The destruction of the Rosario dos Pretos Church



The Brotherhood of Our Lady of the Rosary of Black Men was very important in the social life of slaves

Excluded from salaried work in the First Republic and, therefore, from unions and parties, many former slaves had other forms of organization, with Brotherhoods being one type.[I] The former Church of the Brotherhood of Our Lady of the Rosary of the Black Men of São Paulo was located at the apex of the Triangle where the city was established in the colonial period. The tortuous colonial area could no longer accommodate urban functions and the appropriation of land crossed the Anhangabaú River to the new city, still today with a rectilinear geography, as can be seen in the streets Barão de Itapetininga, 24 de Maio, Dom José de Barros and surrounding areas. The first Chá Viaduct dates back to 1892 and connects Praça Antônio Prado to Barão de Itapetininga.

Praça Antônio Prado would become the symbol of São Paulo during the First Republic. Two sides of the old Triângulo converge towards it, which concentrated the city's main businesses: Rua de São Bento and XV de Novembro. That's why it has always been more of a square than a square.

But in ancient times, this widening of streets was a symbol of devotion. Hence its much more beautiful old name: Largo do Rosário. Because it was there that the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary of Black Men was built and maintained for so long[ii]. There have always been devotees of Our Lady in old São Paulo. Alcântara Machado showed wills that invoked her since the 1596th century. This was the case of Isabel Félix, who in XNUMX left him a “year-old heifer”. It was probably on an altar, either in the College Church or in the Main Church, that there was the image of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Two were the Brotherhoods of Our Lady of the Rosary. The white men's and the black men's, founded in 1711. This is the most traditional, as there are not many references to the other (Monsignor Paulo Florêncio da Silveira Camargo, The Church in the History of São Paulo, volume 6, p.285). The Brotherhood of Our Lady of the Rosary of Black Men must have taken a long time to acquire funds that could support the construction of a hermitage. It is believed that it was only in 1721, in some corner of Anhangabaú, that a small chapel was erected.

In 1725, the hermit Domingos de Melo Tavares obtained a license to legally build a Church (Arroyo, Igrejas de São Paulo, p.205). Without provisions for this, and knowing that the city of São Paulo was very humble, he went to Minas Gerais and begged for three years, as in 1728 the Brotherhood asked the Chamber of São Paulo for land, declaring that they had the money to build a temple, and obtained it in the same year. It seems that in 1737 the Church was already standing.

The role of the Brotherhood and the Church in the social life of slaves must have been very important. Around the Church lived many old freed captives. There were little houses that narrowed the end of the old Rua de Manoel Paes de Linhares, which was then called “Rua que vai do pateo da Sé para Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Homens Pretos”, later Rua da Imperatriz. Today, Rua XV de Novembro, date of the proclamation of the Republic. Very close to the Rosário Church, and certainly because it was a place for old slaves, was Beco do Cisqueiro, the rubbish dump of old São Paulo.

However, Largo do Rosário kept its name for much longer. It continued to be a place of devotion and celebrations. Religious a lot, and profane a little. There were many requests, recorded in the Chamber Minutes, to authorize the route of the procession which, as a rule, took the square along the old Rua da Imperatriz. Sometimes the path was changed, but the party always took place with a large presence of members of the brotherhood and other afflicted souls. Burial days were also a reason for much fun, as well as sadness. In the Campo Santo that surrounded the Church, the slaves sang, shouted and led the bier in a solemn procession to its final home.

In the early days, the festival of the Brotherhood of Our Lady of the Rosary of black men began with a very solemn and circumspect mass. Afterwards, even white men came to the vicinity of the Church to attend the traditional congadas (or Congos festivals), with a great regional variety. As Florestan Fernandes said: “Black people played an active role in the popular works of white people, relying on elements of their own culture”. Black women swayed to the sound of the atabaque (or tambaque music, as it was called at the time), with white cloths on their heads, silver bracelets and, around their necks, rosaries (some made of gold). After the dances, the king and queen chosen from among the dancers called their court for dinner, and the musicians were distributed liqueur and other alcoholic drinks (Ernani da Silva Bruno, “Igreja do Rosário, a congada e os reis do Congo , Diary of São Paulo, April 15, 1972.).

