Baroque architecture is an important part of Western history and has unique characteristics that marked the urbanisation of Europe and are also present in Brazil.
The first signs of Baroque architecture can be found in works from the early 16th century, but it wasn’t until the end of this period that the Baroque style gained strength, developed and spread throughout Europe.
Fontana di Trevi – The work was built in the 18th century, in 1732, by the Italian architect Nicola Salvi, and is considered one of the most beautiful examples of Baroque architecture in the world.
This development went hand in hand with the Catholic Church’s need to assert itself as sovereign in a period after the Protestant Reformation.
With the rise of Protestantism, which questioned the dogmas of Catholicism, the leaders of this current of Christianity began the movement known as the Counter Reformation.
The Church then held the Council of Trent, which aimed to reaffirm the absolute truth of the Catholic faith and traditions – it was during this period that the Baroque style found a foothold.
At this council, the Catholic Church defined that art should be used as a means of propagating Catholicism as an absolute Christian truth.
Artistic expressions should depict biblical scenes, saints, sacraments and more.
In addition, art should be simple and easy to understand, so that Catholicism could be brought to everyone.
It was also decided that the paintings could not contain nudes or pagan references and that the scenes had to be realistic.
In this way, the art of the Baroque period became linked to Catholic Christianity and it is for this reason that the greatest works of Baroque architecture are found in churches, basilicas and Christian monuments.
The Baroque was not only an artistic movement, but also a social, historical and cultural one. It encompassed literature, painting, sculpture, architecture and even music.
It was mainly characterised by dualism; the dilemma between body and soul, heaven and hell, the profane and the sacred. And by the wealth of detail; paintings, architecture and sculptures with exuberant and luxurious features.
It arrived in Brazil at the beginning of the 17th century and lasted until the middle of the 18th century.
Minas Gerais, Bahia and Pernambuco are the Brazilian states with the most architectural legacies inherited from this period.
But the movement was not restricted to the cities of Minas Gerais; it even began in Salvador and Recife.
Videos about Baroque Architecture in Minas Gerais
Main characteristics of Baroque architecture
As the Baroque seeks to affirm Catholic sovereignty, the arts of this period are marked by the exaltation of God and the Church.
Baroque breaks with the idea of rationality and symmetry of Greco-Roman classicism and begins to use shapes and textures that give the idea of movement and produce emotions and sensations.
The Church is also exalted by means of many ornaments and extravagant decorations that convey the idea of grandeur, power and wealth.
The Baroque is daring and irregularities of proportion are common in this style. Generally speaking, its most striking features are:
- strong presence of spaces and oval shapes, which bring the idea of centralisation;
- use of the Greek cross, which identifies Christianity;
- convex or concave façades, which reinforce the idea of movement;
- use of crooked columns and arches;
- exuberant decorative elements with a strong presence of gold;
- sensation of infinitude and grandeur;
- murals and paintings on the ceilings;
- use of lighting to create a sense of mystery;
- exaltation of God and Christ as the main figures.
- These characteristics, despite being the most striking, were not one hundred per cent present in all works of Baroque architecture, as the architectural style varied according to the historical context of each country.
In France, for example, Baroque architecture also sought to exalt the monarchy – as in the Palace of Versailles, for example.
In England, the Baroque style gained momentum when London had to be “rebuilt” after a huge fire destroyed more than 13,000 houses and 87 churches.
On this occasion, London was redesigned with influences from the architectural style that was in vogue in Italy and France.
Main names and works of Baroque architecture
1. Carlo Maderno
Known for being one of the pioneers of the Baroque style, Carlo Maderno was an Italian architect and sculptor. His first major work was the façade of the Church of Santa Susanna, which has columns typical of the style.
In 1603, Maderno was appointed chief architect of St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, and this was his main work.
Borromini was an architect who became known for revolutionising architecture, breaking completely with the classical style.
He was recognised for building the Church of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane in Rome, which was the first Baroque building to have its dome covered in geometric shapes rather than frescoes.
3. Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Bernini is considered by many to be the main name of the Baroque. His works can be found all over Rome, but the trapezoidal square of St Peter’s Basilica and the oval church of Sant’Andrea al Quirinale are his greatest marks in Baroque architecture.
4. Carlo Fontana
Fontana, who worked with Bernini, also became known as one of the most important names in Roman Baroque. He was responsible for rebuilding the façade of the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere and also for restoring the fountain in front of the basilica.
