Yesterday was my first visit to Downtown Rio and I must admit I was very surprised. The cobblestone (paralelepípedo- my fav word in Poruguese) streets are very narrow and there is a mix of old world and new world architecture. There are larger commercial buildings (like in any other city)
and scattered in between the side streets are older very cute(but falling apart) art deco buildings- what Rio used to be back in the day. It’s rather unfortunate that they are not being restored, through the decay you can see they were once all beautiful bright colored buildings.
There are also a ton of churches which are very similar to the ones you would see while exploring France or Italy- very Baroque. Beautiful fresco’s, stained glass ceilings and extremely detailed carvings. We visited 2 churches today:
The first was Igreja da Candelaria (Church of Our Lady of Candelaria) shown above. Some history for you: In 1608 there was a ship named Candelaria that survived terrible storms finally docking in Rio; thankful for their survival the couple on board built the chapel (naming it after their ship) in 1609. The facade faces the Bay of Guanabara (gorgeous view).
In 1878 Antonio de Paula Freitas and Heitor Cordoville began decorating the interior of the church, following an Italian neo-Renaissance model, with Italian marble flooring, polychromatic walls and columns. The angels holding up the staircases are absolutely stunning. The magnificent wall paintings inside the Church were created by Brazilian painter João Zeferino da Costa and were distributed through the roof, aisles, dome and chapel of the church between 1880 and late nineteenth century.
The incredible detail on the roof of the nave are 6 panels dedicated to the early history of Candelaria Church, since the founding trip until the first consecration. The paintings on the dome represent the Virgin and symbols of the Old Testament. When inside you feel transported to another time.
The second church we visited was Mosteiro de Sao Bento which is on the hill of St. Benedict in the historic center of town. It is regarded as one of the major monuments of colonial arts of the city and country. It is tucked away from the main streets so I would recommend going by car. The building of this ‘Abbey’ started in 1590 (its pretty cool that each layer has the date it was started on top of it)
The church interior is rich, fully lined with a gilded style that goes from the Baroque of the late 17th century to the Rococo of the second half of the 18th century. The first sculptor active in the church was the Portuguese monk Frei Domingos da Conceicao. Look closely, and you can see how incredibly detailed every inch of the entire interior really is.
He designed and carved the magnificent statues of the nave of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica,as well as the high altar of the church, Our Lady of Montserrat (holder of the church). Love the little cherubs on each pillar (below)
The fresco’s represent the life of Benedictine saints (painted by German monk Frei Ricardo do Pilar between 1676 and 1684). In the sacristy of the monestery is a masterpiece by Fra Ricardo; a screen representing the Lord of the Martyrs, painted in 1690. This church was particularly fun to see because there was something wonderful to see in every direction and was very rich in history. There are currently supervised visits to this church. Not just a church for tourists to visit, there is also a school there. Of the two churches we saw, this was my favorite, the carvings were spectacular and the emphasis on religious symbolism made me feel like I was back in Italy:)