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brief history of the city of joao pessoa
 the conquest / the names / the natives / the religious / the fortress


The great interest in the trade from India did not estimulate Portugal to economically exploit brazilian riches until half of the century XVI. During this period, French pirates attended the coast of Paraíba were very well placed with the Indians Potiguaras: bringing things without value and taking out the brazilwood, from wich extracted a red pigment widely used for coloring fabrics throughout Europe.

In 1574 the Kingdom of Portugal mobilized for greater control of the region, aiming to extinguish the presence of French pirates on our coast and avoid, in future, any possibility of indian attack on the village of Olinda and farms on the periphery. In short, it has become urgent to ensure the monopoly on sugar and economic power of Capitainship of Pernambuco, but also start the progress on the land to the north. Thus, the same year of 1574, King Sebastian decided to divide the Capitainship of Itamaracá creating the Real Capitainship of Paraiba. Meanwhile, much of this area was inhabited by Indians Potiguaras and this was a complicating point that delayed in 11 years to conquer the territory.

1585-08-05: only after 5 military expeditions, and with support of Indians Tabajaras, Portuguese managed to defeat the Potiguaras and found the Royal City of Nossa Senhora das Neves on the right bank of Sanhauá River, a tributary of Paraíba River.

Even defeated the brave Potiguaras continued to turn in hell the life of the inhabitants of the city until 1599 when, already without support from French pirates (who used to get provisions before) and under a terrible epidemic of smallpox brought by European settlers, they retreated to the north.


In 1585
Cidade Real de Nossa Senhora das Neves, was founded on August 5, on the right bank of the river Sanhauá, by authorization of Royal Finance of the Portuguese Crown.
In 1588
Filipéia de Nossa Senhora das Neves in honor of King Filipe II of Spain, during the period in which the Kingdom of Portugal was incorporated to the Spanish Crown.
In 1634
Friederickstadt (City of Frederick) in honor of the Prince of Orange, Frederick Henry of Nassau, during the 20 years of Dutch occupation.
In 1654
Cidade de Nossa Senhora das Neves after the final expulsion of Dutch who dominated the entire northeast of Brazil for 20 years.
In 1817
Parahyba do Norte during the Pernambucan Revolution against the absolutism of Portuguese. The provinces of Paraiba and Rio Grande do Norte joined the movement.
In 1930
João Pessoa in a tribute to the political João Pessoa de Albuquerque, then chairman of the state of Paraiba, murdered in the city of Recife.


The Indians Potiguaras (potiguaras can be translated as those who were fanatics for eating shrimps) were the early inhabitants of the coast of Paraiba at the time of discovery of Brazil. They lived in the delta of Paraiba River and along until the Copaoba Hills. They were very fierce warriors who had the habit of, after the battles, roasting and eating the enemies captured, which terrified particularly the Portuguese. Faced for more than a decade to Portuguese forces to the founding of the city. They were almost exterminated by successive attacks of smallpox, from 1597, when, gradually, they withdrew to the north. Today, in state of Paraiba, there are 29 villages potiguaras, with population over 13,500 (2007) distributed in the municipalities of Baía da Traição, Marcação and Rio Tinto. There are also groups remaining in the state of Ceará.

The Indians Tabajaras arrived in 1584 from the region of San Francisco River. They were of great importance for the colonization of the captaincy, as the agreement of Piragibe (Arm of Fish), head of the tribe, with the Portuguese allowed the defeat of the Indians Potiguaras and seizure of their territory. Today, in Paraiba State Province, we can find descendants in groups without any identity in the municipalities of Alhandra, Conde, Gramame and Santa Rita.

The Indians Tarairiús were together in 22 major tribes in the interior of Captainship of Paraíba. According to historian Jose Elias Barbosa Borges, "... for the conquest of the inner lands the Portuguese were invading the territory occupied by Tarairiús. The war against Tarairiús began in the years 1630 and would end 1730, a war of one hundred years. It was the biggest war of indigenous in Brazil. As they were alongside the Dutch in the battles against the Portuguese were virtually humiliated, considered wild and were discarded. " Nowadays we know there are about 3,000 Indians Tarairiús in Pernambuco (in the hills of Ararobá) next to the city of Pesqueira, with the name of Sucurus. They are remnants of the tribes of Paraiba and Rio Grande do Norte.


The Jesuits were the first missionaries who came to the Capitainship of Paraiba. In 1591 started the construction of a convent and a church dedicated to Nossa Senhora de Nazareth de Almagre. They didn't had good relations with the Portuguese Crown and were expelled in 1593. One hundred and fifteen years after the jesuits returned to Paraiba founding a college and seminary where they taught Latin and philosophy. In 1728 were driven out again. In 1773 the governor of the captaincy took the Jesuit seminary as residence with the permission of Pope Clement XIV. In the building, today, works Faculty of Law of the Federal University of Paraíba.

The Franciscans came to convert the natives to the Christian faith. They built the monastery of St. Anthony and the church of San Francisco, today called Cultural San Francisco, considered a jewel of baroque architecture by the National Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage. During the Dutch domination the convent was used as residence of the governor and support for the military high patents.

