This post chronicles some of my favorite sights and historical tidbits from a week traveling around the colonial towns in the state of Minas Gerais: Sabará, Ouro Preto, Mariana, Congonhas, and Diamantina.
Minas Gerais, or "General Mines" gets its name from the gold, diamond, and deposits of other precious stones that were discovered here in the 17th century -- the largest then-known in the Americas. The 870-mile Estrada Real connected these towns to the Atlantic coast, a project of the Portuguese crown that was built by thousands of enslaved Africans.
As if the well-preserved colonial towns were not enough, Lucio Costa's travels in the region early in his career in the 1920s also drew me to Minas Gerais as a critical place to explore the ways in which Brazilian modernists were engaging with the architecture of Brazil's past to shape a certain vision for its future. His addition of these towns to Brazil's national historical preservation list, IPHAN, (originally SPHAN), bolstered the region's role as a hub for "patrimony" or heritage tourism.
I started in Sabará, just 15 miles from Belo Horizonte. Sabará was one of the world's wealthiest cities in the 18th century, when it is said to have produced more gold in one week than the rest of Brazil produced in a year! I visited four churches (of the 20+ this town seems to have) that were all added to IPHAN in 1938 at the direction of Costa.
Igreja do Carmo was filled with baroque paintings and carvings and about 30 enthusiastic Brazilian school kids. The church's main claims to fame are its facade, altar, and side altars, all crafted by Aleijadinho between 1763 and 1778. Aleijadinho is one of Brazil's most celebrated artists of the Baroque/Rococo period. More on him later on in this post. I also thought the trompe l'oeil painting on the side altars was particularly fun.
Igreja Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos was started in 1768 and financed by the enslaved community in Sabará. It remains unfinished, as work was abandoned with the abolition of slavery in Brazil in 1888. It contains an older chapel from 1713 inside its walls.
Further outside of town are the churches of Nossa Senhora de Conceição and the tiny, adorable Nossa Senhora do Ó. The interior surfaces of both of these churches are blanketed with wildly ornate gold-leaf carvings and, fascinatingly, both contain architectural "chinoiserie" painting. Once thought to have been painted by an artist trained in Asia, they are now believed to be painted in the European chinoiserie style of the 18th century. I found Winterthur's Made in America exhibition catalogue very insightful regarding this practice and east-west exchange in this period.
The Museu do Ouro, or the Gold Museum, displays artifacts from colonial-era Minas and tells a bit about the history of the gold mines and slave labor in this area. The Museu do Ouro officially opened in April 23, 1943, and prominently displayed in the lobby (the only space in which I was allowed to take photos) was a letter from Lucio Costa about its founding. Records of modern artists' visits to the museum are also exhibited -- Roberto Burle Marx and Cândido Portinari in 1944, for instance, as well as Juseclino Kubitschek's visit in 1943 when he was the mayor of Belo Horizonte (and busy commissioning Pumpulha from my last blog post). To me, this display of 20th-century artists and politicians' interactions with the Museu do Ouro reinforced how intertwined modernism and the Portuguese colonial towns are in the story of the "patrimony" or architectural heritage of Brazil that was shaped in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s.
Sabará is also home to a lovely little theater dating to 1770.
Ouro Preto was the most populous city in the Americas in the mid-18th century, with an estimated 110,000 people, most of whom were enslaved. By comparison, New York had a population of about 50,000 at the time, and Rio de Janeiro numbered 20,000. Ouro Preto was the capital of Minas Gerais from 1720 until 1897 when it was shifted to the new Belo Horizonte. This move ended up preserving much of the 18th and 19th-century built environment In Ouro Preto. The historic city center was added to the UNESCO world heritage list in 1980.
I splurged on a night in Oscar Niemeyer's Grande Hotel de Ouro Preto, a project that established Brazilian's modernism's dialogue with the past and garnered Niemeyer wide-spread recognition. The back story is that in 1938, the government of Minas Gerias wanted to build a new hotel in Ouro Preto to boost tourism. With the help of SPHAN, they considered several approaches: constructing an imitation of the 17th and 18th century houses in the town, or linking some of the existing houses to form a larger hotel space within. In the end, they decided to commission a building that was meant to be both modern yet also visually compatible with the historic city fabric.