Antonio Francisco Lisboa, known as Aleijadinho, was the main name in Baroque architecture in Brazil.
Aleijadinho was a sculptor, carver and architect and his works are scattered throughout Minas Gerais, especially in the historic cities of Ouro Preto, Sabará, São João Del Rei and Congonhas.
His most outstanding works were the São Francisco de Assis Church in Ouro Preto and the Bom Jesus de Matosinhos Sanctuary in Congonhas.
Aleijadinho, who was also influenced by Rococo, is considered the greatest personality of Brazilian colonial architecture and one of the greatest names of Baroque in the Americas.
Baroque architecture in Brazil
Baroque architecture had a late start in Brazil.
The style was brought by the colonisers in the 18th century and manifested itself in the country until the first two decades of the 19th century.
The style was used by the Jesuits and had the function of propagating the Christian faith in the colony.
Baroque buildings in Brazil were inspired by the architecture of Portugal, Italy, France and Spain, as well as Brazil’s own architecture.
Although monumental, the Brazilian Baroque style had simple features and, in many cases, was more rectilinear than those seen in Italy.
The style gained strength in the country and is still admired nationally and internationally – for example, the churches of Minas Gerais, which receive tourists from all over the world.
It’s interesting to note that Minas Gerais is the state with the largest Baroque collection in Brazil.
The characteristics of Minas Gerais’ Baroque buildings reflect aspects of the availability of resources in the state.
The artists used different materials to those used in Europe: instead of stone such as marble, Minas Gerais Baroque used soapstone and a lot of wood in its sculptures and ornaments.
As in Italy, religion is the centrepiece of the style in Brazil. Figures of angels, saints and paintings that refer to eternity are striking aspects of our Baroque.
What are the main works of Baroque architecture
The characteristics of Baroque architecture in Brazil represent important tourist attractions. And there are many!
These works are spread across several Brazilian cities.
The states of Pernambuco, Bahia and Minas Gerais have the largest number of architectural constructions from the period.
In this scenario, the main Brazilian name in Baroque architecture emerged: Antônio Francisco de Lisboa, or Aleijadinho.
As well as Aleijadinho, we had the painter Manuel da Costa Ataíde, known as Mestre Ataíde.
It’s important to highlight Mestre Ataíde
Painting is directly linked to architecture. He even painted the ceilings, panels and altars of important churches such as:
- Façade of the sacristy and doorway of the Church of the Third Order of St Francis of Assisi in Mariana;
- Façade of the nave of the Church of the Third Order of St Francis of Assisi in Ouro Preto;
- Roof of the Church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos, in Mariana;
- Panels in the Mother Church of Conceição do Mato Dentro
The main works of that era
- Saint Michael’s Church, located in São Miguel, Rio Grande do Sul;
- Church of Santo Antônio, located in Cairu, in Bahia;
- Basilica and Convent of Nossa Senhora do Carmo, located in Recife, Pernambuco;
- Church of St Francis of Assisi, located in Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais;
- The Twelve Prophets, sculptures located in the Church of Bom Jesus de Matozinho, in Congonhas, Minas Gerais;
- Church of St Francis of Assisi, located in Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais;
- Church and Convent of St Francis in the Pelourinho, located in Salvador, Bahia.
Baroque Architecture in Northeast Brazil and Minas Gerais
Baroque architecture in Brazil spread and reached its apogee during the period known as “The Gold Cycle”. This period corresponds to the exploitation of minerals in Minas Gerais.
Baroque was made famous in Brazil by Aleijadinho, an artist who created historic works such as the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos in Congonhas and the Church of St Francis of Assisi in Ouro Preto, where he designed both the architectural project and the interior decoration.
Characteristics such as sumptuous and ornate forms define Baroque architecture. The style also became a reference in art, music and literature;
As a result, the state is the place with the most Baroque architectural heritage. In this context, the cities of Ouro Preto, Tiradentes, Congonhas, Mariana and Diamantina stand out.
1. Ouro Preto MG
Ouro Preto is one of the first cities to be listed by Iphan in 1938 and the first Brazilian city to be awarded the title of World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1980.
This recognition is mainly due to the fact that the city is a complete urban site that is little changed in terms of its essence: spontaneous formation from a mining system, followed by a marked presence of religious and governmental powers, and strong artistic expressions that stand out for their international relevance.