Several historians have shown how much this festival started to bother the authorities from the mid-29th century onwards. In fact, since ancient times, which go back to São Paulo's past, any drumming, gambling or entertainment provoked the distrust of white men, as demonstrated by some measures against black people and, especially black women, taken by the Chamber in the 1748th century ("Registration of a notice from the Chamber on black people who play and play batuque”, May XNUMX, XNUMX, General Registry of the Chamber, vol. IX.).

Entertainment could even function as a buffer between slave and master, as Mário de Andrade said.[iii] But that did not stop repression. Near Arouche there was the Chapel of Santa Cruz do Pocinho, on Rua Vieira de Carvalho, with a popular festival every May 3rd, which lasted until 1909, when it was banned by Bishop D. Duarte Leopoldo e Silva. It came from the death of a man in the narrow well that was on that street (Miguel Milano. The ghosts of ancient São Paulo, P. 40-1).

The exposure of the bodies and, especially, their movement, caused discomfort to the white authorities. Let's look at an excerpt from the document banning the party at the Capela de Santa Cruz do Pocinho that I found in the Book of Tombo of the Church of Consolação: “For a long time now, the parties at this chapel have had a merely profane character, with countless abuses there. practiced in the shadow of religion. Fortunately, the hon. Metropolitan Archbishop D. Duarte Leopoldo e Silva put an end to such great abuses, through the edict that we reproduce below: 'By order of the Metropolitan Archbishop, I make it known that the sixth time it was right to ban the capella called Pocinho, on Rua Vieira de Carvalho , where from now on any public acts of piety are absolutely prohibited. Therefore, no one will be allowed to promote parties in the same capella or raise money for them…'. (São Paulo, March 27, 1909)”.

Let us remember that Bishop D. Antonio Joaquim de Mello, already in the mid-XNUMXth century, banned night parties. And he ordered more rigor to the priests, “not allowing the intervals of the songs to be filled with pieces of contra dances, so unbecoming of God and the temple”.

The destruction

On the other hand, the so-called progress of São Paulo called for a new square. That it had the name of a square. That it would be extended at the expense of the residents of those humble homes and Our Lady of the Rosary. The square was opened in 1872 with the expropriation of nearby houses. A fountain was inaugurated two years later by Dr. João Teodoro Xavier, provincial president of São Paulo. This fountain was removed in 1893, to force residents to consume water from Companhia Cantareira, which provoked lively protests from the local population and requested police intervention.

The development of the city, from a commercial point of view, has increasingly led to urban interventions by public authorities. Rua XV de Novembro (named after 1889) concentrated businesses. The fashion. Political life. And it demanded changes.

Largo do Rosário, known as “the city's busiest quartier” (probably by a French traveler)[iv], became the center of attention of public figures and business people. It was, in the words of Alfredo Moreira Pinto (The city of São Paulo in 1900, p.257), “the brain and heart of S. Paulo; is the point where they park bonds, which then take different directions”. Its location was strategic, located at the end of the Hill on which São Paulo was born. After it there was Ladeira do Acú (today the beginning of Avenida São João). Looking at the São Bento Monastery, all that was visible was the Anhangabaú River.