The job went to the young Niemeyer, who, I think, succeeded in bridging these two opposing design aims. Though my Lonely Planet guide refers to it as an eyesore, and though I am not always a fan of Niemeyer's architecture, between the siting, the building's height and scale, and the blue balconies and red tile roof, it is hard to imagine a better balance of modernist principles and a sensitive addition to the historic city center. (In the last photo in this series you can see the hotel on the right side.)
I balanced out these accommodations with a stay the next two nights at the fabulous Pouso do Chico Rei, which was truly like stepping backward in time.
A bit about some of the most spectacular churches in Ouro Preto:
The Igreja de São Francisco de Assis's facade was carved by Aleijadinho, and the interior of the church was painted by his frequent collaborator Manuel da Costa Ataíde. One of the aspects of the baroque churches in Minas that struck me the most was the way in which so many surfaces reinforce the undulating, swirling, wavy aesthetic: from the overall plan and elevation of the church, to the balustrades to the side altars, to the paintings and even their frames.
Begun in 1733, the Igreja de Santa Efigênia was a worship space for the enslaved population in Ouro Preto, financed with gold from Chico Rei's mine (which you can still visit!) Chico Rei was an African king who was captured with his tribe and sold to a mine owner in Ouro Preto. Working Sundays and holidays, Chico Rei bought his freedom, eventually freeing his son and his entire tribe. He then bought a nearby gold mine and began celebrating African holidays in traditional costume again. Sadly, when news of this reached the Portguese crown, the king banned enslaved persons from purchasing their freedom. As at São Francisco de Assis, Aleijadinho completed the facade at Santa Efigênia. The image of Santa Efigênia, princess of Nubia, graces the altar.
Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo built between 1766 and 1776, and Matriz Nossa Senhora do Pilar, from 1727-1770, are two other amazing churches in Ouro Preto. Nossa Senhora do Carmo was a stone's throw from the second place I stayed in Ouro Preto. Before services, the church bells would ring for a good five minutes! Aleijadinho completed this exterior facade too, and on the interior, the lower chancel walls sport Portuguese azulejos -- supposedly the only church in Minas Gerais to have them. Matriz Nossa Senhora do Pilar appeared more neo-classical than baroque -- for whatever these labels are worth. The gold-covered interior, meant to be one of Brazil's most opulent, is more linear than curvy, with a 10-sided nave and pilasters.
Ouro Preto has a lovely little museum of oratórios, small mobile chapels that were installed in domestic settings -- halls, bedrooms, kitchens -- and/or taken on travels. The oratórios are beautiful examples of "miniature" architecture and made the practice of religion more intimate, spontaneous, and immediate.
Oratórios were also placed at corners throughout the city to protect against bad omens, as well as serve the practical function of illuminating facades and streets at night. Here are some images from the museum and of two of the few remaining exterior oratorios in Ouro Preto.
One final museum stop in Ouro Preto filled me in on the history of the Inconfidência Mineira of 1789, a failed uprising against Portuguese colonization that took place in Ouro Preto. Poets Cláudio Manuel da Costa, Tomás Antônio Gonzaga, Joaquim José da Silva Xavier (nicknamed "Tiradentes"), and artists such as Aleijadinho plotted a rebellion largely in response to the required quinto do ouro, or "royal fifth" of gold from the town's mines that was required to be set aside for the Portuguese crown.
Though books were prohibited in the colony at the time, ideas from the French and American revolutions reached Ouro Preto -- a clandestine French copy of what I think must be the articles of confederation of the United States was on display in the museum, titled "Récueil des loix constitutives des colonies angloises, confederées sous la dénominacion d'Ètats-Unis de l'Amerique-Septentriole," from 1778. Incredible to think that ideas hatched in Independence Hall, just a 20 minute walk from my apartment in Philly, traveled to Ouro Preto and inspired this push in the Portuguese colonies for independence, expanded commerce with other nations, more harbors, universities, and so on.
