Mesa da Consciência e Ordens

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Mesa da Consciência e Ordens

Mesa da Consciência e Ordens (Board of the King's Conscience and of the Military Orders), a Portuguese court created in 1532 to supervise the administration of religious affairs. Regarding the colonies, its importance as an instrument of royal power was tantamount to that of the Conselho Ultramarino (Overseas Council). The military orders' concerns were incorporated into the Mesa da Consciência after 1551, when the king became Grand Master of the Orders of Christ, Aviz, and Santiago. In addition, the board took care of an amazing range of responsibilities, which included the appointment of ecclesiastics to the overseas dominions; the management of the inheritances of all those subjects who had died outside the realm; the surveillance of royal chapels, almshouses, hospices, and hosteleries; and, until 1790, the inspection of Coimbra University. According to the 1603 Statutes, the board was composed of a president, five deputies, and four notaries; it was permitted to summon the King's Confessor, the Chancellor of the Orders, and experts in law and theology for advice. Over the years, the board amassed considerable influence, which was called into question only in the beginnning of the nineteenth century. It was abolished in 1828 (Brazil) and 1833 in Portugal.

See alsoPortuguese Empire; Portuguese in Latin America.


António Sérgio et al., eds. "Mesa," in Grande enciclopédia portuguesa e brasileira, vol. 17 (1934–1935), pp. 17-18.

Ruy D'abreu Torres, "Mesa da Consciência e Ordens," Dicionário de história de Portugal, edited by Joel Serrão, vol. 3 (1968), pp. 42-43.

Francisco Luiz Teixeira Vinhosa, História administrativa do Brasil, pt. 2, vol. 8, Brasil sede da monarquia (1984), p. 141.

Arquivo Nacional, Fiscais e meirinhos: A administraçao no Brasil colonial (1985), pp. 39, 120.

Additional Bibliography

Dutra, Francis A. Military Orders in the Early Modern Portuguese World: The Orders of Christ, Santiago, and Avis. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006.

Neves, Guilherme Pereira das. E receberá mercê: A Mesa da Consciência e Ordens e o clero secular no Brasil, 1808–1828. Rio de Janeiro: Arquivo Nacional: Ministério da Justiça, 1997.

                     Guilherme Pereira das Neves

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Mesa da Consciência e Ordens

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