Imagem card

Igreja do Divino Espírito Santo (Church of the Divine Holy Spirit)

After 1654, Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Ó (Church of Our Lady of the Expectation); and from 1855, Igreja do Divino Espírito Santo.

Igreja do Divino Espírito Santo (Church of the Divine Holy Spirit)

Article available in: PT-BR

Last update: 17/09/2013

By: Virginia Barbosa - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

The story of the Igreja do Divino Espírito Santo begins in the mid-15th century. Throughout the years, it had two denominations before what we know it as nowadays. Prior to 1654, it was the Igreja Calvinista dos Franceses (Calvinist Church of the French); after 1654, Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Ó (Church of Our Lady of the Expectation); and from 1855, Igreja do Divino Espírito Santo.

In the period of Dutch rule in Pernambuco (1630-1654), on the site where the temple of the Divine Holy Spirit exists today was the Calvinist Church of the French that had been constructed in a joint project of Count Maurício de Nassau and the Conselho dos XIX (Council of the 19) at the request of the French Reverends La Riviere and Auton. This Council formed part of the administration of the Dutch East India Company and was composed of nineteen directors, represented by eighteen regional councillors and a representative of the General States, who met in Amsterdam and Middelburg, alternatively.

With the end of the Dutch invasion, the priests from the Society of Jesus, who had previously administrated Colégio de Olinda, which had been almost destroyed by the Dutch, petitioned the King for the installation of a school in Recife on the same area where the Igreja Calvinista dos Franceses existed. By the royal decree of John VI, the founding of the school was approved on a location donated by Field Marshall Francisco Barreto, who granted “two hay barns, built by the Flemish with their shops and the French church that the same Flemish had built behind those barns”. The Colégio dos Jesuítas was constructed connected to the Church and operated until 1760, the year in which the Marquis of Pombal expelled the Jesuit order from Brazilian territory.

Its second denomination, Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Ó, refers to the date on which Captain Antonio Fernandes de Mattos laid the cornerstone of the Church: 18 December 1886 – the day dedicated to the Saint. The inauguration was on 17 December 1690, under the administration of the Jesuit priests. The construction of the Church

[...] began with the sacristy with the chapels and central nave. As well as the presbytery, there were four sides, two across and two along the body of the church, making up a temple 60 palms wide by 120 palms long. The façade of the Jesuit’s church was as diverse as it is today, advanced in relation to the towers, formed so by a portico, or narthex, [...] (SILVA, 2002, p. ...).

With the expulsion of the Jesuits, the Church and the School were abandoned and subjected to many non-religious or education uses. There are notices that on the premises was a stable where officers of the Government Palace kept their horses; an

[...] uncountable series of official departments: Hearing Room for the Relations Tribunal; Vaccine Dispensing Hall; Law Faculty; Mail; War arsenal deposit and even a theatre for the Sociedade Dramática Natalense [Christmas Dramatic Society], with the sacristy itself serving as the stage [...]; and, in 1816, the Colégio dos Jesuítas, after being looted, was used to house, for some time, an enormous elephant [...] (PIO, 1960, p. 24).

In the term of the Pernambuco Provincial President José Bento da Cunha e Figueiredo (1852-1856), the Irmandade do Divino Espírito Santo (Brotherhood of the Divine Holy Spirit), conscious that the president had an interest in restoring the abandoned church of the former Colégio dos Jesuítas, officially requested that he give the temple to the Brotherhood. The request contained some conditions, among the restoration of the Church under the invocation and title of ‘Divino Espírito Santo’.

On 10 July 1855, José Bento despatched the official approval with the solicitation that the installations of the School’s second floor, where the jail operated, be reformed to house the Relations Tribunal. The brotherhood agreed, and on 27 July 1855 the Provincial President ordered the President of the Public Hygiene Commission to deliver the keys to the Church and former school to the Brotherhood of the Divine Holy Spirit.

In this way, the most urgent repairs were completed, and on 8 September 1855 “the translation of the Brotherhood of the Divine Spirit from the Igreja da Conceição dos Militares to its very own, its patron saint, in a solemn procession of the ‘S.S’. (the Eucharist in a monstrance) under the canopy and displayed on the throne of the Holy Spirit during Te Deum, the gathering procession” (PIO, 1960, p. 33).

The restoration work spanned many years. The Brotherhood was able to bear and overcome any unexpected setbacks until the completion of the work. And the Church, over the years, has been present and part of many events worthy of note that Recife has seen: the visit of Emperor D. Pedro II (1859); the penitence procession during the pest epidemic (1860); the abolitionist party, with a celebration mass, organised by the Sociedade Patriótica Bahiana Dous de Julho (Bahia July 2 Patriotic Society), on 2 July 1870; Bishops’ receptions; and the funeral of Joaquim Nabuco, on 18 April 1910.

Recife, 29 January 2010.
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2011.

sources consulted

PIO, Fernando. Igreja do Divino Espírito Santo. Recife: Arquivo Público Estadual, 1960.

SILVA, Leonardo Dantas. Pernambuco preservado: histórico dos bens tombados no Estado de Pernambuco.  Recife: [s. n.], 2002. 266 p.

UM RECIFE sem mistérios, ao alcance de todos nós. Disponível em:<>. Acesso em: 4 out. 2009

how to quote this text

Source: BARBOSA, Virgínia. Igreja do Divino Espírito Santo (Church of the Divine Holy Spirit), Recife. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at:  <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.