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Maria de Fonte (fl. 1846)

Maria de Fonte (fl. 1846)

Portuguese dissenter . Name variations: Maria da Fonte Arcada; Maria of Fonte.

In 1846, the liberal Portuguese government tried to carry out a series of reforms, among which were a new tax and a law forbidding, on sanitary grounds, the burial of bodies within churches. In the conservative Minho district of northern Portugal, where opposition to the government was already strong, a number of peasant women violently opposed the new burial ordinance. They held precious the belief that their beloved family members could await the end of time buried in the sacred precincts of the churches. The worst riot erupted in the parish of Fonte Arcada, where a woman by the name of Maria allegedly took a leading role. With her at their head, a mob of women forced a local priest to bury Custódia Teresa inside the chapel at Simães. These protests took on Maria's nickname, Maria de Fonte Arcada, shortened to Maria de Fonte. Soon other conservatives exploited the confusion, and even moderates and liberals who disliked the Portuguese dictator António Bernardino da Costa Cabral joined in. A long and bloody civil struggle culminated in his dismissal.

Kendall W. Brown , Professor of History, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah

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