Sardinha, Pedro Fernandes

views updated


First bishop of Brazil; b. Evora or Setubal, Portugal, c. 1496; d. Alagoas, Brazil, June 1556. Sardinha was a fellow student of Ignatius Loyola at the University of Paris in 1525. In 1529 he was named chaplain of St. Sebastian Church on Madeira Island. Later he was appointed a chaplain in Lisbon, and finally royal preacher in Oporto. In 1545 he was sent to Goa as dean of the cathedral under the famous governor, João de Castro. Shortly thereafter he was vicar-general of the diocese, noted for his interest in the colony but especially for his strict control of his clergy and for his warm friendship with the Jesuits. When the governor died (1548), Sardinha returned to Portugal, where he resumed his studies in Canon Law at the University of Coimbra.

Brazil had been under the jurisdiction of the Order of Christ until 1514, and then under the bishop of Madeira until 1551, when the Holy See by the bull Super specula militantis ecclesiae of Feb. 25, 1551, erected the Diocese of Salvador (Bahia). Sardinha was appointed the first bishop with actual jurisdiction over the entire colony. He arrived in Salvador on June 22, 1552, only to find himself disappointed and disgusted by the low morality of its 1,000 inhabitants, the poor conditions of life, and the smallness of his see city. Soon he was in trouble with the governor and with the Jesuits. In general, the root of the trouble was the contrast of the spirit of the Renaissance with that of the Counter Reformation. He disliked the adaptation system of the Jesuits and demanded that the Indians should have at least a façade of European culture before they were baptized. This is not to say that Sardinha did not fulfill his episcopal duties, as he understood them. He was zealous in his visitations of his church and stubborn in his condemnation of evil conduct even in the son of the governor, Alvaro da Costa. He had trouble, however, with his cathedral chapter. This matter reached its climax when he wounded two clerics who had disobeyed him and when he excommunicated the civil authorities who had sided with his chapter against him. He had built an episcopal residence and begun the construction of a cathedral when the King in 1555 named a vicar-general for the diocese and called Sardinha home. In June 1556 he set out; but his ship was wrecked near Alagoas, and the bishop and some 30 companions were captured by the Caeté, who were cannibals. Sardinha, reserved for the last, died heroically, encouraging and comforting his companions. Sardinha was a zealous pastor and an excellent preacher, and he loved liturgical pomp. He began the first primitive seminary in Brazil and wrote the first "regimento" for the clergy of his diocese.

Bibliography: o. van der vat, Princípios da Igreja no Brasil (Rio de Janeiro 1952). m. de azevedo, "O primeiro Bispo do Brasil," Revista do Instituto Históricoe Geográfico da Baía 11 (1904) 8397. g. schurhammer, "Novos documentos sôbre M. Pedro Fernandes Sardinha, primeiro Bispo do Brasil," Revista de philologiae de historia 2 (Rio de Janeiro 1932) 317322.

[t. beal]