Just a half-hour bus ride took me to sweet little Mariana. Founded in 1696, Mariana was Minas's capital city before Ouro Preto. Most of the churches here were closed for restoration, but I did get to mosey through Praça Gomes Freire, one of the nicest little urban squares I have seen in Brazil.
I promised more about Aleijadinho, whose work figures so prominently in the religious architecture of this region. Antônio Francisco Lisboa (1738-1814), was known as Aleijadinho, or "Little Cripple" because of a debilitating disease that caused him the loss of his fingers, toes, and use of his lower legs. With the help of enslaved and freed assistants, he used hammers and chisels strapped to his arms to pioneer the baroque style in this region, the "barroco mineiro."
I traveled to what is considered his most famous work in Congonhas: The Prophets. Created between 1800 and 1850, the Prophets are 12 Old Testament soapstone figures that line the entrance of the Basilica do Bom Jesus de Matohinhos. The figures are graceful, curving, and seem to dance around you as you move up the stairs; they bob in and out of view as you move to and from them. Each oriented slightly differently, the figures seem to respond to not only the viewer, but also to one another as a unified, whole ensemble.
Six chapels zigzag up the hill to the Basilica do Bom Jesus de Matohinhos, telling the story of the Passion of Christ. Yes, Aleijadinho did these figures too. The entire complex quotes the Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga, Portugal, though that version has 17 chapels!
Scholars disagree on Aleijadinho's design origins for these sculptures -- Portuguese, Florentine, German, and Flemish inspirations have been argued. Current thinking is that Aleijadinho mixed several European engravings and/or models to develop his approach.
My final stop in Minas Gerais was Diamantina, the northern-most end of the Estrada Real and one of the most remote places I am visiting on this trip. Like the other towns, Diamantina has a beautifully preserved city center, but it is especially famous for its balconies. I wish I had gotten to see the vesperata, evening serenades when musicians play from the balconies lining the main Praça. Next time!
Diamantina's Mercado Municipal was constructed in 1835 and added to IPHAN only in 2007. Visually, it is a beautiful array of arches, arranged roughly in a gridded pattern, but varying in width to accommodate a slightly irregular site. One guide told me these arches inspired Niemeyer's design for the presidential palace in Brasilia. TBD in an upcoming post!
The historic shells of two houses in Diamantina were really fun to tour too: Casa da Glória and Casa Chica da Silva. I say "shells" because they are used now as space for rotating exhibitions, i.e. they are not recreated as living spaces with period furnishings. Casa da Glória was originally the residence of Diamantina's diamond supervisors, and then later a boarding school for girls. It was then that the house's famous second-story bridge was constructed (1878-80) to keep the girls discreetly out of view. One hallway has an amazing treliça (the semi-open wall formed with crisscrossing wooden slats). The feeling of walking down this hallways is like driving down a road with sunlight flickering through the trees.
Casa Chica da Silva was the home of a diamond contractor and his longtime partner, the former enslaved woman Chica da Silva. An important local personage, the bell tower in the nearby Igreja do Carmo is said to have been constructed at the back of the church at Chica da Silva's request so that she could sit in the front pews; Portuguese law at the time denied blacks from passing "beyond the bell tower."
Finally, I visited the Casa de Juscelino Kubitschek, his childhood home and the perfect prelude to my next stop in Brasilia. One of the small galleries in the house held Lucio Costa's sketches from his 1922 visit to Diamantina, which document church facades, windows, locks, door knockers, and the corners of ordinary houses in town. The windows of the Igreja do Carmo seem to have been renovated, but the pulpit appears rather the same!
I took a slight detour to visit magical Inhotim, a 5,000-acre contemporary art museum and botanical garden located about an hour and a half bus ride from Belo Horizonte. Bernardo de Mello Paz opened this park/disney land for the contemporary art scholar in 2006 on land that was originally his own farm (a different kind of cultivation, I suppose!). There are said to be 500+ artworks at Inhotim, and rare species of plants from every continent. Here are photos of a few of my favorites.
