In the year  Martin Luther’s Religious Reform Movement was begun in Germany and, though it extended to all Europe, its major influence was felt in the  countries of the north and center. The reaction of the Catholic Church was expressed when the Council of Trent (Trento, Italy) met intermittently between 1545 and 1563 to take steps toward the restoration of religious unity or, at least, to halt the growth of the Reformation.

The College Church

This movement in defense of Catholicism is known in history as the Counter-Reformation and, among other issue, it determined to moralize  the clergy and instill fresh enthusiasm in work among  missionary orders. Leaving untouched such extremes as the Inquisition and the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (Index of Prohibited Books), the Council decided to form a new religious order; that of the Jesuits (Society of Jesus), which was organized to support the papacy and protect the orthodox faith from heresy. The decision was most eagerly welcomed in France, Germany, Poland, Italy, Spain, and Portugal.
Out of this movement for Counter-Reform the baroque style of architecture  emerged; a manifestation of order and discipline translated into the  perfect geometry and rigorous symmetry that was to appear in the façades of all religious buildings. At the same time, churches became stages for the new liturgy adopted by the Council of Trent.  These emphasized the theatrical formalism of the Mass that enacted, step by step, the drama of Christ’s life. The architecture, and especially the interior decoration of the churches made use of every technique  of stage craft that could amplify the pageantry of a spectacle produced for an audience made up of the faithful who attended the Mass of the Blessed Sacrament. The architectural expanses, and the exuberance of sculptures were further dramatized by lighting effects. all this theater was more evident in the south of Europe than in the north were the style was somewhat tempered by a spirit of simplicity that dominated the decoration of Protestant churches.
In the south of Europe the lavishness of decorative elements was most  visible, as for instance, in the Basilica of St. Peters in Rome. This excess is even more noticeable in the baroque that was transported to the Portuguese colonies of America and the far Orient (Goa and Macau), where, today, you will find magnificent examples of Portuguese baroque.
The Jesuits were to become deeply involved in teaching  the next generation,  and endeavored to erase any influence the wave of Protestantism might have had. Throughout the world colleges were opened to serve as political guides for the system of absolutism and the new-wrought framework of the Catholic Church. Many learned men were products of these  colleges, Descartes, the French philosopher, among them.
The year of Madeira’s participation was 1569. King Sebastian authorized the installation of the Society of Jesus on the island and empowered it to create a college where theology, philosophy, Latin and rhetoric would be taught. At the end of the 16th Century the newly installed religious order acquired property to the north of what is now the Municipal Square. An efficiently functioning college was constructed as well as a large church, architecturally the most  baroque in Madeira.

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