Abstract

This essay examines a conflict between the Brotherhood of Saint Efigênia and Saint Elesbão of Black Men and the Diocese of São Paulo over access to the Church of Saint Efigênia, which led to ecclesial proceedings and the brotherhood's unprecedented dissolution. The dispute highlights transformations in church governance, popular devotion, and racial politics in late nineteenth-century Brazil. The article documents the local impact of Romanization (ca. 1850–1960), the effort by papal authorities and Catholic Church officials in Brazil to create greater conformity in ritual and belief by increasing the number and authority of secular clerics. The reassertion of parochial authority led to discord and racial difference between brotherhood members and church officials contributed to the conflict's intensification in a period marked by elite anxiety resulting from gradual and final slave emancipation. The dispute and its extreme resolution emphasized how fragile autonomy could be for Afro-Brazilian sodalities in the late nineteenth century.

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