Skip to content Skip to footer

Royal Brotherhood of the Holy Cross and Steps of Grace


Royal Brotherhood of the Holy Cross and Steps of Grace

Many brotherhoods can certainly boast of having countless recognised saints in their respectable history, either through public acts or acts that only God knew about. However, few have the honour of having been founded by a man whom those of his time, while he was still alive, called a saint, the Painter Saint to be precise.

Luís Álvares de Andrade, our founder, was a public example of holiness and self-giving, with an objective vision of what mission can be and the ability to put the gifts that God has given him to good use.

Born in Lisbon (around 1550), he was a man respected for his virtue and holiness, which is why he was known by all as the Holy Painter.

The son of Afonso Álvares de Andrade and Maria Franca, he was orphaned at an early age and was entrusted by his mother to the care of Friar Francisco de Bovavilha, a Dominican religious whose merits were recognised throughout Spain and who held the position in Portugal of confessor to Queen Dona Catarina, wife of King João III.

Another illustrious member of the Dominican Order who contributed to his formation was Friar Luis de Granada, who formed his heart in such a way as to make him astonished and edified by his humility, patience, disregard for self and, above all, his cordial devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

The singular piety of this great servant of God inspired him to put into practice in his city of Lisbon what the Marquis of Tarifa had begun in Seville, celebrating the Steps of Jesus Christ in his sacred Passion, imitating the steps he himself had taken with his Cross to Calvary.

Initially, together with his companions, as a frequenter of the Church of São Roque belonging to the priests of the Society of Jesus, he communicated his intention of founding a confraternity of devotion to the Holy Cross of Christ there, but this project was denied on the grounds of unavailability of space. However, he was suggested the Convent of the Order of St Augustine as a possibility and so the Brotherhood or Confraria da Santa e Vera Cruz was founded, initially in a chapel in the cloister of the Convent of Graça in 1586.

He used all the necessary steps in this company, with a lot of work and his own expense.

Luís Álvares de Andrade bought a magnificent head of Christ from an Italian sculptor passing through Lisbon, for which he had a dressing gown made. He had the approval of the Archbishop of Lisbon, Miguel de Castro, who made him the main organiser of the procession in 1587, a year after it was founded, and he already had a bull in 1586.

Many graces and indulgences were subsequently granted by both Supreme Pontiffs and Church Fathers. The Archbishop himself was very committed to this work of institution.

So much so that he even travelled the streets of the procession route with Luís Alvares to better decide where to place each station of the Steps. On that occasion, the Archbishop commented to the community of Augustinian religious: "I hope in God that this holy work will bring Luís Alvares great glory in the next life and the Christian faithful no lesser spiritual benefit."

The truth is that even today, more than four centuries later, there is still a procession of the Steps which, following his example, quickly spread throughout the kingdom.

Another particularity of this great man was his devotion to the souls in purgatory. It should be noted that it was at the Council of Trent (1545-1563) that purgatory received a considerable boost as a response to the counter-reformation.

Luís Alvares de Andrade adhered to this devotion to such an extent that it was his intention to empty purgatory, so he had more than twenty thousand papers printed at his own expense with the prayer of the Holy Shroud and the Indulgence of Pope Clement VII, which he distributed throughout the kingdom and beyond, as well as the painting of countless oil plaques depicting souls in flames and with the caption "Brothers remember the souls in Purgatory hum Pater Noster and Hail Mary", which he placed on the doors of churches, bridges, crossroads, squares and other public places from Lisbon to Minho. He is credited with the popular devotion to the Alminhas, such was the fervour and commitment of this lay son of God.

He died in Lisbon on 3 April 1631 at the age of about 81. He is buried in the Cruzeiro de São Roque.

The proof of the sanctity of this humble but great man is the almost unnoticed way in which he carried out his mission, so important in the history of the Church in Portugal and yet so unknown to ordinary people.

Saints are above all examples of life. Our gratitude to this great and holy man for the legacy he left us.


Our Gallery