to be able to shake the hand of Dona Santa, the oldest saint-mother of all in Pernambuco Maracatu.

Constantly open to the public and always clean and preserved, the Church of Santa Cruz, even without the splendour of the 19th century and its celebrated Lenten processions, usually serves as a stage for some non-religious events, such as classical music concerts.

Recife, 11 August 2003.
(Updated on 21 January 2008).
Translated by Peter Leamy, November 2016.

sources consulted

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

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

how to quote this text

Source: VAINSENCHER, Semira Adler. Igreja de Santa Cruz (Recife, PE). Pesquisa Escolar Online, Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Recife. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em:dia  mês ano. Ex: 6 ago. 2009.