Vieira, Father António de

(1608-1697)
   A talented and influential individual, and one of the greatest speakers and prose writers of early modern Portugal, Vieira was a Jesuit priest, writer, missionary, advisor to kings, and diplomatic negotiator. At age eight, he went to Brazil and was educated there in a Jesuit College. Like Francisco Manuel de Melo, his Jesuit-educated contemporary, Vieira participated in the great crises and conflicts of his day, including the ongoing war between the Inquisition and Portugal's New Christians, the loss and partial recovery of parts of Portugal's still extensive overseas empire, the rise to the Portuguese throne of the Braganza dynasty, the restoration of Portugal's independence from Spain in 1640, and the subsequent struggle to retain that independence under adverse circumstances.
   One of Father Vieira's major efforts was his campaign to have the Portuguese Inquisition relax its policy of confiscation of New Christian capital and property and to convince converted Jews in Portugal and Portuguese Jews in exile to provide capital in Portugal's efforts to reinforce its defenses against many threatened Spanish invasions during 1640-68, when Spain finally officially recognized Portugal's independence in a treaty. Such monies were also employed in defending Portugal's overseas empire and helping to drive out enemies who had occupied portions of Portugal's dominions abroad.
   Father Vieira spent a large part of his career in Brazil as a Jesuit missionary and administrator and was famous for defending the freedom and rights of Amerindians against settlers. A great sermonizer who possessed a strong messianic belief and grounding in the prophecies of the Old Testament, Vieira became an influential advisor to the Portuguese kings, as well as a diplomat assigned important tasks abroad. Vieira preached sermons in which he proclaimed that the awaited messiah who would restore Portugal to world power status in the future was not King Sebastião I, who died in 1578 in battle against the Muslims in Morocco, but King João IV, an assertion that lost some credibility following the king's death in 1656.
   Among Father Vieira's prolific writings, his most noted are his collected sermons in 15 volumes, Letras, his História do Futuro, and his famous defense against accusations when on trial before the Portuguese Inquisition, the Defesa perante o Tribunal do Santo Ofício.

Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. . 2014.

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