Father Fernão Cardim

Date of birth: c.1548, Viana de Alvito, Portugal

Date of death: Aldeia do Espírito Santo (current Camaçari in Bahia), 27 January 1625

A Jesuit of Portuguese origin who arrived in Brazil in 1585, he was the author of important documents for the history of Brazil between the end of the 16th century and the first quarter of the 17th century.

Link to BRASILHIS Database: https://brasilhis.usal.es/es/personaje/fernao-cardim-sj

The Jesuit Fernão Cardim is recognized as one of the most active religious in the Province of Brazil, both for his trajectory and for his intellectual legacy. He was born in Viana de Alvito, Archbishopric of Évora, on an uncertain date, son of Gaspar Clemente and his wife Inês Cardim, from an old family in Portugal. His older brother, Jorge Cardim Fróis, held several positions in the administration of justice, and his other brothers, Lourenço Cardim and Diogo Fróis, also belonged to the Society of Jesus. The former, having finished his studies and been ordained a priest, went to Brazil in 1585, but was killed during his trip by French corsairs; the latter was a professor of moral theology at the College and University of Coimbra, when during the plague of Lisbon (1568-69), assisting the infected inhabitants, ended up infected and died in the city’s hospital.

Fernão Cardim, qualifying himself on August 14, 1591 before the table of the Holy Office presided over by the Visitor Heitor Furtado de Mendonça, declared to be forty-three years old, “a little more or less” [PRIMEIRA, 1925, 327]. He would have been born in 1548 and joined the Society in 1566. He was already professed the four vows and minister of the College of Evora, when he was designated, in 1582, as companion of the Visitor Father Cristóvão de Gouveia; he went to Lisbon in early October of that year, where he stayed five months, until March 5, 1583, with Governor Manuel Teles Barreto, the Visitor Father Cristovão de Gouveia and other priests, he embarked for Brazil, arriving in Bahia on May 9. He came as secretary of the Visitor and stayed in Brazil after the Visitor returned to Portugal.  He held the posts of Rector of the Colleges of Bahia and Rio de Janeiro. During this period he wrote his best known texts.

Cardim’s works that are at the forefront of the 16th century chronicles that can be used for the history of colonization are the treatises Do Clima e a Terra do Brasil (On the Climate and Land of Brazil), Do Principio e Origem dos Índios do Brasil e de seus costumes, adororação e ceremoniais (c. 1584) and Narrativa Epistolar de uma viagem e missão jesuítica (Epistolary Narrative of a Jesuit Voyage and Mission). The first two manuscripts were published in English, as they were stolen by the corsairs who imprisoned him, and were published in London in 1625, with the title A Treatise of Brasil written by a Portugal which had long lived there in the collection Purchas his Pilgrimes , Vol. IV, pages 1289-1320.. In 1881 and 1885, respectively, both writings were published in Portuguese in Rio de Janeiro, according to a manuscript copy found in the Évora Public Library.  The Epistolary Narrative was first printed in 1847, at the National Press in Lisbon, by Francisco Varnhagen.

In 1925, Fernão Cardim’s three main writings were published in a single volume, preceded by a study by Rodolfo Garcia, and entitled Treatises on the Land and People of Brazil. The introduction and notes were by Batista Caetano, Capistrano de Abreu and Rodolfo Garcia, published by J. Leite & Cia, with 434 pages. The 2nd edition of the Treaties composes volume 168 of the Coleção Brasiliana, published in São Paulo by Companhia Editora Nacional in 1939, with 379 pages and the 3rd edition was published in 1978, also in the Coleção Brasiliana. The first edition of the Treaties published in Portugal was made under the auspices of Ana Maria Azevedo in 1997. A letter by Cardim to the General of the Order, Father Aquaviva, written in Bahia on May 8, 1606, was published in the Annals of the National Library of Rio de Janeiro. The letter deals with the diffusion of the manuscript of the biography of José de Achieta written by Father Pero Roiz (CARDIM, 1907).

Arriving in Brazil in 1583, and writing his treatises after that date and before 1601, Cardim found part of the indigenous societies of the coast already largely catechized. With the exception of the Epistolary Narrative, which contains personal information, the other writings are largely based on the news left by other observers. Thanks to the Epistolary Narrative, we have news of how many mills were operating in the various centers of the colony, what their production was in arrobas of sugar, how many white, Indian and black inhabitants there were, what food they ate, the clothes they wore, the games and entertainments they enjoyed. It is well known his statements about the dolce vita of the people of Pernambuco, where Cardim says he found more vanity than in Lisbon.

The Information of Father Cristóvão de Gouveia’s mission to parts of Brazil, year 83, from this collection of previously published manuscripts, consists of two long letters. These recount the experiences of a Jesuit missionary during his journey through the Capitanias of Bahia, Pernambuco, Espírito Santo, Rio de Janeiro, and São Vicente between the years 1583 and 1590. Between 1596 and 1597 he lived with José de Anchieta in the College of Rio de Janeiro.

In 1598 he was elected by the provincial congregation as Procurator of the Province of Brazil in Rome. Returning from this mission to Brazil, he embarked in Lisbon on September 24, 1601, on the Flemish Urca São Vicente. On the way, the ship encountered two well-armed English corsair ships under the command of Francis Cook. Captured were the Visitor of the Order João Madureira, Father Gaspar Álvares and Cardim himself. Father Madureira died at sea on October 5 and the others were imprisoned in England. First in Plymouth, the largest city in the county of Devon, Cornwall, located at the mouth of the river Plym, 310 kilometers southwest of London. They were later remanded to Gatehouse, a prison located in Westminster, London.

