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The Church of Santa Isabel, Paulista, PE

The cornerstone of the church was launched on January 13, 1946, with the presence of Archbishop D. Miguel de Lima Valverde.

The Church of Santa Isabel, Paulista, PE

Article available in: PT-BR

Last update: 08/10/2013

By: Virginia Barbosa - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

The township of Paulista is located about 20 kms away from the capital of the state of Pernambuco. The origin of the town’s name goes back to the end of the 15th Century when Manuel Álvares de Moraes Navarro, born at the São Paulo Captaincy purchased from João Fernandes Vieira the land of the parishes of  Paratibe and Maranguape. The lands acquired by him became known as Engenho do Paulista. Navarro commanded a group of São Paulo Bandeirantes (explorers and pathfinders who hunted down natives for slavery and discovered mineral wealth in Brazil’s outbacks), and was part of  Domingos Jorge Velho’s Bandeira (expedition). The latter had been hired by the Governor of the Province of Pernambuco to “fight and repel African and native Indian insurgents from the Palmares rebellion”.

Over the centuries the locality underwent considerable political and economic development. Towards the end of the 19th Century, a small textile company was already in operation, the Companhia de Tecidos Paulista (CTP)  albeit due to financial difficulties, its managers - the Rodrigues Lima, put up its stocks for sale.

In 1904, Herman Lundgren, a Swede who acquired Brazilian citizenship, bought the shares and became its largest stockholder. The company was from then on managed by the family, and for many years expanded the state’s textile industrialization process and had a profound influence in the lives of Paulista’s inhabitants.

Between 1946 and 1950 the Lundgren family, to honor the family matriarch, Elizabeth Lundgren, built a church that was to bear the name Saint Elisabeth Regina. However, as there is no Catholic saint with such a name, the temple was dedicated to Saint Isabel – the Queen of Portugal.

The church is located in the downtown area of Paulista, on a land lot previously claimed by the Textile Workers’ Union to build their headquarters. The Lundgren family did not accept the union building location at that site and with the support  of the Archbishop and authorization of Governor Agamenon Magalhães, built the church there.

The cornerstone of the church was launched on January 13, 1946, with the presence of Archbishop D. Miguel de Lima Valverde on a pastoral visit to the Parish of Nossa Senhora dos Prazeres, which encompassed all the Paulista parish plus Abreu e Lima. The inauguration was on June 29th, 1950, with a procession and mass presided by the archidiocese Bishop. In the General Archive Book it is stated that along with the cornerstone was also laid an urn containing a document that  “is proof of the promise and fact of donation of the church to the Catholic people of Paulista” (ALCÂNTARA, p. 95). Nonetheless, after it was built, “the Lundgren family donated it to the Archdiocese of Olinda and Recife, but that document disappeared, and to this day, the church is owned by the CTP”, (ANDRADE, 2010, pg. 2). To legalize this donation by the Lundgren, according to Andrade, Father Valdemir José filed an adverse possession lawsuit with an ownership claim by the church.

The temple stands 60 m tall, designed in eclectic style (with Roman, Neoclassical and Neogothic elements), constructed of exposed brick.  “It has three doors and a single bell tower at the center of the gable, two galleries and a choir, a single nave and arches with stained glass windows. The main altar is simple, flanked by two side-altars. On the chancel-arch altar an inscription can be seen: Saint Elisabeth Regina” (MUNICIPALITY OF THE CITY OF PAULISTA). The background painting of the altars is the work of artist Hildebrando Eugênio, who also designed the flag of the city of Paulista. The images that are part of these altars were donated by merchants, workers and the Lundgren family. The windows, originally made of stained glass, were restored in 1988 by Father Geraldo Leite, S.C.J. They were eventually damaged by time and substituted by swivel windows. The carpenters and woodworkers of the Arthur Lundgren Factory were responsible for the manufacturing of the church doors.

Paulista played a role in the history of Pernambuco. One of the prominent characters of the 1817 Pernambucan Revolution was Father João Ribeiro, for his leadership and freedom ideals. At the height of the movement, he traveled to Paulista. When he heard about the fall of the provisional revolutionary government and the persecution by the royal army, he took his life by hanging himself. He was buried next to the chapel of the Paulista mill. But three days later, by order of Admiral Rodrigo Lobo, his body was unearthed, mutilated, dismembered and his head exposed at the Pillory Square, in Recife. His skull was on display until the year 2001, at the Geographic, Historic and Archaelogical Institute of Pernambuco - Instituto Arqueológico, Histórico e Geográfico Pernambucano (IAHGP) as a tribute to the priest.

The IAHGP along with the government of Pernambuco, the Archidiocese of Olinda and Recife, the vicar of the church of Santa Isabel, the mayor and the secretary of tourism of Paulista decided to bury him with due respect. On October 29, 2001, the skull of Father João Ribeiro was buried in a tomb specially built for it inside the church of Santa Isabel, almost two centuries after his death.

Today, the church of Santa Isabel is considered a Special Preservation Monument and heritage of the town of Paulista. For its expression, historical aspects and evident relationship with the memory and identity of Paulista and its inhabitants, it was chosen in 2008, as the main symbol and most representative monument of the city.

Recife, 29 August 2011.

sources consulted

ALCÂNTARA, Laurita Maria de. Paulista: algumas contribuições para sua história. Paulista: Claranto, 2002.

COMPANHIA de Tecidos Paulista S.A. Anuário de Olinda, Olinda, ano 10, p. 60-62, dez. 1956.

IGREJA de Santa Isabel (Fotografia).Available at: <.Acessed">">.Acessed">>.Acessed: 30 set. 2011.

IGREJA é símbolo de Paulista. Jornal do Commercio, Recife, ano 89, n. 301, 28 out. 2007. Cidades, p. 1.

MOVIMENTO PRÓ-MUSEU. Carta do Coordenador do Movimento Pró-Museu [Ricardo Andrade da Costa Silva] dirigida ao Conselho Estadual de Cultura de Pernambuco, em 23 de janeiro de 2010. Paulista, 2010. Documento recebido pela Autora, via e-mail, em 31 August 2011.

PREFEITURA DA CIDADE DE PAULISTA. Igreja de Santa Isabel.Available at: <>. Accessed: 29 August 2011.

SILVA, Ricardo Andrade da Costa. Cartões-postais do Paulista-PE: uma proposta de preservação do patrimônio. Available at: <>. Accessed: 29 August 2011.

how to quote this text

Source: BARBOSA, Virgínia. Igreja de Santa Isabel, Paulista, PE. Pesquisa Escolar Online,Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. available at: <>. Accessed: day  month  year. Exemple.: 6 August 2009