Bonfim, Nosso Senhor do

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Bonfim, Nosso Senhor do

Nosso Senhor do Bonfim (Our Lord of the Good Ending), a term that refers to the patron saint of Bahia, also identified as Jesus Christ, and to the church of the same name in Salvador, Bahia. Some Brazilians identify Jesus with the West African Yoruba deity Oxalá from the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé. The Festa da Lavagem do Nosso Senhor do Bonfim, one of Brazil's most traditional celebrations, is held in January on the second Sunday after Epiphany (Day of Kings). Its origins and practices are both Portuguese and African. In the traditional style of Portuguese pilgrimages, visitors and devotees engage in a carnival-like atmosphere of feasting, drinking, singing, and dancing in the church's neighborhood. Located on a hill and outlined in electric lights at night during the celebration, the church can be seen from over 7.5 miles away. On Thursday preceding the Sunday celebration, the faithful march from the Nossa Senhora da Conceição da Praia church in Salvador's commercial center to Bonfim accompanied by musical groups as a preview of Carnival. The governor of Bahia and the mayor of Salvador often appear at the church. Priestesses and women practitioners in the Candomblé religion participate in the procession and the ritual washing of the gleaming white steps of the church though Catholic Church officials intermittently prohibited their involvement through the 1950s. Some claim that the church steps are the sacred stones of Oxalá. The water used is drawn from the well of Oxalá. Sweeping and washing churches for "promises"—pledges to God to do something special if God grants a request—is a Portuguese tradition. A Miracle Room in the church contains innumerable ex-votos, including wood, plaster, and wax reproductions of human body parts and photographs, letters, and paintings. These objects are hung on the walls and from the ceiling in gratitude for cures and other special favors performed by Nosso Senhor do Bonfim.

See alsoAfrican-Latin American Religions: Brazil .


Ruth Landes, The City of Women (1947), esp. pp. 232-244.

Luís Da Câmara Cascudo, Dicionário do folclore brasileiro, 2d ed. (1962), pp. 128-129.

Additional Bibliography

Amado, Jorge. Bahia de Todos os Santos: Guia das ruas e dos mistérios da cidade do Salvador. São Paulo: Martins, 1967.

Carvalho, José Eduardo Freire de. A Devoção do Senhor J. do Bonfim e sua historia. 2nd ed. Salvador: Imprensa Oficial, 1944.

Groetelaars, Martien Maria. Quem é o Senhor do Bonfim?: O significado do Senhor do Bonfim na vida do povo da Bahia. Petrópolis: Vozes, 1983.

Ickes, Scott A. "'Adorned with the Mix of Faith and Profanity that Intoxicates the People': The Festival of the Senhor do Bonfim in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, 1930–1954." Bulletin of Latin American Research 24 (2) (April 2005): 181-200.

                                                     Esther J. Pressel