At the end of the XNUMXth century, it was from Largo do Rosário that trams would leave for the most different regions of São Paulo. So much so that Companhia de Carris, then responsible for implementing that modern transport service, proposed to install in Largo do Rosário the starting point for three tram lines, some with two sections, which officially constituted five lines.[v]

Not everything works out as expected. In 1896, only one line was in place from Largo do Rosário to Brás (probably to the Igreja do Bom Jesus de Matosinhos), totaling just over three kilometers. There were thirteen animal-drawn tram lines. In 1900, electric trams began to circulate throughout the capital, under the responsibility of the Light and Power Co. The following year they ran through the city on 14 different lines (Cf. Marisa M. Deaecto). However, the proposal made previously, to centralize so many lines in Rosário, reveals the greed with which Largo was looked at,[vi] forgetting about the Church.

It persisted there. With its festivals, burials and processions. But she needed to take it down. Therefore, the city council sought to agree with the Brotherhood the best way to exclude Nossa Senhora do Rosário from that Square. There was no shortage of arguments. A “technical” opinion was “deeming it necessary to make Largo do Rosário larger, to facilitate traffic and beautify this part of the city” (Minutes of the Sessions of the Municipal Chamber of São Paulo 1903, Opinion nº51, p.307).

This way of seeing things seems to have been projected for years. Because some time later, we will find an old chronicler of the streets of São Paulo saying about Nossa Senhora do Rosário that it was in a “very old, ugly, ungraceful little church, located in private buildings” (Paulo Cursino de Moura, São Paulo of old, p.78). If it was that ugly, it would be better to beautify that land of so many traditions. If the Church was very old, then it should be torn down to create a large square in its place, not typical of the cramped formation of São Paulo in the past.

It is difficult not to associate these aesthetic appreciations with racial prejudice against people who attended church. It was also a way to justify the tearing down of the temple. Another chronicler who knew it also described it as having an “ugly and very blackened” interior and no one was willing to finance its “beautification”. But from it we learned that its front faced Rua XV de Novembro. It had four windows, a tower on the left side, below which was another window and two doors. The same author said: “On the side facing Largo do Rosário there is a door, which gives entrance to the sachristia, and above it a window” (Alfredo Moreira Pinto, The city of São Paulo in 1900, p.36). To the left of the Church was another chapel, Bom Jesus da Pedra Fria.

The fight

Ugly and old-fashioned. That was not how the members of the Brotherhood of Our Lady of the Rosary of Black Men saw her. This venerable Brotherhood claimed that “the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary of Black Men is a historical monument of our country”. And he further declared, “that the Church has a high esteem value for us and for the country. We should not, therefore, transform it into architecture that will make its historical value disappear tomorrow” (cf. Leonardo Arroyo, op.cit., p.211).

The reasons of the devotees were not given. The idea of ​​the progress of a city capable of that creative destruction so characteristic of modernization prevailed. In the 1903 Chamber Minutes we will find an allusion to an “office from the City Hall declaring that it had not yet been able to reach an agreement with the Brotherhood of Our Lady of the Rosary of the Black Men for the acquisition of the land and buildings necessary for the expansion of Largo do Rosário and asking for that those properties are declared to be of public use so that they can be judicially expropriated” (Minutes of the Sessions of the Municipal Chamber of São Paulo 1903, letter 365, p. 296). Law No. 670 of September 16, 1903 declared “public utility the land and buildings necessary for the expansion of Largo do Rosário” (Laws and acts of the Municipality of S. Paulo from the year 1903, p.34).

Finally, law 698, of December 24 of the same year said, in its first article: “the act of the city hall is approved, by virtue of which it entered into an agreement with (sic) the Brotherhood of Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Homens Pretos, of this capital, for the purpose of acquiring for the Chamber the building of its church and the other dependencies mentioned in the said agreement, through compensation from the same Chamber in the amount of two hundred and fifty contos de réis (250:000$000) and a area of ​​land in Largo do Payssandú, exclusively intended for the construction by that Brotherhood of a new church”.

