Another Beautiful Church in Centro

Located in the heart of downtown you will find some of Rio’s most magnificent churches including Igreja de Sao Jose.  I was actually shocked at how bright and full it was on a Wednesday afternoon—I went on a class field trip

The church stands beside the Tiradentes Palace and the Imperial Palace, a few meters from the Church of Caramel (they feel quite similar inside).  Work on Irgeja de Sao Jose began in 1808, and was completed 34 years later. The bells are known for making ‘the most sound of the city’.

As you can see, the church is a beautiful mixture of traditional Brazilian colonial and Rococo styles. Located on Avenida Presidente Antonio Carlos, s / n. Centro. It is open daily from 7am-5pm


A Tour of Sitio Burle Marx…

Burle Marx was a Brazilian visionary landscape architect as well as a painter, ecologist, naturalist, artist… you name it, he’s done it. He is responsible for the small black and white tiles flowing like waves along the entire beach promenade.  The creative use of tiles continues throughout the city- a stunning work of art, and a challenge for those in heals to walk on (It is quite challenging, and walking around, you will notice many people decked out in nice clothes, with Havianas on their feet!)

I took a trip up to his Santo Antonio da Bica sítio in Barra de Guaratiba, an estate he purchased in 1949 to store his plant collection. In 1985 after he passed away the property was donated to the Brazilian government in trust for posterity and has become a National Monument. FYI– You have to make an appointment to visit (9:30am or 1:30pm slots available) and it costs R$8 when you arrive.

It is beautiful, as one would expect from South America’s foremost landscape architect, and holds an important tropical botanical collection. In this first section (above) while walking through I actually felt like I was inside my favorite childhood book The Secret Garden. When we reached the agave area (below)it felt more like a scene from a Dr Suess book, each area had something unique that you could relate to- in my case send me back to my childhood. There are more than 3,500 different species of plants! Unfortunately there are also about 3,500 mosquito’s—remember to use bug spray!!! I am SO itchy now:(

The sítio has a marvelous house which was unfortunately under construction while we were there and a small Benedictine chapel that dates back to the 17th century; dedicated to St. Anthony, featuring a small shrine to Our Lady of Aparecida, one of Brazil’s patron saints.  You can still attend mass or even get married there if you want to, its been beautifully restored and you almost feel transported to the 17th century when you enter.

There are a number of sculptures scattered throughout the massive gardens, unfortunately none of the water sculptures were up and running but we were able to enjoy the wooden sculptures surrounding his huge studio (more like its own house).  The below is my favorite.  The piece of wood it was found on a sunken ship and carved into an image or Christ with people holding on to his beard and body trying to be saved.  With exquisite detail, I found it to be quite moving.

This is a little corner of Rio that Burle Marx left for the world to marvel, experience and learn from.

If you take a morning tour, head over to Grumari or Prainha to catch some waves or just relax on the gorgeous beaches


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Church of Gold: Our Lady of Mount Caramel

I studied art history in college and have always had a soft spot when it came exploring churches.  I think they are incredibly interesting, so much rich history and incredible artwork/ architecture in one place that I feel I have to share them. 

The Carmo Church dates back to the original chapel of the nearby Convento do Carmo, one of the oldest city (16th century). In 1590 the Carmelites donated a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of O. The façade was completed only around 1822 by Pedro Alexandre Cavroé, which gave the building a large pediment in classic style.

It is the interior decor that will have your mouth drop! A magnificent gilded garb of rococo covers the main chapel, side chapels, nave and ceiling. The carvings were done in 1785 by sculptor Ignatius Ferreira Pinto (one of the greatest artists of colonial Rio de Janeiro). As you can see the contrast between the golden and white backgrounds is so elegant and illuminates the chapel. The detailed gold carving is absolutely stunning! Sort of reminds me of Bernini’s Baldachin over the High Altar of St. Peter’s (my fav).   


The paintings allude to episodes of the sacred order, painted by Angelo Clerici. 

Great way to spend a rainy day downtown Rio

Heading Downtown…..

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:)