The first Cathedral of the country, the “Straw Sé”
The Church of Our Lady of Ajuda is embedded near Pelourinho entrance, in the middle of a cut of streets and commercial buildings in the Center part of Salvador. It is dedicated to Our Lady of Ajuda, named after one of the ships of Tomé de Sousa’s fleet, the first Governor-General of Brazil. Today it is administered by the Venerable Brotherhood of Senhor Bom Jesus dos Passos and Vera Cruz.
The symbolic and historical value of the Church of Ajuda is inestimable. Internally, the church is decorated with paintings on its walls and linings, and it keeps relics such as the image of Our Lady of Ajuda on the main altar, which was brought from Portugal by Tomé de Souza’s fleet in 1549. On the left wall of the church, there is the pulpit where Father Antonio Vieira gave his memorable sermons. In the highest part of the church, also open to the public, there is a large, colorful French stained glass with the image of Our Lady of Mercy, one of the great surprises of this building.
Two other beautiful images are the “jewels” of Ajuda. One of the Lord of Passos is in the nave (place of the faithful) and it’s beautiful, showing a suffering Christ, with great facial expressiveness and a large cross being carried all in silver details. The other one, of the Dead Lord, older, probably of Portuguese origin and made of oak, is even more dramatic and is stored in a compartment on the altar, enclosed by a retractable door. This is only exhibited once a year, during the “Procession of the Meeting” or on Good Friday.
Did you know that this church has already changed its location three times?
To adapt to the progress of the city, the Church of Our Lady of Ajuda had to relocate three times. Its current construction dates from the year 1912, but its first construction, the Primitive Church, dates from 1549, erected by Father Manoel da Nobrega and other Jesuits who came to evangelize the New World.
It all began in 1552, when Brazil’s first Bishop, Dom Pero Fernandes Sardinha, arrived in the country. He transformed the little Church of Ajuda, made of mud and covered with straw, in the first Cathedral of the country, the “Straw Sé”. Then in 1579 Bishop Sardinha himself remodeled the original church in stone and lime. This second colonial church was demolished in 1912, during an urbanistic reform and the current building was cut in the middle for the passage of the street that gives access to it. The project was developed by the Italian architect Júlio Conti, being inaugurated definitively in 1932.
The Procession of the Meeting
During Holy Week, a little over 100 parishes receive Masses and special celebrations throughout the city. The religious feast, reminiscent of Christ’s death and resurrection, begins on Palm Sunday, which recalls Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and ends with the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. In the Church of Ajuda, a Mass is celebrated on the “Wednesday of darkness” at 12:30 p.m., and then the image of Our Good Jesus of Passos is taken to the Church of St. Domingos de Gusmão (Terreiro de Jesus, Pelourinho), where meets with the image of Our Lady of Sorrows – the encounter of mother and son. Together, the two statues roam the streets of the Historic Center until they return to Church of Ajuda.
Celebration of Our Lady of Ajuda
The preparatory Triduum takes place on December 15, 16 and 17, which are moments of faith where each priest tells us each day a little about the history of Our Lady of Ajuda preparing the faithful for the 18th. Then, on this date, a solemn mass takes place at 12:30pm, followed by a procession through the streets of Pelourinho. The faithful follow with emotion, taking turns in the conduct of the Patroness’ image.
Church of Our Lady of Ajuda (Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Ajuda)
Rua da Ajuda, Comércio, Salvador – BA, 40020-030
From Monday to Friday, from 8am to 5pm. Closes Saturdays and Sundays.
Masses: always at 12:30pm. Mondays in devotion to Saint Luzia; Tuesdays, devotion to Saint Antônio; Wednesdays, in veneration to Our Lady of Ajuda; Thursdays, devotion to Saint Rita de Cassia; Fridays, praise to Good Jesus of Passos, where, at 11:50am, there is the “moment of mercy”, with an exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
Phone: (71) 3322-3296
Igreja da Ajuda. Centro Histórico, Salvador. Foto: Amanda Oliveira.