Celebrating an Extraordinary 17th-Century Troublemaker

Yale University will host the “International Colloquium on Padre Antonio Vieira” on Friday, Nov. 7, and Saturday, Nov. 8, in Room 203 of Luce Hall, 34 Hillhouse Ave., to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the death of one of the most extraordinary men of the 17th century. Padre Vieira’s impassioned sermons to black slaves and Indians in Brazil, his defense of the Jews, his imprisonment by the Inquisition, his impact on the politics of Church and state, and his brilliantly crafted prose have made him a figure of enduring fascination.

Scholars from Brazil, Portugal, Puerto Rico and the United States will gather at Yale to discuss Padre Vieira’s life and work. The conference is free and the public is welcome. Dauril Alden, professor of history at the University of Washington in Seattle, will deliver a keynote address titled “Seventeenth-Century Troubleshooter and Troublemaker” at 9 a.m. on Nov. 7.

Other sessions, scheduled for 2 p.m. on Friday, and 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, will deal with Padre Vieira’s defense of the New World Indians, his incorporation of Jewish and messianic thought into his theology, and his concepts of time and prophecy. Panelists include Anita Novinsky, professor of history at the University of Sao Paolo, Brazil; and Thomas Cohen, director of Catholic University’s Oliveira Lima Library. Stuart Schwartz, professor of history at Yale, will present a talk titled “Vieira’s Tolerance?”

Padre Antonio Vieira, S.J. lived a long and eventful life by any standards. He was born in Lisbon in 1608 and died in Brazil in 1697. A Jesuit priest, missionary, diplomat and writer, he made the laborious journey between the Old World and the New several times. For some years, he was court preacher to the king of Portugal, who sent him on diplomatic missions to Amsterdam and Rome. Later, he was confessor to Queen Christina of Sweden. He lived among slaves and Indians in the Amazon jungle and delivered his dramatic – and extremely popular – sermons throughout northern Brazil. He spoke up for the “New Christians” – Jews forced to convert to Christianity – and urged his countrymen to accept them and encourage their commercial ventures. He was an outspoken opponent of slaving expeditions in the Amazon, arguing for the Indians and against the settlers before the royal court at Lisbon. This didn’t sit well with the settlers, who revolted and expelled Padre Vieira and all the Jesuits from the Amazon. Back in Europe, he was arrested by the Inquisition for criticising their excesses. He was tried and held prisoner for five years. Late in life, he returned to Brazil and prepared his sermons for publication. Padre Vieira is considered one of the greatest writers in the Portuguese language, leaving a legacy of treatises, sermons and political essays.

In conjunction with the colloquium, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library will exhibit examples from Yale’s collection of Padre Vieira’s writings.

The Yale International Colloquium is sponsored by the Yale Program in the History and Cultural of Portugal in the World, directed by Professors Stuart Schwartz ,History; and K. David Jackson, Portuguese; the Council on Latin American Studies; the Department of Spanish and Portuguese; the Office of the Provost; and the National Portuguese Commission for the Commemoration of Portuguese Discoveries.

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Media Contact

Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325