The Benedictine abbeys after setting up in Salvador (1581), Rio de Janeiro (1586) and Olinda (1590) came to our city in 1596 and began to the works of the Monastery of St. Benedict. In 1721 started the construction of the church that is beside the convent. The set is simple, smooth and impressive style. The monastery had its work suspended in 1921 and its building has then been leased for the operation of educational institutions. The Joint Benedictine is on General Osório Street, near the cathedral.

The Carmelite have settled in 1588, with Brazil under the Spanish Crown because of the Iberian Union. Started missionary work, built a convent and a church forming "Conjunto Carmelita" in baroque-rococo style, in the highest part of the city. On a promontory near the mouth of Paraiba River (today city of Lucena) built the church of Nossa Senhora da Guia which rank as some baroque-tropical because of its wonderful notches in calcareous stone representing the fruit and flora of the new land.


"It is the largest and most respectable historic monument of Paraiba. It is the only place still standing strong since the early days of colonization" as said historian Humberto Nobrega.

In 1586 - the government of Frutuoso Barbosa decided to build a fort for the defence of the city. They chose the land on the edge of the right bank of the Rio Paraiba, in the place called Cabedelo. The Fort had walls of wood and clay in the most extreme of the cable, dominating the mouth of the river which gives access to the city built 18 km upstream.
Current aerial views of the region :    view of the river           from of the sea

In 1592 - was rebuilt (had been destroyed by potiguaras in the previous year) and called Fort of Santa Catarina. There is surely a tribute to Duchess Catherine of Braganza, left aspiring on the Portuguese throne, or perhaps for the saint of the day as was customary. The reality is that its inner chapel is dedicated to St. Catherine.

In 1597 - had its first test of strength. A French Armada (13 vessels) aiming for new bases along the Brazilian coast landed 350 men and invested against the fort that had just a group of 20 soldiers, a captain and only 5 cannons. The bravery of the guards managed so fastly that the invaders ran away to their ships, some in flames, and left without knowing that the fort was virtually broken. That was the last French attempt to get a piece of our territory. Varnhagen in his "General History of Brazil" was the first historian to sharpen and enhance this battle as a landmark in the maintenance of the lands of northern Brazil.

In 1631 - the day 05, December a Dutch armada launched a major attack on the fortress with 26 ships and 26 barges carrying 1,600 men. The Fort of Cabedelo had about 700 men, among Brazilians, Portuguese and Spanish, many more Indians. The siege to the fortress lasted 6 days, struggles with assault and body-to-body, after which the invaders beat a retreat with a balance of more than 200 men killed and wounded.

In 1634 - on December 4 the great Dutch invasion on our territory took place when a boat-batter made the recognition of the coast between Cabo Branco (White Cape) and inlet of Lucena without being bothered by the troops defenders who believed to be a local boat. On the same morning, General Van Schkoppe commanded 2.300 armed men and 29 ships with 500 cannons; 600 men landed at the tip of Cabo Branco, which would scan across the beach toward north to Cabedelo; 3 vessels sent to the inlet of Lucena and launched a frontal attack on the fortress which, along with St. Anthony and St. Benedict small forts, formed the tripod of defenceof the city.
- December 9 fell the Fort St. Benedict in which there were only 2 cannons and 40 men. Eight of them escaped and "32 Spanish and Portuguese were killed at the tip of sword", according to historian Petrus Marinus Netscher.
- December 20 the Fortress of Santa Catarina capitulated after 16 days of intense fighting, many wounded soldiers without treatment and lack of food and ammunition.

In 1645 - the troops of the Captain Lopo Curado Garro returned the city of Filipéia. The Dutch, meanwhile, maintained under control the Fortress of Santa Catarina and stayed there, virtually besieged, during the next 9 years. The fortress, for them, served only as a military support for maintaining the Capitania of Pernambuco, which they would dominate until 1654.

It is important to understand the word "Royal" applied to the captainship and the city meant administrative control, military supplies and all kind of investments were under direct responsibility of the Portuguese Crown, unlike the other captainships whose governors themselves took investments and assumed the risks of the contract. Until then, the only two other "royal cities" were Salvador founded in 1549 and Rio de Janeiro founded in 1565.
Those who usually read a little more on the history of Paraíba note that the Potiguaras had always been friends of French and Dutch that came to our shores because these ones had only visions of mercantilists: they had no interest in producing... they just looked for buying and reselling. In contrast, hated the Portuguese because the production of sugar in the northeast (main economic source of the colony) required much human labour. Then the Portuguese used to arrest indigenous to supply the lack of slaves.
Apart from very prestigious, the church was the guardian of the patriarchal society and religion practised at that time. The religious orders had many properties, devices and slaves. From the eighteenth century the most wealthy families and representatives of the dominant class learned that having a "padre" in the family was great importance in disputes under colonial power.
The background imagemap of the Province of Paraiba edited in 1648 is a map of the Province of Paraiba edited in 1648. The image is public domain and the original is filed in the National Library of Rio de Janeiro.


Insltituto Histórico e Geográfico Paraibano
IHGP - History and Geographic Institute of Paraíba
Prefeitura Municipal de João Pessoa
Municipal Government

design: caroleig  the conquest / the names / the natives / the religious / the fortress atualização: 26-Fev-2009