Info in the captions!
When I was scooting around Airbnb looking for a place to stay in Belo Horizonte, the first thing I noticed about the city was its striking city plan. This led to some googling.
Brazilian urbanist Aarão Reis designed the city in the 1890s. At that time, the people in Minas Gerais (the state that BH is in) had decided to move their capital city from the old 18th-century town of Ouro Preto to a new city -- one less associated with former colonial rule -- that would become Belo Horizonte. Fascinatingly, it is composed of a grid of large avenidas with a smaller grid superimposed at a 45-degree angle. This makes for some really tricky intersections to cross where four streets converge!
Fast forward to the 1940s, when Juscelino Kubitschek, then-mayor of Belo Horizonte (who would later become president and commission Brasília), wanted to renovate the new-ish capital city. Kubitschek decided to create an entirely new neighborhood in the Brazilian modernist style. Impressed by Niemeyer's Grande Hotel de Ouro Preto (more on this in an upcoming blog post!), Kubitschek asked the 31 year old Niemeyer to create Pampulha on the banks of an artificial lake north of the city center.
Niemeyer designed a casino, dance hall, yacht club, church, hotel (unbuilt), and a weekend house for Kubitschek in Pampulha.
The Casa do Baile (1942), or dance hall, is a little jewel of a building. In essence, it is a cylindrical volume with a roof slab that peels off and extends horizontally to form a curving canopy, following the edge of the lake. Large curving glass doors open out onto a patio. The play between the artificial and the natural is at once subtle and overt: the building seems to blend so seamlessly with the setting -- until you remember that the lake, too, is designed. And not to be too heavy handed, but the reflections of the water "dancing" on the underside of the canopy are pretty fantastic.
In more recent years, Niemeyer created a couple wall drawings in the Casa do Baile that posit the project of Pampulha as the precursor to Brasília.
Visiting what was once the casino (1942), now a modern art museum, permanently solidified my knowledge of the word "fechado" -- it was closed for an exhibition change-over. Before my uber left (at which point I would have been about an hour and a half walk from the buildings on the other side of the lake!), I took some quick photos of the exterior. Later, across the lake I looked back at the building and its (do I even need to say it?) Burle Marx-landscaped gardens.
A gentleman named Wagner showed me around the yacht club (1942), which I unwittingly waltzed into thinking it was a tourist site like the other buildings. But no! It is a functioning private swim and tennis club. The yacht club building is famed for its use of a "butterfly roof," which would become a trope of mid-century modernism. The butterfly roof, truly a roof leak made to order, inverts a traditional pitched roof form into a V-shape.
Originally, boats could dock on the lower level, and the upper deck was apparently meant to make you feel as if you were out on the water on a boat.
The iconic Igreja de São Francisco de Assis is made up of of self-supporting reinforced concrete domes of varying sizes, the largest of which serves as the nave of the church. The building's form and Cândido Portinari's accompanying murals were so unusual at the time that after the church was completed in 1943, the archbishop refused to consecrate it, deeming it "unfit for religious purposes." It wasn't consecrated until 1959. The blue and white Portinari tiles gesture toward the blue and white Portuguese azulejos that I mentioned in my last post on the baroque church in Rio de Janeiro, Nossa Senhora da Glória.
I think the Igreja de São Francisco de Assis is a good example of how many of Niemeyer's works seem to evade scale. Out of a "typical" city context, and with such inventive forms, it is so hard to predict the size of the works before you see them in person. This church is actually pretty small!
Even when Niemeyer's buildings are in an urban setting, such as the residential building he did in Belo Horizonte (in the photo gallery below), they still confuse. The building looks taller than it is; one would expect each horizontal band to represent a building floor, but there are actually three bands per floor, so it is not as tall as it appears. (Thanks Renato for pointing this out to me!)
Back in the Centro, Renato and Isadora, my lovely hosts in Beagá (Portuguese for "B-H") pointed me toward some great spots. Here are some of my favorites: Casa Bonomi for breakfast, the Mercado Central for all things Minas Gerais, and Guaja, a new co-working space where Isadora works with a hip, hip bar. I will never forget stargazing with them from Praça do Papa and seeing the Southern Cross constellation -- only visible regularly in the southern hemisphere, always pointing southward.
