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Catholic Charity in Perspective: The Social Life of Devotion in Portugal and its Empire (1450 – 1700).

Author(s): Isabel dos Guimarães Sá

Journal: E-Journal of Portuguese History
ISSN 1645-6432

Volume: 2;
Issue: 1;
Date: 2004;
Original page

Keywords: Charity | Catholic and Protestant Europe | Poverty | Devotion | State Building

This article tries to outline the major differences between practices of charity within Europe, either comparing Catholics to Protestants, or different Catholic areas. The point of departure is constituted by the study of the Misericórdias, lay confraternities under royal protection who would develop as one of the main (if not the greatest) dispensers of charity either in Portugal or its Empire. Its evolution since the formation of the first misericórdia in Lisbon to the end of the seventeenth century is analysed, relating these confraternities to political, social and religious changes that occurred in the period under analysis. Issues related to their functioning, membership, rules, and economic activities, as well as the types of needy they cared for, are also dealt with, mainly through the comparison of different colonial and metropolitan misericórdias.
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