Missions and the Relevance of Missionary Activities in Early Colonial Brazil in Vicente of Salvador’s História do Brasil

Kalenda František

Abstract

While Jesuit missions and missionary activities in early Colonial
Brazil have been thoroughly studied both in the Czech Republic and elsewhere,
Franciscan missionaries hailing from the period leading up to the 1630
destruction of the Olinda Centre are often forgotten or left for the historians
of the Franciscan Order to deal with. A striking lack of primary Franciscan
period sources on the subject is partially responsible for this state; the vast
majority of available Franciscan primary sources date from a much later
period, to the 18th century. The completely preserved and not thoroughly
studied História do Brasil by Vicente of Salvador, a Franciscan custodian
and historiographer from 1630, is therefore a unique source of information
on the Franciscan order in Brazil and its missionary activities in this
Portuguese colony. Although missions and not even Vicente’s order itself are
not in the epicentre of the chronicle, it contains both practical information
on the Franciscan activities on Brazilian soil and, maybe even more importantly,
a specific point of view on the meaning of missions to the indigenous
population. Unlike his Jesuit contemporaries and Franciscan colleagues from
a later period, Vicente of Salvador does not provide a particularly successful
narrative of missionary activities, and remains rather sceptical about the
potential of christianising “gentiles”. Instead, he sees indigenous Brazilians
as widely incapable of becoming Christians, and favours force and even defends enslavement as an alternative to “peaceful” missions. These views,
differing from the other contemporary Jesuit sources and the later Franciscan
chroniclers, being much closer to the view of colonists, make his account even
more fascinating and attention-worth.

Keywords

Franciscan Order; Colonial Brazil; mission; stereotypes; Society of Jesus; Vicente of Salvador

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Vydání: 17, 2015, 3