Here are a few more snapshots from a couple additional days exploring Rio. I will be returning to Rio for another week at the end of my trip, which is good because there is a lot more to see!
Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Glória dates to 1739 and became a favorite church of the royal family when they moved to Brazil in 1808. The blue and white Portuguese tiles are stunning and are one of Brazil's most significant assemblages of them. Something about their height on the wall (maybe about 6 feet? Taller than I am...) and their continuity makes you feel really enveloped in this space. (Can you spot Cristo in the last photo?)
Igreja de Nossa Senhora de Candelária is giant in comparison to the other churches I've seen. It was built over a long period of time, from 1775 to 1894, and was supposedly the largest and wealthiest church in imperial Brazil. After seeing it, I would believe this! Candelária has one of the wind screens at the entrance of the church like I saw in Paraty. I thought these pews were pretty incredible, too.
Switching gears to modernism...
Reidy (architect of Pedregulho from a previous post) designed Rio's Museu de Arte Moderna. The museum was founded in 1948 and was was initially housed in the Ministry of Health and Education Buidling! In 1953, Reidy drew up a plan for the museum's new building on a zone of Rio's shore that would become Burle Marx's Flamengo Park. The giant v-shaped pilotis appear to prop up the large gallery volume. Indeed, the interior was engineered to have column-free galleries. Reidy's vision for the museum had a lot to do with a visual connection to the mountains and the sea. When I visited, the museum had largely blocked off Reidy's intended views, covering the large glass wall on the waterfront side of the building -- understandably for art conservation.
Marcelo and Milton Robert (the Roberto brothers of the Parque Guinle building) designed the Associação Brasileira de Imprensa, or the Brazilian Press Association Building, in 1936. It is often considered the first large-scale modernist building in Brazil -- the barometer for which is usually Le Corbusier's visit to Rio. The exterior facade is travertine marble, making it appear more weighty than say, the Ministry of Health and Education Building. I think the way in which the massive corner is preserved creates a similar effect. The fixed brises-soleil are on the north and northeastern sides of the building: the sides most affected by the sun in the southern hemisphere.
I took a stroll on Copacabana beach which is being set up as one of the Olympics sites (beach volleyball, of course!). It's hard to convey in photos all the work that's going on because it is quite spread out, but it appears that the entire center of the boulevard is being built up, as well as designated areas of the beach.
I also passed by the Museum of Image and Sound being designed by New York-based architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, which will celebrate Brazilian music and film. It was clearly not open yet when I walked by, but perhaps by August...? I would love to see DSR meet samba.
Had to check out Ipanema beach. The tides come in quickly here! Até logo, Rio!
Rua Paulo César de Andrade might as well be the modernist row of the carioca (Rio-based) school of architecture. The street is home to three of Lucio Costa's apartment buildings, and two others by the Roberto brothers that wrap around Parque Guinle in the Rio's Laranjeiras neighborhood.
Designed between 1948 and 1954, Costa's works -- the Nova Cintra, Bristol, and Caledônia buildings -- are sited at the lower end of the sloping park. These buildings were meant to serve as models for a larger project the Guinle family wanted to build in the park that they owned. At first the buildings seem nearly identical with their pilotis and diverse patterns of cobogó bricks forming sun shades for the balconies. Yet, they each navigate different sites, and use space and materials in subtly different ways.
Nova Cintra, at the base of the park and on a relatively flat site, is more woven into the urban fabric of the city than the others. I was so pleasantly surprised to find it had a mixed-use ground level! Though a fence makes this zone feel private, a small grocery, a pilates studio, a boutique store, and a dance studio are here. Obviously, I had to grab a pão de queijo -- with some monkeys! In the residential part of the design, Costa pulled out the circulation and encased the stairwells in glass In a really unusual way.
Moving up the slope of the park, the Bristol building is next. Here the pilotis are used to open up the ground level much more, and the facade is more regular, with only the play of textures to individualize it a bit.