Its colonial urban layout remains intact, as do the most significant examples of religious and civil architecture and its preserved works of art.
Among the protected heritage is the Church of St Francis of Assisi (considered a masterpiece). Also noteworthy are the churches of Nossa Sra. do Pilar, da Conceição and do Carmo, the scenery of its cobbled hillsides, and the white houses with their clay roof tiles and coloured window frames.
Gold, glamour and wealth have been linked to the city since its inception. Dest.
The great influx of metal sowed the seeds of greed, intrigue and acquisitiveness, but it also fuelled enormous artistic development in literature, architecture, painting and sculpture, with some Baroque characteristics developed solely on Brazilian soil.
The Baroque of Minas Gerais was born as a mestizo, incorporating Brazilian tendencies into European Baroque and Rococo.
The emergence of the two main third orders of Carmo and São Francisco between 1740 and 1760, made up of the wealthier classes, is reflected in the decision to build churches and the aesthetic value of these monuments.
This led to the construction of some Baroque and Rococo masterpieces, on which Portuguese masters and a first generation of Minas Gerais artists, such as Antônio Francisco Lisboa, or Aleijadinho, worked.
Even with the expansion of the city along the roads and the surrounding area, the scale of the new buildings has remained unchanged from the urban landscape built in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Likewise, the monuments of religious and civil architecture, such as oratories, chapels, bridges and fountains, have been preserved. As for the residential and commercial buildings, inevitable internal modifications have been allowed as long as the original shape of their exteriors is maintained.
Ouro Preto’s extraordinary value, reflected in the urban landscape that was consolidated over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, remains perfectly legible due not only to the economic stagnation suffered by the city in the first half of the 20th century, but above all by the protection measures that followed its listing.
Buildings such as palaces, churches, fountains, bridges and most of the commercial and residential houses from the colonial period have also been preserved.
1.1 Church of St Francis of Assisi
Considered by experts to be Aleijadinho and Ataíde’s masterpiece.
It represents one of the most admirable expressions of the Minas Gerais style of the late 18th century, with a façade that follows the Portuguese layout of the great parish churches.
The building is a religious, social and artistic landmark for the city and the state, with an architectural design, a doorway and ornamental elements such as the pulpit, altarpiece, lavabo and chancel ceiling by Aleijadinho and paintings by Ataíde.
The ceiling of the nave is completely covered by Ataíde’s painting and depicts the Assumption of Our Lady of the Conception (patron saint of the Franciscans).
1.2 Mother Church of Pilar
Its construction began between 1728 and 1730, replacing the oldest church in the town dedicated to the Virgin of Pilar.
It is one of the most important examples of Minas Gerais baroque from the Gold Cycle. As well as the excellent quality images, the church houses the Silver Museum.
In a corridor next to the consistory, the church archives are kept, the most complete archives in Ouro Preto.
1.3 Church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos
Dating from 1785, it is dedicated to the patron saint of blacks and mulattos and has the most original design of all the baroque churches in Minas Gerais.
In the shape of an ellipse, the ceiling of the nave resembles a ship’s keel. The interior impresses with its acoustics and clarity.
The side altars are dedicated to St Helena, St Iphigenia, St Anthony of Nubia, Our Lady Mother of Men, St Elesban and St Benedict.
Some researchers claim that the images of St Anthony and St Benedict were made by Father Félix, Aleijadinho’s older brother.
1.4 Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Built during the third phase of the Baroque period, the main part was finished in 1772 and the embellishment and finishing work was completed in 1848.
Artists such as Manoel Francisco Lisboa (Aleijadinho’s father), Manoel da Costa Ataíde and others took part in its decoration.
It is located at the top of a hill reached by a long staircase and was frequented by the local aristocracy.
The Portuguese tiles in the ten panels must have cost a lot of gold to the religious brotherhood that financed it. From Portugal, the tiles landed in Rio de Janeiro and travelled to Minas Gerais on donkey back.
1.5 Church of St Iphigenia (Church of Chico Rei)
Built in 1736. Several artists worked on the construction, including Manoel Francisco Lisboa, Francisco Xavier de Brito and Manuel Gomes da Rocha.
This is the famous church of Chico Rei, an African king who was brought to Brazil as a slave. The story goes that it was he, a devotee of St Iphigenia, who had a temple built in honour of the saint, high up on the hill for all to see.
