In 1851, the monk João Maria D’Agostin, a healer, hermit, alchemist, prophet, mystic and profound connoisseur of the occult sciences, arrived in the region of the disputed (old town of Curitibanos). This enigmatic figure made the way for the troopers to reach the south of the country, becoming known as the messianic figure. The historical moment that the country was going through, with the arrival of European immigrants in lands already occupied by the native population, made this impoverished people feel abandoned by the authorities. The monk’s presence was seen as a religious reference by these relatively isolated populations.
Many authors suggest that another João Maria would have appeared between 1886 and 1893, and that the figures that are known to this day of the monk would have been made of him. The story has many variations, but the main line is that the prophet would have had a dream, that he should go out into the world of penitentiary and preaching. The beginning of the Contest Movement in that same period, in a struggle against economic and political power, used the name of the monk João Maria as a symbol of the movement. If it was a priest, or many known by the same name who contributed to the monk’s vision of immortality and reincarnation, the fact is that his figure attracts pilgrims to this day.
As a result of the covid-19 pandemic, where social isolation is necessary, uncertainties and fears permeate the minds of the residents of the Contestado region. However, images of the monk João Maria circulate through social media, bringing comfort to those who believe in the saint and pray to him. The figure of “The monk who heals”, as in 1912, brings comfort again to the population that is going through difficulties. The photo of the saint shared in a Facebook group in the city of Curitibanos received more than 500 likes and a hundred comments from its faithful. As an example, comments like that of Rozana Lima, who says: “Protect us, Saint John Mary” are the most common. The belief in the monk remains alive in the memory of the residents of the Contestado region and manifests itself mainly in times of adversity.
Commentary of a city member in the post (João Maria the monk who heals) taken from Mercadão Curitibanos page of facebook.
Figure of the Monk João Maria shared in Facebook group.
Source: Post held in a private Facebook group Mercadão Curitibanos available at: <https://www.facebook.com/groups/638473372930818/for_sale_search/?forsalesearchtype=all&query=monge&referral_surface=direct_link&availability=available>.
The Monument to the Monk João Maria, built from 1983 to 1989 in the city of Curitibanos/SC, receives devotees and religious, who come to seek the saint’s blessing. The figure, which brought hope and inspiration to the peasant movement, is still worshipped and maintains its importance immortalized in the popular imagination of the Contestado Valley residents.
Monument to the monk João Maria, in the district of Água Santa in the municipality of Curitibanos/SC. Photograph taken by Daniel Granada, project coordinator.
Image of the Monk João Maria present in the monument. Photograph taken by Daniel Granada, project coordinator.
WELTER, Tania. O Profeta João Maria continua encantando no meio do Povo: Um estudo sobre os discursos contemporâneos a respeito de João Maria em Santa Catarina. Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina. Florianópolis, 2007. Disponível em: <https://cpdoc.fgv.br/sites/default/files/imagens/dossies/contestado/trabalhos/WELTERTania.pdf>. Acesso em: 06 abr. 2020.
MONUMENTO ao monge João Maria. Alma Cabocla Proposta de Desenvolvimento Turístico Cultural. Blogger. Curitibanos, 2014. Disponível em: <http://contestadoalmacabocla.blogspot.com/2014/10/monumento-ao-monge-joao-maria.html>. Acesso em: 06 abr. 2020.
Text by Karen Wesseler Jung.