Church of Santo Amaro das Salinas [Saint Maurus of the Salt Fields], Recife, PE
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Last update: 16/01/2017
The church of Saint Maurus of the Salt Fields, whose side faces General Abreu and Lima Square, is located in the neighbourhood of Santo Amaro. In it, we can read: Church of Saint Maurus of the Salt Fields – 1654.
A plaque affixed to the church, records the following:
In this place, three hundred years ago, began the surrender of Recife to the Restorers of Pernambuco – after a rough and painful war. Homage of the Government and the People of Pernambuco to those who rescued the land and people from the Flemish domination. (Memorial commissioned by Governor Etelvino Lins and by the commission of the Tercentenary, 15-1-1654–15-1-1954).
The appearance of the church of Saint Maurus of the Salt Fields is partly confused with the trajectory of Francisco do Rêgo Barros himself. Born in Olinda to noble and wealthy parents, Rêgo Barros was an ordinary and orphans judge in 1593, as well as councillor and mayor of Olinda. He also maintained a salt mine near his residence, better known as As Salinas [The Salt Fields]. In the first decades of the 17th century, a lively settlement had been built around that salt production area.
When the Dutch invaded Pernambuco in 1630, their first attack was on Rêgo Barros’ salt fields. This was not well protected, but the locals bravely resisted, greeting the Flemish with heavy shrapnel. After three hours of fighting, the invaders withdrew, carrying the wounded and leaving seventy dead. These suffered the same fate that the volante police gave to Lampião’s band in 1938: they were beheaded.
Two months after this episode, the Dutch returned to the scene and managed to set the house on fire. Not being able to take the salt fields, however, they were forced to retreat again, leaving a total of twenty-six dead. Over time, as might be expected, the salt fields fell into the hands of the Flemish, and they built several forts there, including Fort Salinas.
On 15 January 1654, the Pernambuco side won a great victory: the conquest of that fortress! As 15 January was consecrated to Saint Maurus, the victory was attributed to a miracle from this saint. After the defeat of the Dutch once and for all, Francisco do Rêgo Barros was able to return to his lands and to the salt fields with the title of captain and nobleman of the Royal House (by special favour of King João IV).
When Rêgo Barros died, his eldest son – Luís do Rêgo Barros – built a chapel under the invocation of Saint Maurus – his father’s protector – on the ruins of Fort Salinas in 1681. He proceeded in the same way to his brother – João do Rêgo Barros – when he ordered the erection of the Church of Our Lady of the Pillar on the foundations of Fort São Jorge.
By the mid-19th century, local people were already planning to build a Brotherhood in the small church under the invocation of their patron. In 1870, the last heirs of the former hereditary estate (Conde da Boa Vista – Francisco do Rêgo Barros – and José Joaquim do Rêgo Barros) transferred all the rights of the property to the Brotherhood of Saint Maurus. The terms of the assignment recorded that it included:
The Chapel and adjacent lands, extending 450 spans from north to south, going from the marginal alignment of the road of Olinda to the west, up to 20 spans beyond the lateral façade of the Temple to the east, including the land occupied by the same and its respective yard.
The Brotherhood of Saint Maurus later made some renovations to the building, and the church was open to public worship. Then established was the traditional pilgrimage that established the name of Saint Maurus of the Salt Fields throughout the State of Pernambuco as the great miracle worker saint.
An interesting aspect of the temple concerns the position in which the building was built: facing the main avenue and to the east. History records that several attempts were made to align it to the correct position – moving the high altar to a position opposite to that of which it is – and that the day following the change, the image had turned to the old position, as if this represented a protest (or even the stubbornness) of Saint Maurus.
Recife, 1 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. Vel
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Source: VAINSENCHER, Semira Adler. Igreja de Santo Amaro das Salinas, 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.