From this epic, a dozen of Cardim’s epistles remained, kept at Hatfield House, in the old part of the town of the same name, in Hertfordshire. Some of these letters were published in the collection Calender of Historical Manuscripts of the Marquis of Salisbury, from 1906. These letters came out in English and were mutilated in several places. The originals preserved were written in Latin and Spanish, because Cardim did not speak English (CALENDAR, 1883-1915, vol. IX, X and XI). Released from prison, Cardim would return to Brazil and his missionary activity.

The Anua of 1607 may also contain notes from Fernão Cardim himself, especially the information referring to Bahia, where he lived, holding the office of provincial between 1604 and 1609 (LEITE, 1948, v. 8, 132). His position gave him enough authority to supervise and interfere in the elaboration of the Ânua.

Cardim had already written or interfered in the previous Annuas since he took over as provincial of the order in Brazil. Serafim Leite affirms that at least two annua were written integrally or annotated by Fernão Cardim: Annotationes Anuæ Brasiliæ anni 1604 (to Fr. Assistant of Portugal in Rome), Baía, January 12, 1606.  Anuæ Litteræ Brasilicæ Provinciæ, annorum 1605 et 1606 (to Fr. Assistant of Portugal in Rome), Baía, April 11, 1607 (LEITE, 1948, v.8, 137).

As Provincial, Cardim took it upon himself to write the previous Annua of 1605-1606 and wrote notes for the Annua of 1604. It seems to have been no different in the Ânua of 1607. The part about the villages and the Colégio da Bahia seem to have been copied from Cardim’s own notes (MAGALHÃES, 2009).

The 1607 Carta Ânua would not be the first text by Fernão Cardim attributed to another author. In 1885, João Capistrano de Abreu published in Volume 1 of his Materiaes e Achegas para a História do Brasil the “Informação da Província do Brasil para nosso Padre (1585)”. Although included among Anchieta’s letters and information, it is now beyond doubt that it was not written by the Canarino, but in all probability by Father Fernão Cardim. In fact, there are coincidences between his writings and those of Anchieta that are not purely fortuitous. Cardim was Rector of the College of Bahia, in 1624, at the time of the Dutch invasion. He went with Bishop Marcos Teixeira de Mendonça to the village of Espirito Santo on the northern coast of Bahia, when the local resistance organized the Brazilian war against the contingents of the West India Company. According to information from Father Antonio Vieira, in the Carta Ânua of 1626, Fernão Cardim died in the Aldeia do Espírito Santo, Abrantes, in the current municipality of Camaçari, on January 27, 1625.


  • ABREU, João Caspistrano de (Org.). Informações e fragmentos historicos do Padre Joseph de Anchieta, S.J.(1584-1586). In: Materiaes e achêgas para a história e geographia do Brasil, Vol. 1. Rio de Janeiro: Impr. Nacional, 1886.
  • Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo. Cartório Jesuítico. Maço 68. Doc. no 429.
  • CALENDAR of the Manuscripts of the Most Hon. the Marquis of Salisbury, K. G., etc. preserved at Hatfield House, Hertfordshire: Historical Manuscripts Commission. Hereford: Eyre and Spottiswoode. 1883-1915. Volumes IX, X e XI.
  • CARDIM, Fernão, S.J. Carta do Padre Provincial Fernão Cardim para o nosso Reverendo Padre Geral Cláudio Aquaviva. In: Annaes da Bibliotheca Nacional. Rio de Janeiro: Vol. XXIX, 1907. Pp. 183-184.
  • CARDIM, Fernão, S.J. Do principio e origem dos Indios do Brazil e de seus costumes, adoração e cerimônias. Rio de Janeiro: Typ. da Gazeta de Noticias, 1881.
  • CARDIM, Fernão, S.J. Tratados da terra e gente do Brasil / transcrição do texto, introd. e notas Ana Maria de Azevedo. Lisboa: Comissão Nacional para as Comemorações dos Descobrimentos Portugueses, 1997.
  • CARDIM, Fernão, S.J. Tratados da terra e gente do Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: J. Leite, 1925. 2a Ed. Säo Paulo: Comp. Editora Nacional, 1939
  • LEITE, Serafim. História da Companhia de Jesus no Brasil. Lisboa / Rio de Janeiro: Portugália / Instituto Nacional do Livroo, 1938-1950. 10 Vol.
  • IMAGALHÃES, Pablo A. Iglesias; PARAÍSO, Maria Hilda Baqueiro. Cartas do Padre Fernão Cardim (1608 – 1618) – Dôssie Estudos Jesuíticos II. Clio. Série História do Nordeste (UFPE), v. 27.2-2, p. 206-246, 2009.
  • PRIMEIRA Visitação do Santo Officio às partes do Brasil: Denunciações da Bahia. São Paulo: 1925.   VARNHAGEN, Francisco (org.). Narrativa Epistolar de uma Viagem e Missão Jesuítica. Lisboa: Imprensa Nacional, 1847.


Pablo Iglesias Magalhães (Universidade Federal do Oeste da Bahia)

How to quote this entry:

Pablo Magalhães. “Father Fernão Cardim“. In: BRASILHIS Dictionary: Biographic and Thematic Dictionary of Brazil in the Spanish Monarch (1580-1640). Available in: https://brasilhisdictionary.usal.es/en/padre-fernao-cardim-3/. Date of access: 13/04/2024.

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