Protestant Religious Communities

St. James Church/Mirante Church/Baptist Tabernacle
Photo:  Marisa Ribeiro/Paula CardonaCC BY-NC-SA - Some Rights Reserved

​Together, the protestant religious communities, whether Lutheran, Zwinglianist, Calvinist or Anglican, make up the reformed church.  The reformation resulted from the great religious revolt that took place in Western Europe in the 16th century.

The winds of Protestantism made themselves felt in Portugal from the beginning of the 16th century, with the foundation in Lisbon of a Dutch reformed church and the acceptance, through the Portuguese-Britannic treaty, of the freedom of conscience to be enjoyed by British subjects in Portugal, although they were required to be modest and discreet in their worship.

The Anglican Community

The English community in Porto were largely Anglican and, like all other English subjects in the kingdom of Portugal, they enjoyed a range of privileges and perks.  These included the right to an Anglican pastor to lead their worship, which, in the case of Porto, was documented as early as 1671, with the establishment of the chaplaincy of Porto under the Rev. John Brawlerd.  However, services had to be held discreetly, in private homes, in buildings belonging to official delegations, such as the English Manufactory, and, in many cases, on board ships, during the time when any non-catholic worship was forbidden in public.  In 1810, yet another treaty between Portugal and Great Britain enshrined the English community’s right to practise their religion.  This made it possible for them to build churches and chapels, as happened in 1815, with the building of a church, consecrated to Saint James in 1843, on land belonging to the English cemetery.  The cemetery was constructed, in 1787, on the initiative of the British consul John Whitehead and the English business community settled in Porto.

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The Evangelical Methodist Community

In Porto, like in the rest of Portugal, Methodist religious activity first became noticeable in the last quarter of the 19th century, through the work of two Englishmen, Thomas Chegwin and James Cassels, Between 1854 and 1864, these two men dedicated themselves to Bible study and prayer with small groups of the faithful.  Another factor associated with the appearance of the Methodists in Portugal has to do with the presence of contingents of the English army posted to Portugal, during the French invasions.  Their religious ceremonies were largely confined to private spaces, such as the private homes of English residents or Luso-Britannic descendants.  Their first public worship took place in 1868, in Torne church, in Vila Nova de Gaia.  In 1874, the Methodist Church of Porto was founded and legally recognised. Mirante Church, which is this congregation’s oldest place of worship and national headquarters of the Methodist Evangelical Church, was inaugurated in 1877.  In terms of the local community, the Methodist directed their efforts towards teaching and schooling, opening numerous primary schools.  After their expansionary phase (which occurred between the 1920s and 1940s), and the waning that came about because of the Second World War and the dictatorship of Salazar, who ordered the schools that they had founded to close their doors, the community regenerated itself, reorganising itself around another form of social action, the giving of support to children and the elderly.  On 20 October 1996, the Portuguese Methodist Church formally separated from the Methodist Church of Great Britain.

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The Evangelical Baptist Community

The Baptist community first emerged in Portugal in the 19th century.  In Porto, Joseph Charles Jones (1848-1928), an English missionary, started an independent Baptist mission of free communion.  The first Baptist congregation was created on the initiative of a Canadian couple, Reginald and Kate Young, in 1905.  Despite the fact that this came to an end in 1907, it did not stop the construction of the first Baptist church in Portugal in 1908.  This Baptist church, the oldest in the country, was built on the initiative of the Brazilian Baptist Convention, which sent the north American Baptist missionary Zacarias Taylor (1851-1919) to Porto.

On 13 February 1916, the Baptist Tabernacle was inaugurated at the Boavista Roundabout (Praça Mousinho de Albuquerque).  This building, inspired by the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, was financed by Joseph Charles Jones and by believers and volunteers in the community.

In 1920, with the increase in the number of congregations, the Portuguese Baptist Convention was founded.  These days the Baptist community in Porto numbers some 400 faithful.

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Published 13-01-2014
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