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António Vieira

Priest António Vieira - Part 2

Erasmus+ 2020/2021

Preaching Equality Amongst Men


The Sermon for The Good Success of the Arms of Portugal Against Those of Holland was considered by the Abbé Raynal as "the most extraordinary discourse ever heard from a Christian pulpit”.

In 1635 António Vieira entered the priesthood. He became a distinguished orator, and the three patriotic sermons he delivered at Bahia (1638–40) were remarkable for their use of language.

Vieira used the pulpit to propound measures for improving the general conditions of Portugal.

His pen was as busy as his voice.In four pamphlets he advocated the creation of companies of commerce; denounced as unchristian the discrimination against Muslim and Jewish converts; called for the reform of the Inquisition and the admission of Jewish and foreign traders.

In his Sexagesima Sermon he attacked the obscurity of the style of preaching in his time.

Vieira’s numerous Sermons (200), Letters (about 700) and his work History of the Future are a testimony of his rich and combative prose. The 20th century poet Fernando Pessoa called Vieira “The Emperor of the Portuguese Language”.


António Vieira became the most influential preacher in the Brazilian colony. His sermons exhorting the various races to join the Portuguese in arms against the Dutch are considered the first expression of the Brazilian national mystique.

To communicate with the different peoples who lived in Brazil, Vieira learned:

  • the Tupi Guarani tongue;
  • several amazon dialects;
  • the Kimbundu (the language of the Angolan slaves).

Between 1646 and 1650 Vieira was engaged in diplomatic missions to Holland, France, and Italy, but, because of his tolerance towards other religions he made enemies in Portugal.

Vieira worked among the Indians and black slaves until 1641, when he went with a mission to Portugal to congratulate King John IV on his accession. The king came to regard the dynamic Jesuit as “the greatest man in the world.” He made him tutor to the prince, court preacher, and a member of the royal council.



Later, in Rome, António Vieira got the Pope to suspend the Inquisition’s activity in Portugal.

In 1652 Vieira returned to Brazil. However, his denunciation of slave-owning resulted in his return to Lisbon in 1654. During his stay in Portugal, he secured decrees protecting the Brazilian Indians from enslavement.

In Maranhão he laboured for 6 years before being forced back to Lisbon in 1661. There, he was condemned by the Inquisition and imprisoned (1665–67).

In 1655 resumed his apostolic mission in Maranhão and on the Amazon delta.

Vieira returned to Brazil in 1681 where he dedicated the rest of his life to the edition of his Sermons