Caledônia, further up on up the hill, has the most open ground level, opening up vistas to the rock outcropping just beyond it. Here, I noticed a greater use of pink, and floor patterns, both of which seem to complement the cobogós.
The Roberto brothers -- Marcelo, Milton, and Maurício -- were a mainstay in the Rio modernist scene. Marcelo and Maurício designed two attached residential buildings that follow the curve of the mountain around Parque Guinle Between 1950 and 1962. Like the other buildings, I could wander freely around the ground level. From afar, the complex looks completely massive, bordering on Brutalism. Up close, the materials (tiles) and playful geometry of the structure give way to more variety.
Back in Rio de Janeiro and still on a mission to see the tourist hotspots before the Olympics, I headed across the bay to Niemeyer's Museu do Arte Contemporânea (MAC). I know, I know... it's late Niemeyer. But the building is stunning in person.
Completed in 1996, MAC is perched on a promontory, wedged between the road and the sea. I was immediately struck by the building's connection to the water, something that I never fully understood from photos (though I have tried to convey this in mine). There is a pool of water at the building's base that casts shimmering reflections onto the underside of the building. Beyond the pool is the sea. The overall shape of the building foils the mountains of Rio in the distance.
Ramps lead to the first level of the building, housing the museum lobby, restrooms, and gift shop. Aside from being tiny ("object building" over practicality here), the circulation makes sense for a museum. A ramp leads back outside and up another level into the gallery space. The red color of the ramp casts a pink glow on the white exterior walls of the museum, giving the threshold of the museum a unique character.
The first level of galleries truly showcases the surrounding environment with 360-degree views back to Niterói, nearby islands, and Rio. There are beaches on the horizon and beaches right below the building; windows at a 40-degree slant allow for vertiginous views of waves lapping the shore. A low bench provides informal seating at the edge of the galleries. Ilha da Boa Viagem is in view to the north, just across the water. A path winds up the side of the rocky outcrop -- a comparison to Niemeyer's snaking ramps is unavoidable.
The gallery space is divided into two levels, but it actually feels much more like one continuous space upon reaching the upper level. Here one is granted a fuller understand of the building as a whole: a couple small windows and a wide balcony provide points of visual connection between upper and lower levels. The lack of windows on the upper level focuses one's attention downward and makes the whole space feel rather womb-like. When I visited, the music and dance of performance artist Ana Sanovi enlivened the space even more.
Oh beautiful, beautiful Paraty has lodged itself deep into my heart.
There are two important things to note about our trip to Paraty. The first is that we had the good fortune to visit during FLIP, the Festa Literária Internacional de Paraty, a five-day literary festival that descends on Paraty each year.
We arrived in the evening and the town was decked out in tents, decorations, food vendors, street musicians, pop-up exhibitions, cachaça samplings... My evening photos are horrible (fault of the little point-and-shoot camera) but I am including them anyway to give you a sense of the scene.
The other important piece of our experience in Paraty is that we were there with my dear friend Daniella Costa, who I met last summer when she was doing research at Penn, and who has been an incredibly gracious host to me here in Brazil. Daniella's dissertation addresses historic preservation in Brazil and the United States, and Paraty is one of her major case studies. It was a huge treat to be there with her to guide us through the historic streets.
Most of the colonial buildings in the historic center of Paraty date to the 18th century with 19th century additions like the ironwork and the lighting. The town reminded me in some ways of Charleston, South Carolina -- especially the old neighborhood south of Broad -- in its scale and its peninsular orientation to the sea. In Paraty, though, the buildings are brilliant white with different colors of trim -- quite gorgeous. I was surprised to learn from Daniella that the town was repainted this way in the 1960s! Originally the façades were solid colors, painted with pigments naturally occurring in the area like earthy greens, yellows, and pinks. Blue would have been the most exclusive color. We await her dissertation for more info on this!
The town was built to flood with the tide. Daniella told us there are two explanations given for this: either it was intended as a method of street cleaning, or it was a mistake!
