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Church of Nossa Senhora da Assunção

Our Lady of the Assumption is a saint so consecrated that her image is also carried during the procession of the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary of Boa Vista.

Church of Nossa Senhora da Assunção

Article available in: PT-BR

Last update: 10/01/2012

By: Semira Adler Vainsencher - N/I

The church of Our Lady of the Assumption is located on Rua das Fronteiras street, in the Boa Vista neighbourhood, and is baroque in style. Our Lady of the Assumption is a saint so consecrated that her image is also carried during the procession of the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary of Boa Vista.

In 1630, however, all the land where the church was located was part of a large farm owned by a wealthy settler: João Velho Barreto. There was a large villa as well as some very modest houses belonging to the other residents.

Historical documents record that during the Dutch invasion, the site was occupied by 180 men under the command of Captain Antônio Ribeiro de Lacerda. This occupation lasted a very short time, and then the outpost of the Afogados River crossing was defended by Luís Barbalho Bezerra, along with his troop of Indians and settlers.

This time, several fortified posts and outposts appeared to fight the Dutch, and the defence was entrusted to Henrique Dias, a black officer decorated during the Battle of the Guararapes Mountains, and a troop of black men. With a good strategic position, Henrique Dias managed a series of defeats to the Dutch.

This enraged the commanders of the Batavian army: Segismund Von Sckoppe and Gillis Van Luffel. So on 5 August 1648, the general picked two thousand Flemish soldiers under his command and furiously attacked Henrique Dias’ outpost. Turning to the offensive, the black officer reacted in such a way that the Dutch lost the battle, leaving 50 dead on the field and barely being able to bring back the high number of wounded.

In order to further terrorise the invaders, the black men of that victorious troop decapitated the dead Flemish, thrust their heads onto spears and put them on display to the public. Almost three centuries after this episode, it should be remembered, the volantes [paramilitary police] who were trying to exterminate cangaço [banditry], acted in a similar way with Lampião’s band.

This stupendous victory intensified the religious spirit of Henrique Dias. In this sense in 1646, he decided to have a chapel built for Our Lady of the Assumption (whom he thought had protected him in the battle), while hoping to be able to erect a larger monument in honour of the Virgin at the end of the fighting.

In respect to the numerous merits of the heroes of the liberation war, and serving the Portuguese Crown in the state wars, Henrique Dias was firstly rewarded with the houses that belonged to the Dutchman Van Luffel. He also received the potteries of Gaspar Roque and all the lands associated with them along the Capibaribe River to Santo Antônio Island.

In addition to these assets, D. João IV granted Henrique Dias “the concession of a date [an allotment of 6.6 by 19.8 metres] of lands for the foundation of a monument of whose time and nature nothing is known”. It is precisely in this place, on the borders of the Henrique Dias Ranch, where the chapel of Our Lady of the Assumption was built.

The valiant governor of the blacks, however, despite all the rewards he received, died poor. By order of Governor Brito Freire, all of his funeral expenses were paid by the Royal Treasury.

It was only in 1748 that the construction of a new church was completed, replacing the old chapel, in accordance with the request of the Henrique Dias Regiment (or the Henriques Regiment), to fulfil a promise made by the late black governor. For decades, however, this temple was administered only by black people. It was the same in relation to its attendance.

On 19 November 1871, the Society of the Henriques was founded in the church’s consistory room, whose goal was to keep alive the devotion to Our Lady of the Assumption and administer the ranch’s temple. Its first president was Salvador Henrique de Albuquerque, a retired major.

When the enthusiasm for the founding of the church was exhausted, it fell into ostracism, being administered by foreign brotherhoods and the charity sisters of a nearby college. Religious acts continue to be celebrated. At present, the church of Our Lady of the Assumption is well preserved. And on its façade, scrolls can be appreciated, as well as the royal emblem that gave it the title of Imperial Chapel.

 Recife, 20 August 2003.
(Updated on 22 November 2007).
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 Nossa Senhora da Assunção, Recife, PE.  Pesquisa Escolar Online, Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Recife. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: dia  mês ano. Ex: 6 ago. 2009.