Strange compensation. On May 9, 1904, the city council also expropriated a house adjacent to the Church, owned by José Raposo and his wife, Maria do Carmo Sertório Raposo, and paid more for it: 290 contos de réis. And by these turns of fate, the remnants of the Campo Santo, which was owned by the Irmandade de Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Homens Pretos, ended up in the hands of the mayor's brother, Mr. Martinico Prado (Zaluar, “The church coming from the times of slavery”, popular newspaper, July 2, 1978). The Martinico Prado Palace was built there, which once housed the City bank and the Mercantile and Futures Exchange.

The Church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Homens Pretos is located, today, in Largo do Paissandu. Which today no longer seems so far from the original location where the temple stood. The construction of the new sacred house required redoubled efforts, because Largo do Paissandu had been, in the past, a tank, the Zunega. It was necessary to drain it and build time-consuming foundations. Meanwhile, the Brotherhood took shelter in the Church of São Pedro (Joviano Amaral, The blacks of the Rosary of São Paulo). This traditional Church would also later be demolished.

The current Church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Homens Pretos de São Paulo faces (or, rather, inclined) Avenida São João. It has a front door, through which the faithful enter, and another side door, whose staircase gives access to the sacristy. The back door leads to the basement, access restricted to members of the Brotherhood. Today, an unforgivable fence surrounds the temple.

The current Church of Our Lady of the Rosary of Black Men is rich in images. There are Santa Edwiges, São Braz, São Caetano, Santa Clara, São Geraldo, São Judas, Santo Expedito, Santo Antônio do Cathegeró, São Benedito, Santa Luzia, Santa Marta, Santo Elesbão, a black saint, Santa Iphigenia, besides of the Baby Jesus of Prague, of Our Lady of Monte Serrate, of Penha, of Sorrows and of Fátima. And more other images. Simple, but with a decorated ceiling. The stained glass windows are shy.

The Brotherhood never came to terms with the loss of the primitive place in which they lived. At the end of the 1930s, another mayor with a “secular spirit”, Mr. Prestes Maia, wanted to tear down the Rosário Church once again, to build a monument to the Duque de Caxias in its place (Diário Popular, December 16, 1976 ). Fortunately, he was unable to do so, and the statue was placed elsewhere, near the old Júlio Prestes Station.

The Church once again had its actions linked to the needs of black men and women. Marches have already converged on her on the occasion of Black Awareness Day, the date of Zumbi dos Palmares' martyrdom. Your fair is still there. Praça Antônio Prado, needless to say, pays tribute to the public figure who carried out the demolition of Our Lady's house. According to the explanatory table for the “services and works” budget in the report presented by the mayor, the demolition of the Church cost 1:500$000 (1904 report presented to the Municipal Chamber by Mayor Dr. Antônio da Silva Prado, p.166).

* Lincoln Secco He is a professor in the Department of History at USP. Author, among other books, of History of the PT (Studio).


Tombo book of the Church of Nossa Senhora da Consolação. Vol. I, manuscript, Archive of the Metropolitan Curia, damaged original. Copied in 1886 and with information up to 1904.

Tombo book of the Church of Nossa Senhora da Consolação. Vol II, manuscript. Archive of the Metropolitan Curia, 1904-1929.

Minutes of the São Paulo City Council (1562-1596), Vol. I, 2nd ed., 1967, 511 pages.

Minutes of the Sessions of the Municipal Chamber of São Paulo 1903, official 365.

Minutes of the Sessions of the Municipal Council of São Paulo 1903, Opinion nº51.

Laws and acts of the Municipality of S. Paulo from the year 1903.

Letter from D. Antonio Joaquim de Mello, Bishop of São Paulo, providing measures against the abuses that occurred at the time of burials and religious festivals, 1852.

Record of a notice from the Chamber about black people who play and play batuque, May 29, 1748, General Registry of the Chamber, vol. IX.

“General list of the Diocese of S. Paulo” by Friar Manuel da Ressureição. Magazine of the Historical and Geographical Institute of São Paulo, vol. IV.

Report presented to the Provincial Legislative Assembly of São Paulo by the President of the Province Dr. Pedro Vicente Azevedo on January 11, 1889.