I am completely obsessed with the doors and windows that open in multiple ways allowing for different configurations in the same wall opening.
Aside from the amazingly well-preserved colonial streets, the churches are what I wanted to learn from in Paraty.
Igreja Santa Rita dos Pardos Libertos commands the waterfront view of Paraty and many a postcard view as well. It dates to 1722, and was a space where freed people of mixed ancestry worshipped. Today it functions primarily as a museum of religious art, but it is still used for mass during the festival of Santa Rita (which is the weekend after FLIP!). I couldn't take photos inside, but I managed to capture one of the most interesting elements to me -- this "door within a door" at the entrance to the church. I asked what this was for, and learned that it was a wind screen. Originally, worship was candlelit, and these doors could be closed to block the wind while still allowing the main exterior doors of the church to remain open.
Igreja Nossa Senhora do Rosário e São Benedito dos Homens Pretos, built in 1725, was originally a church for the enslaved community in Paraty. Sadly, sadly it was closed (even though it is supposed to be open on Saturdays!) and pleading with the tourist office in shaky Portuguese didn't do the trick this time. Still, seeing the structure from the exterior was crucial for beginning to understand how different communities would have experienced urban zones and spaces in Paraty.
Here is Matriz Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, the church for the elite white population, dating back to 1787. Look at this wavy baroque entrance and choir balcony! Above the altar are gallery-level openings that struck me as similar to the windows of the domestic architecture in the town. These were places for the most elite families to view the service. (I've seen these in multiple colonial churches thus far on my trip.)
Capela de Nossa Senhora das Dores from 1800 was for elite white young ladies of Paraty. It is small, but has a commanding view of the waterfront. The interior was heavily restored. When we were there it was home to a pop-up exhibition of the English Shakespeare House for FLIP.
Finally, on a different note, another interesting aspect of Paraty that Daniella illuminated for us is that today there is very little interaction between the historic center and the population that lives just beyond it -- the "real" Paraty. Wealthy families from elsewhere in Brazil are buying the historic real estate and running the programming at places like the Cultural Center. Some locals who live outside the city center don't actually need to come into the historic center for their daily routine. A common ailment, I think, in historic zones that are somewhere between a museum and a usable built environment.
I can't wait to come back to Paraty someday!
In pursuit of the practice of the important Brazilian concept of "relax" (pronunciation: "hay-lash-a"), Steve and I headed to Ilha Grande for a couple of days.
Ilha Grande is about a 3-hour trip south of Rio de Janeiro (or a little longer if you're stuck in Rio's rush hour traffic, ahem). The island is comprised of tropical beaches and pristine, nearly untouched Atlantic rainforest. This is because before it was packed with pousadas, Ilha Grande played host to pirates, lepers, and then some of Brazil's most violent incarcerated people. In the 1990s, after the island's penitentiary was destroyed, a very eco-conscious version of tourism kicked into high gear.
Vila do Abraão is the tiny fishing village that has the lion's share of amenities on the island. Streets are sand, and there are no ATMs on the island. Though it is entirely tourist-focused, we found it to be relatively uncommercialized.
We hiked 6km to Praia Lopes Mendes, considered to be Ilha Grande's best beach. I may have been swayed by the clouds that rolled in once we reached Lopes Mendes, but I also really liked the tiny, secluded beaches we passed along the way in Palmas, and Pouso. The vegetation in the forest was so thick that views of the island were often hard to come by.
No water taxis were serving Lopes Mendes the day we were there because the waves were too rough, so we hiked back to Pouso, grabbed a caipirinha on a floating bar (is this real life?) and waited for "Lambroghini" the boat to take us back to Vila do Abraão.
We also did a shorter hike nearer to town, checking out the black sand of Praia Preto, a still-functioning aqueduct, and the ruins of the Lazareto prison. Lazareto was used as a place to quarantine European immigrants to Brazil from 1884-1913 in an attempt to stop the spread of cholera. From 1940-54 it was a federal prison, and it was demolished in 1963. Paradise never looked so ominous.
As our ferry pulled out of the dock, a thick cloud of fog settled in. I give you "Abraão gray:"