Living Museum of Franciscan



In 2013, the Living Museum of Franciscanism was inaugurated, located in the city of Ribeira Grande, on the island of São Miguel (Azores). It was installed in the church dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, part of the old Franciscan convent of this city, founded in the 17th century. In the 19th century, in the context of the nationalisation of the property of Portuguese Religious Orders, the convent was transferred to Santa Casa da Misericórdia da Ribeira Grande, which relocated its hospital services to there. Already in the 20th century, under the authority of the Regional Government of the Azores, the former convent continued to be used for public health care, and is currently occupied by the Ribeira Grande Health Centre.

As for the Church, during the vicissitudes of the 19th century, it was for celebration of mass for hospitalised patients every Sunday, to support the hospital area. During this period, the Third Order of the Franciscans was particularly active and continued to be part of its ongoing activities, with particular emphasis on the Procissão dos Terceiros (Procession of the Terceiros), which is still carried out today. However, from the mid 20th century, the degradation of the church was becoming more and more noticeable. In the early 90s, the church was closed and was reopened on 14th February, 2013 with the inauguration of the Living Museum of Franciscanism.



The Franciscan Order was significant in the archipelago of the Azores from the earliest days of settlement of the islands at the beginning of the 15th century. It had effective presence on all the islands of the Azores and founded convents in eight of the nine Azorean islands (except for Corvo). Thus, these friars contributed to the project of evangelisation characteristic of the Portuguese Modern Age, in the context of the Portuguese Empire's policy.

In spite of this preponderance, the memory of the presence of the Franciscans for more than 400 years in these Portuguese islands was limited and little survived until today. Most of the convent buildings, now nationalised and serving multiple lay functions, do not reflect the history of their founders and the route of this Order in the archipelago. This ended up being restricted to the readers of the chronicles written in the 17th and 18th centuries. Thus, the main purpose of the Living Museum of Franciscanism was to rescue the memory of the Franciscans, not only on the island of S. Miguel, but also throughout the archipelago. Likewise, the legacy of these friars was emphasized by the survival of their Third Order, which kept the Franciscan heritage alive through the organisation of the Procissão dos Terceiros. Composed of more than a dozen images, whose plot tells the story of St. Francis of Assisi, this procession weathered the passage of time and is held every year until today. In this way, the pieces of the Museum take to the streets annually and come to life in the public sphere, recovering a secular tradition.



Start: 2011

Duration: 36 months

Principal Investigator: Susana Goulart Costa (CHAM)




- Câmara Municipal da Ribeira Grande

Host Institution

- Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas / Universidade Nova de Lisboa

Main Research Unit

- Centro de História d'Aquém e d'Além-Mar / Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas/Universidade Nova de Lisboa | Universidade dos Açores



Susana Goulart Costa  .    Coordenator 

Duarte Nuno Chaves (CHAM)
João Paulo Constância (Museu Carlos Machado)