1904 report presented to the City Council by Mayor Dr. Antônio da Silva Prado.

1925 report presented to the Chamber by Mayor Firmiano Morais Pinto.

popular newspaper, December 16, 1976.

popular newspaper, January 16, 1977.

popular newspaper, July 2, 1978.

Caio Prado Jr. “Contribution to the urban geography of the city of São Paulo”, in: Political evolution of Brazil and other studies, 3rd ed. São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1961, pp. 117-148

Caio Prado Jr. “The geographic factor in the formation and development of the city of São Paulo”, in: Political evolution of Brazil and other studies, 3rd ed. São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1961, pp.97-115.

Ernani da Silva Bruno, “Igreja do Rosário, the congada and the kings of Congo, Diary of São Paulo, April 15, 1972.

Florestan Fernandes, “Congadas and batuques in Sorocaba”, in: Id. The Black in the World of Whites, São Paulo, DIFEL, 1972, pp.239-256.

Joviano Amaral, The blacks of the Rosary of São Paulo, São Paulo, Alarico, 1953, 208 pages.

Leonardo Arroyo, Churches of São Paulo. Rio, José Olympio, 19

Mario de Andrade, “Os Congos”, in: Edison Carneiro, Anthology of the Brazilian Negro, Rio, Ediouro, 1967, pp. 294-298.

Marisa Midori Deaecto – Commerce and Urban Life in the City of São Paulo (1889-1930), São Paulo: Senac, 2000.

Miguel Milano. The ghosts of ancient São Paulo. São Paulo: Ed. Saraiva, 1949, 111 pages.

Nina Rodrigues, Africans in Brazil. São Paulo: Companhia Editora Nacional, 1932 (Col. Brasiliana, nº9), 502 pages.

Paulo Cursino de Moura, São Paulo of old. São Paulo: Edusp, 1980, 306 pages.

Paulo Florêncio da Silveira Camargo (Monsignor). The church in the history of São Paulo. São Paulo: Paulista Institute of History and Religious Art, 1952-1953. Vol. I, 360 pages. Vol. II, 420 pages. Vol. III, 447 pages. Vol. IV, 337 pages. Vol. V, 446 pages. Vol. VI, 327 pages. Vol. VII, 388 pages.

Rubens do Amaral, “Antonio Prado”, in: Various Authors, Men from São Paulo. São Paulo, Martins, 1955, pp.230-263.

Sergio Buarque de Holanda, “Ancient Chapels of São Paulo”, Magazine of the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Service, nº 5, Rio de Janeiro, 1941.


[I]Part of an unpublished book about the Ancient Chapels of São Paulo written in 2.000.

[ii]A small chapel, with the same name, still exists today in the Penha neighborhood, and dates back to 1802, next to the old Church of Nossa Senhora da Penha (founded in 1682, as stated on its frontispiece, but it could be from even earlier years). ). The Church of Embu, founded by the Jesuits at the beginning of the 113th century, also belongs to Nossa Senhora do Rosário. See: Sergio Buarque de Holanda, “Ancient chapels of São Paulo”, p.XNUMX.

[iii] In Recife, for example, the king of Congo needed to be authorized by the chief of police. Furthermore, he was expected to exercise control over part of the black community. See Nina Rodrigues, Africans in Brazil, pp. 52-3.

[iv] Inscription found on a postcard from the beginning of the century. I owe him the discovery of Marisa Deaecto.

[v] The Company used to divide the lines into sections and charge the amount of 100 réis for each one. Cf. Report presented to the Provincial Legislative Assembly of São Paulo by the President of the Province Dr. Pedro Vicente Azevedo on January 11, 1889, p.80.

[vi] A persistent idea, given that after the 1924 Revolution, Mayor Firmiano Morais Pinto still said (referring to Praça Antônio Prado): “We absolutely need to decongest the city center”.

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