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Properties, forums, pensions and interest

Real. In a long-term perspective, if we make a comprehensive review of the constitution and value of all the assets of the Misericórdia, either its own assets or those linked to chapels and other pious obligations, from its origins to 1830, we reach the following conclusions:

• the most significant number of rents charged by the Misericórdia concerned the assets left by Pedro de Castro with this purpose between 1524 and 1539;

• the amount of rents belonging to the Misericórdia has hardly increased from the 17th century onwards, revealing a gradual withdrawal of Vila Real’s society from that Institution, not only on the binding of properties to chapels (a decline similar to that of the masses in perpetuity), but also regarding the donation of money, properties and rents to the Misericórdia);

• the properties and other assets mortgaged or bounded to the payment of rents, typical of a rural society, were generally humble, revealing that the local nobility either did not have large assets or was not particularly attached to the Misericórdia: vineyards, fields, olive trees, yards, estates, etc., by their description and by the rents they paid, are the indication of a minor nobility and bourgeoisie that feared God but had no wealth;

• the amount of rents linked to chapels charged by the Misericórdia was far from covering the costs with religious service and assistance the Institution was obliged to;

• generally speaking, the assets and income of the Misericórdia were quite low.


Therefore, it is not surprising that the difficulties experienced by the Misericórdia of Vila Real, from the 17th century onwards eventually worsened.

Obviously, the revenues of the Misericórdia of Vila Real were not restricted to the assets provided by masses, rents and pensions, which the Institution, from the second half of the 18th century onwards, sought to convert into cash, foregoing the scanty perpetual incomes and the difficulties raised for their collection.

Early on, the Misericórdia of Vila Real tried to find other sources of funding, so that, during the final years of the Old Regime (early 19th century), the income of rents were already surpassed by the interests received from the money loaned by the Misericórdia to private individuals, either from its own funds or from the amounts raised in capital markets at reasonable interest rates (usually 5%), then to be offered at a higher rate (6% or 6.5%).

For example, the analysis of revenues and expenditures of the Misericórdia, for the economic years of 1832-1833 and 1833-1834, reveals that more than half of the revenues corresponded to the interests received, whereas the profit with rents did not reach 10% of the total amount of the revenues, a value surpassed even by the income with tombs.

This trend will deepen throughout the 19th century due, on the one hand, to the devaluation of the rents paid in goods, and on the other hand, to the Government intervention in order to subject mortmain assets to the ordinary law.

In 1866, the State seriously hurt the incomes of the Misericórdias, with a law that extended to these institutions the law of disentailment of April 4, 1861. According to this law, the Misericórdias were required to list all the rural and urban buildings, rents, censuses, lands and pensions, allowing such assets to be sold by the State in public auctions, in the corresponding district capitals, without any intervention of these institutions.

This measure was intended to facilitate the administration of the Misericórdias and to ensure higher incomes, which did not happen. The financial crisis of 1890-1891, the inflation, and the law of February 26, 1892, which reduced in 30% the interest of public debt titles, all contributed to aggravate the economic situation of the Misericórdias, leading to the dramatic reduction of the assistance services provided by these Brotherhoods.

This trend has intensified throughout the 19th century, so that, with respect to the Misericórdia of Vila Real, in the fiscal year of 1895-1896, the incomes from rents, including those still to be paid, represented only 6.1% of the global revenues, while the interest on loaned capital represented 71.1% of that global amount.

In the case of the Divine Providence Hospital, it becomes clear that, given its late founding, in 1796, the issue of rents in its revenues is irrelevant. In 1859, the permanent fund of the Hospital amounted to 97.8 thousand réis, with revenues of 5 thousand réis, of which 98% came from interest payments.

With the First Republic (1910-1926), following the law of separation of State and Church (April 20, 1911), the Misericórdias had to reduce the cost with religious service up to one third of their income, and all religious-related expenses would have a maximum duration of 30 years. But the financial situation of the Misericórdias worsened during this period. After 1926, the Dictatorship would help the Misericórdias, giving them "full autonomy without any State intervention" by lifting restrictions on the conservation and acquisition of immovable properties and providing financial support to Misericórdias that maintained hospitals, granting them vast subsidies, as it happened in 1928, with the Misericórdia of Vila Real, which received 115 thousand escudos, a sum necessary for the Institution to balance its finances.

The financial difficulties returned with the Second World War (1939-1945) and subsequent years, leading these institutions to promote fundraisings, in particular with processions of offerings, which lasted until the late 1960s. The Misericórdia of Vila Real was not immune to this trend, especially because (as shown several times by their Administrative Commissions) revenues were "totally absorbed by the charges that weigh on the Brotherhood", since the Institution became responsible for other facilities that the State, directly or indirectly, had entrusted it.

From the 1960s on, the economic situation of the Misericórdia of Vila Real progressively improved. Government contributions increased, as well as private donations, and from 1968 on, the net income of the Totobola (Portuguese football lottery), which was managed by the Misericórdia of Lisbon, began to be partially transferred to other Misericórdias.

Currently, the revenues of the Misericórdia of Vila Real are formed basically by the amounts paid by the State through Social Security and that account for 30% of the expenditures made ​​with the people it supports, both the elderly and the children; by the payments made by its users, which also represents around 30% of the revenues; and by the Institution's own funds, the income from its property assets, managed by the Administration of the Misericórdia.