Church of Santa Rita de Cássia [Saint Rita of Cascia], Recife, PE
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Last update: 13/01/2017
On 19 April 1726, in the chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary, a Brotherhood was installed under the protection of Saint Rita of Cascia, a saint whose image was considered miraculous.
Loyal devotees to the saint, the brothers of the order of Saint Rita of Cascia appealed to José César de Menezes, captain-general and governor of Pernambuco, to obtain land for the construction of the church. The request was granted by José Marques do Vale, master-sergeant of the captaincy of Pernambuco and a wealthy settler.
Aiming to invest in the construction of the temple, José Marques do Vale made a donation of a large plot on Rua da Praia dos Coqueiros in the neighbourhood of São José (a street that is today called Santa Rita) on 12 April 1783.
Besides the permission to be buried in that temple, the only requirement made by the donors (who also included the wife of José Marques) was that they put the images of St Joseph and Our Lady of the Conception on the high altar.
The Brotherhood of Saint Rita of Cascia accepted this request, and on 17 December 1783, the cornerstone of the temple was laid. At that time, the patrimony of the Brotherhood consisted only of a single-storey house on Nova Street, worth two hundred thousand reis, whose annual income was one hundred and fifty thousand reis. Despite the modest patrimony, this was considered satisfactory by the bishop.
The following year, the patrimony of the Brotherhood increased with the donation of a house located on the same street (Praia dos Coqueiros) made by Antônio Vieira Cardoso and his wife, Josefa Maria de Sousa. With the new assistance, the work on the church could be completed in 1784.
Bitter jealousy was generated, however, in relation to the protection that the new temple was receiving from the maintaining brotherhood of the Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary. In this sense, the removal of the image of Saint Rita of Cascia from that church was forbidden. The brothers had no alternative but to acquire a new image of the saint.
The Brotherhood of Saint Rita of Cascia, in gratitude to Governor José César de Menezes, commissioned the captain-general’s arms to be recorded in the atrium of the main chapel. In 1790, according to the demands made by the donor of the temple’s land, the images of St Joseph and Our Lady of the Conception were blessed and deposited on its altars, along with two more images: St Caetano and the Heart of Jesus. The tower and the last details of the façade, in turn, could only be completed in 1831. The artist responsible for painting the church’s internal panels was Sebastião Canuto da Silva Tavares. An emblem with a cross and a lamb can also be seen above the main door.
The temple was renovated between 1868 and 1870, and again in 1889 after a major fire. The temple’s images were stored in the Church of São José do Ribamar. As if by miracle, the image of Saint Rita of Cascia, which was in the main chapel, was unharmed by the fire, contributing to an even greater increase in the faith of all her devotees.
Recife, 20 August 2003.
(Updated on 21 January 2008).
Translated by Peter Leamy, November 2016.
FRANCA, Rubem. Monumentos do Recife. Recife: Secretaria de Educação e Cultura, 1977.
GUERRA, Flávio. Velhas igrejas e subúrbios históricos. Recife: Fundação Guararapes, 1970.
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Source: VAINSENCHER, Semira Adler. Igreja de Santa Rita de Cássia, Recife, PE. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Recife. Disponível em: <https://pesquisaescolar.fundaj.gov.br/en/>. Acesso em: dia mês ano. Ex: 6 ago. 2009.