Cult of Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres
With Bishop D. António Meireles, in the third decade of the last century, came the Visitandinas, followed by the Congregation of São José de Cluny. After setting up his school, drawn by the architect João Rebelo from São Miguel island, on Rua Agostinho Pacheco, in Ponta Delgada, it was up to the religious women of Maria Imaculada to occupy the convent, who worked in its recovery. The Clunicenses had entrusted the care of the Chapel of Santo Cristo to Mother Maria do Carmo, telling her superior that no one better than an Azorean would know how to take care of that convent. Mother Maria do Carmo was from São Miguel island and niece of Mariano Victor Cabral, remarkable editor of “Diário dos Açores”.
The religious women of Maria Imaculada, who currently occupy the place of the Clarissas, present there from 1541 to 1894, have been extremely attentive to the spiritual significance of the convent and have cooperated, in an excellent way, with the regents of the Sanctuary of Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres.
In April 1959, the then Bishop of Angra, D. Manuel Afonso de Carvalho, declared the Diocesan Sanctuary to be the Church of Santo Cristo.
Below is an excerpt from the episcopal decree:
“Dom Manuel Afonso de Carvalho, at the mercy of God and the Holy Apostolic See, Bishop of Angra: (…) So that this cult of Jesus Christ the King does not cease and the Passion of the Lord fully absorbs souls, without any glimpse of practice or act less in line with the spirit and guidance of the Holy Church, we: 1) Declare the Church of the Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres the Diocesan Sanctuary and entrust its administration to a priest specially appointed by Us; 2) Recommend to all reverend pastors and priests that they instill in the faithful a true spirit of compassion and fervor towards the Holy Christ, preventing them from dangers on the annual festivities, so that all their actions are for the greater glory of the Lord; 3) To exhort all Azoreans, of whatever category they may be, to invoke, in times of tribulation as in times of peace, with true spirit of faith, the Holy Christ and ask Him to preserve their purity of heart, their resignation in misfortunes and, in a special way, the grace to live a life according to the will of the same Lord, so that one day they can acclaim Him in His Kingdom of glory. Given in Angra and Paço Episcopal, on April 22, 1959.”
In the year 1723, there were 102 nuns and 57 novices, pupils and servants at the Esperança Convent. In 1821, the population of the monastery was 108 ladies: 42 professed nuns, 36 seculars, without a layoff, and 30 servants. In 1865, there were 72 women, nine of them from Esperança, 11 from Conceição Convent, one from S. João Convent, one from Bom Jesus Convent in Ribeira Grande, one from Santo André Convent in Vila Franca, 16 girls who were in the choir, a secular, two non-serving ladies, twenty-one community servants and eleven private servants.
The Religious women of Maria Imaculada were the fourth institute to occupy the Esperança Convent. The last Clarissa nun, Mother Abadessa Maria Vicência Cabral, died in December 1894. Already, there were some that wore habit and continued the conventual uses, despite the repairs of the periodic press, still attached to the anti-monastic decrees of May 1832.
The Monastery of Nossa Senhora da Esperança was the first convent in Ponta Delgada. Its construction started in the life of its founder, Donatory Captain Rui Gonçalves da Câmara, who, after the earthquake of October 20, 1522, which devastated Vila Franca do Campo, moved to Ponta Delgada, which was already a village, since 1499.
His wife, D. Filipa Coutinho, assisted by several gentlemen, managed to complete the works, interrupted at the time of the founder’s death, which occurred on October 20, 1535.
It was on April 23, 1540, that the nuns left the Caloura Convent, bringing the Image of Senhor Santo Cristo, and came to inhabit the Esperança Monastery.
In the second half of the 17th century, the Esperança Convent began to benefit from major improvements: the famous tiles that are still found today in the low choir. They are by António de Oliveira Bernardes; the carving of the chapel of the low choir is attributed to Miguel Romeiro who, in dreams, idealized it; the ceiling decoration of the church is of the original carving of the main chapel and of the side altars and it was carried out, in 1658, by the micaelense painter Manuel Pinheiro Moreira, Brother of the Third Order of São Francisco, in Ponta Delgada, and painting professor to his own daughters.