59 School Street, Box 1310, Edgartown MA 02539 - 508.627.4441
Martha's Vineyard Museum MV Museum


late 1940s

Theresa Brazil Fontes (1888–1967)

Vineyard Haven

Embroidered and appliquéd silk satin, glass beads, metal spangles

Gift of Harvey Garneau Jr.

Theresa Brazil Fontes and her husband, Michael Fontes Sr., left St. George in the Azores in 1913, headed for the United States. They settled in Vineyard Haven, where they joined a community that had been welcoming Portuguese immigrants since the late 1700s. There, the Fontes family became active members of the St. John's Holy Ghost Society and the Island's Portuguese American community.

An accomplished seamstress, Theresa volunteered to make a new flag for the Holy Ghost Society when it moved to its new hall in Vineyard Haven in 1947. The flag of the Holy Spirit is among the most important symbols carried in the ritual procession held during the annual Portuguese Feast of the Holy Ghost, a tradition that connected new Azorean immigrants to their homeland and a time for them to unite and celebrate their roots.

The flag is always of a brilliant red with the white dove of the Holy Spirit in relief at its center. The red symbolizes tongues of fire, the form in which the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles, and the white dove symbolizes peace, purity, and divinity. Flown from a wooden flagstaff surmounted by the dove of the Holy Spirit, the flag always accompanies the bearers of the other important symbols, the silver crown and scepter. It is considered a high honor to be selected to carry the flag in these ceremonies.

When the flag was retired, the society returned it to Theresa Fontes. Her family saved it for forty-five years before donating it to the Museum.