sexta-feira, 22 de abril de 2011


Saco da Gamboa - com vista do Cemitério dos Ingleses - RJ

gravura em reprodução.

Tradition records the determination of the Portuguese crown to impede the entrance of foreigners into Brazil in the period previous to 1808. However, it is common knowledge that, even before the opening of the ports, there were foreigners travelling and residing in Brazil. But non-catholics were not allowed to have cemeteries; they were buried either at sea, in forest, or in slave cemeteries, or even along the beaches.

As history tells us, things were not good in Europe so the Portuguese royal family emigrated to Rio de Janeiro because of the invasion of their country by napoleon´s troops. In that context, Portugal signed a contract with English representative George Canning, in a secret convention, on 22nd October 1807. Foreseeing the displacement of the Portuguese court to Brazil , this altered the profile of the future commercial relationships among England, Portugal and Brazil.

History shows that the British government demanded special advantages in exchange for the protection and escort service rendered to the royal cortege, as well as for the military aid to expel France from Portugal. Foreigners started to arrive in Rio de Janeiro, mainly English merchants . However the abertura dos portos – free port – by itself, was not enough; the English demanded more advantages and warranties for their establishment in the south American lands, which were obtained by new agreements, for example the agreement of 1810.

Those agreements were not restricted to commercial or religious subjects. Others determinations stood out, among them the instruction of a privileged court for the English on the soil of the Colony ,whose special magistrates were chosen by resident Englishmen, and private authorization for the English to cut and buy wood in the Brazilian forest for warships construction, with the exception of those forest reserved for the Portuguese navy.

It was also decided to forbid the establishment of the Act of (Spanish) Inquisition in the states of Southern America, and to gradually abolish slavery, ruling that slavery would continue only in the Portuguese possessions in Africa. There measures excessively displeased European contemporaries, generating anti-British feeling. The Church through the papal nuncio, placed the most serious difficulties in the way of the agreements, not accepting the clauses that allowed religious freedom and prohibited the inquisition in the Portuguese colonies.

It is well know that the prince regent instituted general control over foreigners that arrived in the lands of Colony in the period subsequent to the opening of the Brazilian ports to maritime and European trade. However, the Regent used his ability to rule on labour matters and religious freedom by promulgation the 11th August 1811 royal letter regulating tolerance , foreseen by the agreement of trade and sailing of 1810, article XII of the agreement states that the British “will not be disturbed, pursued, of hunted, in reason of their religion” and will have “perfect freedom of conscience, and license to attend and celebrate Divine Service” This gave warranties to the English to practice their religion . In this way, the concession gave them permission to have specific areas for burial called – English cemeteries – on Brazilian territory especially in the busy ports of Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Recife.

After 1810, the monarch ceded to the British a small piece of farmland know as forno do cal (Lime Kiln) belonging to Simão Martins, described as one of the loveliest spots ever seen, commanding beautiful views in every direction. The English Cemetery of Rio de Janeiro was built in Gamboa. The name means a back-water or clearing, where fishermen turned into lime vast quantities of shells that had accumulated in the cave.

The land was bought on 24th December 1809 by the Prince Regent and incorporated the following year by the Crown for the burial of foreigners who didn´t profess the catholic religion in Rio de Janeiro. Consulting the book of registration of marriage, baptism and deaths of the British Burial Fund. I verified that the first burial registration refers to 5th January, 1811. I therefore concluded that this was the year the cemetery began operation.

European travelers in the first half of the 19th century made reference to the Cemetery of the English. Maria Graham, especially, wrote of her impression of the place:

“I role this evening to the protestant burial-ground, at the praya de Gamboa. I think it one the loveliest spots I ever beheld, commanding beautiful views every way. It slopes gradually towards the road along the shore; at the highest point there is a pretty building, consisting of three chambers; one serves as a place of meeting or waiting for The clergyman occasionally ; one as a repository for the mournful furniture of the grave, and largest, which is between the other two, is generally occupied by the body of the dead For the few hours, it may be a day and a night, which can in this climate elapse between death and burial; in front of this are the various stones, and urns, and vain memorials we raise to relieve our own sorrow; and between there and the road, some magnificent trees. Three sides of this field are fenced by rock or wood (..)In my illness I had often felt sorry that I had not seen this ground. I am satisfied now; and if my still lingering weakness should lay me here, the very few who may come to see where there friends lies will feel no disgust (…)

(From Journal of a voyage to Brazil and residence there, during part of the year’s 1821,22 and 23.)

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