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Misericórdia's Church and House of Dispatch (16th-18th centuries)

The construction of the church was only possible with the financial support given by Pedro de Castro. The construction probably started in 1528, and was completed and in full operation in 1538. Although of modest proportions, it included a church, a sacristy and a house of dispatch, in addition to the Board’s tribune and the circulation spaces between these different premises.

Regarding the 17th century we have two important references. Provedor Francisco Machado Botelho, who had ordered to lower the entire body of the church, was also in charge of the organization of tombs in 1626. These were placed in rows that began in the sacristy’s portal and ended in the main entrance. Up to the 19th century, tombs were one of the most important aspects of the church’s interior, demanding frequent works for their conservation and improvement.

For the 17th century, we also have news that Matias Álvares Mourão, at the time the Misericórdia’s provedor, ordered a "large and majestic stand" to expose the statue of Our Lord. He also gave orders to gold-plate and “panel with figures the mentioned stand” and to place tiles on the walls and to paint the ceiling of the church with "grotesque" motifs. Three aspects are stressed in this intervention: the introduction of a throne for the Blessed Sacrament, a practice that was widespread in Portugal in the second half of the 17th century, and about which there are a lot of information in Vila Real and its surroundings; tile covering, which already had a long tradition in the Portuguese art and was then beginning to dispute the place that gilded and polychrome woodwork had in the north of Portugal; and finally, the use of “grotesque” motifs, a symptom of a tradition that had not change since the 16th century.

The interior of the Church of the Misericórdia in the 1670s was similar to many churches built during that period, with the presence of gilded woodwork in harmony with polychrome tiles (expenses with the care and conservation of these tiles are mentioned in a report from the 19th century) and painting ornaments. 

Regarding the 18th century, we also have important information about the works carried out. The Misericórdia of Vila Real did not have great resources, which is why the main initiatives are linked to specific provedores or to the contributions of private individuals, a situation that was repeated along its history. The main work during this century is mentioned in a document from 3 May 1725, stating that the provedor António Barros de Figueiredo ordered, at his own expense, the enlargement of the chancel.

Despite the scarce information available, we can conclude that by the end of the 18th century, the Misericórdia’s building preserved its structure that was defined in the 16th century, but with its chancel increased and enriched with new retables, which was a common practice in eighteenth-century Portuguese sacred spaces.