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of the Royal Brotherhood

The last professes of the monastery of Arouca, Dona Maria José Gouveia Tovar Meneses, died on July the 3rd, 1886. Anticipating this outcome, the people from Arouca prominent citizens took the initiative to found the Royal Brotherhood of the Holy Queen Mafalda, sign the first statutes on the 10th of the same month.

These statutes had the approval from the Council of the District of Aveiro, on 24th July, and of the Government Authorities on the 28th. Cardinal Bishop of Porto, D. Américo Ferreira dos Santos Silva, confirmed them, by a provision on 19th of August. The founding committee was elected on August the 8th, 1886, and presided by Father José Gomes de Figueiredo. The strong commitment of the population of Arouca leads us to assume that, in addition to the intention of continuing the cult of the Holy Queen Mafalda, there was underlying the idea to keep in Arouca the very rich patrimonial estate accumulated over centuries in the monastery. As soon as the monastery was founded in 1886, the Prince Don Luis, was asked to declared himself Perpetual Judge of the Brotherhood. This petition invoked, implicitly, the royal protection for the institution. Indeed, the law of June 26th, 1889 was to deliver the safekeeping and administration of the estate of the monastery to the Brotherhood.

The papal recognition occurred in February the 1st, 1887, by a document of Leo XIII. After the hard times of the First Republic, resulting from the application of the Separation Law of 1911, during the Estado Novo there was a period of apathy, which led to the fact that the board was kept unchanged between 1917 and 1929, due to lack of participation of the brothers in the assemblies. It was just the personal commitment of Father Joaquim Carneiro Leão in revitalizing the Brotherhood which avoided its end. Apart from some problems here and there, the democratic rule of the 1974 of Revolution did not interfere in the life of the institution. Although the early statutes predicted some social concerns, the Brotherhood has never faced the charity as a priority. However, since its foundation, it contributed to the Charity Fund of the Government Authorities, for the “Misericórdia” Hospital, Sanitary Defense against Tuberculosis and school support for poor children. It was always in the minds of the leaders the promotion of culture and the safeguard of the monastery estate.

The Museum of Sacred Art, that in the words of Professor Pedro Dias "has a prominent place in the hierarchy of similar institutions of our country," had its genesis in 1917. Initially the administrative board had decided to place it in the chapter house, which was not possible due to the severe economic problems during the First Republic. On November 27th, 1933 it was inaugurated by the Minister of Interior, occupying the old cells of the nuns facing north and west, because they were wider and more appropriate spaces. The direction of the Museum of Sacred Art was, as a rule, assumed by the Judge of the Royal Brotherhood, or a person on whom he would delegate. Dr. Pedro Vitorino and Dr. Manuel Rodrigues Simões Junior played a significant role in the installation of the Museum. The latter was a passionate about the monastery, while board member, "was rightly regarded as a Director of the Museum of Sacred Art, who served it with all the dedication." Maria Rosa do Sacramento, an old maid of the monastery, had also an important role, namely the protection of the work of art that constituted the collection of the museum of sacred art.
In addition to the creation and protection of the museum of sacred art, the Royal Brotherhood developed in the course of its secular life cultural activities, concerts, exhibitions, etc. The Monastery of Santa Maria de Arouca is currently one of the best preserved monuments of the country.

In recent years there was the suggestion of building a hotel in the monastery, supported by IPPAR and the City Council of Arouca, under the direction of the Royal Brotherhood, a situation that, if it was going it would bring great value to Arouca in terms of touristic quality. By Decree-Law no. 26 611, of May 19, 1936, the perimeter of protection of the monastery was fixed, that forced the building regulations in that area. The Royal Brotherhood crossed the last decades of the Monarchy, the First Republic, the period of the dictatorship of Salazar and Caetano, passing moments of elevation, going from euphoria and popular support, the foundation times, to the hard times of survival and also the threat of extinction. The Royal Brotherhood lived times of great affluence and times of extreme hardship. Thanks to the commitment of board members and some personalities, honorable exceptions, that in the course of time, remained on its side, this institution survived until to the present day as an organization of great prestige.

The judges were always prominent local figures:

Dr. Bernardo Furtado Mendonça Moreira Aranha (1887-1888)
Father Bernardino de Pinho Bandeira (1892-1901)
Dr. Carlos Alberto Teixeira de Brito (1901-1914)
Custódio Fernandes Soares de Pinho (1915-1947)
Professor Alberto Carlos de Brito (1947-1976)
D. Domingos de Pinho Brandão (1977-1989)
Professor Arnaldo Cardoso de Pinho (1989…)

Dr. Afonso Costa Santos Veiga
(MA in History)

Read more in:
VEIGA, Afonso Costa Santos - Real Irmandade da Rainha Santa Mafalda de Arouca. Arouca: Real Irmandade da Rainha Santa Mafalda, 2005.


Largo de Santa Mafalda
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Royal Brotherhood

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