LEITÃO, D. Bartolomeu (? ? 1587)
4th bishop of Cape Verde.
Born in the parish of Entradas in the bishopric of Évora, he was the legitimate son of Jorge Leitão and Joana Coelha. He was a bachelor in theology, a Carmelite friar and was presented to the Pope in 1571. Initially, he was just a presbyter of the Cathedral of Évora, and so, as a Minorite friar, he was confirmed as bishop on February 6, 1572 before receiving holy orders, because the consistory note spared him from the canonical time restrictions between orders but obligated him to make his official profession of faith. In only a month, in September of 1571, he received the epistle, gospel and finally the holy orders from the coadjutor of Évora, D. Amador Arrais, and from the archbishop of Évora himself, D. João de Melo. The exact date in which D. Bartolomeu Leitão arrived in the diocese is unknown. His first letters of presentation of the clergymen to the parishes and dignities of the diocesan chapter date from 1577, so he must have arrived just before or just after that time. His ecclesiastical actions are not well documented due to the destruction of the ecclesiastical registries when the churches in Ribeira Grande were pillaged during the attacks of Emanuel Sarradas in 1583 and Francis Drake in 1585. The construction of the ?houses? for the bishop?s residence is vaguely credited to him, which probably means that he concluded the Episcopal palace initiated by D. Francisco da Cruz. However, his personal conduct seems to have been unruly and his duties irregular, because as early as 1581, Pope Gregory III writes to the archbishop in Lisbon, D. Jorge de Lencastre, demanding that he initiate proceedings against D. Bartolomeu Leitão. The community in Cape Verde accused him of not administering ecclesiastic justice, of being compliant with the excesses of the faithful, of appropriating revenue from the seminary and money from the maintenance and construction funds (fabrica ecclesiæ) of the churches, and finally of conferring holy orders on ?unworthy people with dissolute lives.? He is also accused of receiving corrupt people in his house, descendents of Jews and concubinaries of married women and prostitutes. An official inquiry was started and some accusations were proven, but without consequences for the bishop of Cape Verde, who remained in office. Further information about D. Fr. Bartolomeu Leitão was provided by Spaniards Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, governor and captain-major of the Strait of Magellan, and Diego Flores de Valdés, captain-major of the Spanish armada that was stationed in Santiago between January 9/12 and February 2, 1582. It was during this stay that Filipe II was officially recognized as king of Portugal at the local level by the principal authorities, namely captain-corregidor Gaspar de Andrade (circa 1566-1570) and sergeant-major Francisco de Andrade, having both presided over this event near Santiago?s town hall. The town-council soon showed to be a faithful vassal of the new monarch, and the only obstinate voice in this whole process was precisely the bishop?s. In January of 1583 there is more news of the bishop when a group led by Emanuel Serradas disembarked on and subsequently plundered the islands of Santiago and Fogo. This was an expedition of sectarians led by D. António, prior of Crato, and the bishop was directly involved in the events. The bishop was the only dignitary that stayed in Ribeira Grande during the plundering, and he might have tried to negotiate with the besiegers the ransom of the precious objects of the church in exchange for going to the mountains to search for people to support the cause of the pretendant to the throne. He ended up fleeing the city, and he didn?t take part in the military operations organized by the corregidor and the residents, a situation that caused him to be detested locally. The bishop died on February 9, 1587. In subsequent documentation concerning the overseas assets of the bishop, there is a reference that D. Fr. Bartolomeu Leitão must have left ?a lot of possessions.? It is not very believable that a Minorite friar from Évora would have substantial personal assets, which is why the referred ?possessions? must have come from earnings that the bishop accumulated by way of illicit trade and the trafficking of slaves (probably the most lucrative trade of all) over the eleven years in which he was head of the diocese of Cape Verde.
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SANTOS, Maria Emília Madeira; SOARES, Maria João, ?Igreja, Missionação e Sociedade?, História Geral de Cabo Verde, vol. II, coord. de Maria Emília Madeira Santos, Lisboa-Praia, IICT-INCCV, 1995, pp. 390-392.
SOUSA, António Caetano de, Catálogo dos bispos das igrejas de Cabo Verde, S. Tomé e Angola in Colleçam dos documentos, estatutos e memórias da Academia real da História Portugueza que neste anno de 1722 se compuzerão e se imprimirão por ordem dos seus censores, Lisboa, Pascoal da Sylva, 1722.
Author:Maria João Ferreira
Translated by: John Starkey