Virgem Imperial:

Nossa Senhora e império marítimo português

Juliana Beatriz de Almeida Souza


This article evaluates the spread of Catholic religious devotion dedicated to Our Lady Mary, Mother of God, across the Portuguese overseas empire as a vehicle for Catholic conversion and the establishment of a Luso-Colonial order. To substantiate this hypothesis, a number of subjects will be analyzed. First, the article examines the significance of Catholic conversion in the construction of the Lusitanian Empire. This examination then considers what the spread of the cult of Nossa Senhora da Conceição and Nossa Senhora do Rosário indicates about the nature of Catholicism in the context of the Reformation and Portugal’s maritime expansion. Finally, the article explores the Catholic Church’s representations of Our Lady Mary, and how it fit with the expansion of Portuguese imperial power. The devotional image of Our Lady Mary (especially in the case of Nossa Senhora do Rosário) graced the banners used by the Portuguese in their struggles with infidels and heretics. The spread of these devotions was central to the concerns of the expansionist interests of the Catholic Church and the construction of Portuguese imperial identities. The analysis herein is based largely on an examination of Agostinho de Santa Maria’s ten-volume Santuário Mariano published between 1707 and 1723 which off ers a survey of the sanctuaries dedicated to Our Lady Mary throughout the Portuguese overseas empire from Asia to Brazil.


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