Church of Our Lady of Grace of the Jesuits’ College
Olinda, Pernambuco, Brazil
Jesuit priests arrived in Olinda in 1551; a year beforehand, they had been in Bahia. There were two of them: Manuel da Nóbrega and António Pires. They were given a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Grace meant for the Augustinians, who did not come to the town. Little was done, due to the small number of priests. In 1565, the church was replaced by another and, in the 1570s. it was entirely built. When it was almost ready in 1595, it was compared to its model – the Church of Saint Rock in Lisbon. A design that is attributed to the Jesuit architect Francisco Dias and is kept in the Library of Paris may have been for that Jesuit church. The church comprises a large hall with two chapels marking a false transept and confessionals in minor arcades set in the wall. The composition of the apse accompanies the traditional form of a shallow chancel and two similarly shaped and arranged side chapels. The images from the same maker depicting Saint Ignatius and Saint Francis Xavier arrived in Olinda in 1611, along with one of Our Lady of Grace. The first two are from the 17th century and the latter from the previous century. The side altars have two excellent limestone altarpieces made in the late 16th or early 17th century. The church’s exterior is quite sober and richly composed, and is modelled upon that of the Church of Saint Rock in Lisbon and the Church of Saint Paul in Braga. The college behind the church was built in the 16th century and shows changes resulting from reconstruction work after 1654. The church’s sacristy contains a handsome Portuguese washbasin notable for its inlays. The building was fully restored from 1972 to 1978 by the Foundation for the Historical and Artistic Heritage of Pernambuco (FUNDARPE).