The Liberdade neighborhood is home to a number of historical places in São Paulo. Those who visit the place will be able to see, next to the square, a small Catholic temple with a peculiar name: Igreja Santa Cruz das Almas dos Enforcados (In English, it’s the Church of the Suffocated Souls)
Nearby was the Cemetery of the Afflicted, where slaves, indigents, and criminals were buried after being hanged.
In 1821, Francisco José das Chagas, better known as Chaguinha, was hanged in what was called Largo da Forca (now Praça da Liberdade), after asking Brazilian soldiers for better wages. According to the records, the population that watched the hanging, asked for clemency for Chaguinhas, believing that the rope breaks were a divine sign of his innocence. The authorities ended up carrying out the sentence. He was killed after several attempts, as the rope broke more than once. His conviction shocked the city, but many Catholics believed that his twice escaping the gallows was some kind of miracle.
According to the Archdiocese of São Paulo, what happened “generated an immediate devotion in that place. Candles were lit and a cross was erected. The chapel was demolished in 1926, giving way to the Church of Suffocated Souls, also called Igreja das Almas (Church of Souls).
In 1958, the small building underwent its final renovation, when the tower and current configurations were built.
Some say that the place of the infamous hanging is exactly at the altar of the church. There are reports that Chaguinha’s ghost is always seen hanging around the benches of the church.
The church continues to function nowadays at Praça da Liberdade, no. 238, with regular masses on Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
Know Before You Go
The church opens on Mondays from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Tuesdays to Sundays from 7 a.m. to 6:45 p.m.
How to get there: Get off at the Liberdade subway station (blue line) at the Praça da Liberdade exit. When leaving the station you can already see the church, which is on the right side.