The funds for the construction came from gold extracted from a mine leased by Chico Rei, who used the gold to free other slaves.
1.6. Mother Church of Our Lady of the Conception of Antônio Dias
Located between Praça Barão de Queluz and Praça Tiradentes, its construction began in 1727 and its work lasted until the second half of the 18th century.
The contractor Manuel Francisco Lisboa worked on the construction of the church, where he and his son Aleijadinho are buried.
One of the oldest parishes in Minas Gerais, the Mother Church also stands out for being one of the largest in size and sumptuousness.
The former sacristy houses the Aleijadinho Museum, where you can admire various works by the master, such as the image of St Francis of Paola and a crucified Christ.
1.7 Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary of the Priest
It was named after Father João de Faria, who commissioned its construction in the early years of the 18th century. Originally, the chapel was in honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and, around 1740, the Chapel of Father Faria also housed the white brothers of the Brotherhood of the Rosary.
The chapel is the only example in the urban perimeter of Ouro Preto representative of the primitive constructions of the Serra de Ouro Preto, and is considered by many to be the most exquisite of all.
2. Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Matozinhos – Congonhas MG
Considered one of the world’s Baroque masterpieces, the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Matozinhos was inscribed in the Book of Fine Arts by Iphan in 1939 and recognised as a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in December 1985.
Located in Minas Gerais, in the municipality of Congonhas, the Sanctuary began to be built in the second half of the 18th century. Since 2015, the Congonhas Museum has been operating next to the Sanctuary and is open to visitors to enhance the perception and interpretation of the multiple dimensions of this heritage site.
The building consists of a church with a rococo interior, a walled churchyard and a monumental external staircase decorated with soapstone statues of the 12 prophets, as well as six chapels arranged side by side on the slope in front of the temple, called Passos, illustrating the Via Crucis of Jesus Christ.
Its inspiration is strongly related to Portuguese examples such as the Church of Bom Jesus do Monte (Braga) and the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios (Lamego), both in Portugal.
The 66 life-size polychrome wooden sculptures, housed in the six chapels that bring together the seven groups of Steps of the Passion of Christ, make up one of the most complete sculptural groups of sacred images in the world, and are undoubtedly one of the masterpieces of Francisco Antônio Lisboa, or Aleijadinho, who left humanity a work of great expression and originality.
The Sanctuary is in a good state of preservation, allowing its materiality to express the importance and values attributed to it, representing a unique artistic achievement and an exceptional example of 18th century Brazilian architecture.
The built and sculptural ensemble retains its intrinsic values: the Church of Bom Jesus; the churchyard with the statues of the prophets in soapstone; the steps and chapels with their seven stations, both completed in 1805, and an expressive sculptural ensemble representing the Passion of Christ.
Despite the process of transformation that took place with the urban growth of the city of Congonhas, due to the intense process of iron mining, the Sanctuary remains intact and is, to this day, an icon of sacred art and religiosity in Brazil.
3. Mariana MG
the first capital of Minas Gerais – is the only one with a planned layout among the colonial cities of Minas Gerais.
Its historic centre, listed by IPHAN in 1945, has an architectural collection made up of monuments that mark the golden years of opulence in the past marked by gold mining.
The polycentric urban layout – dotted with churches, Passos da Paixão and fountains – reveals the typical scenic effect of the Portuguese-influenced Baroque aesthetic.
Designed by the Portuguese architect José Fernandes Pinto Alpoim, Mariana’s layout features straight streets and rectangular squares, following modern precepts, which can still be seen despite its expansion and constant de-characterisation.
In the second half of the 18th century, institutional buildings appeared and, by the end of the century, its entire architectural collection had been built up.
It was the only town in the province to have had its urban layout planned during the colonial period, setting it apart from the other towns that sprang up as a result of gold mining.
Among the religious monuments that have been listed are the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption (Igreja da Sé, one of the oldest churches in Minas Gerais), the Major Seminary of Mariana (in neoclassical style), the group of sobrados on Rua Direita (with commercial houses on the ground floor and balconies on the upper floor, one of which is the house where the poet Alphonsus Guimarães lived), and the sacred paintings by Manoel da Costa Ataíde.
In João Pinheiro Square, just a few metres from each other, are the churches built by the powerful brotherhoods of São Francisco de Assis and Carmo.
The churches of Nossa Senhora das Mercês and do Rosário, belonging to the brotherhoods of the blacks, are farther away: the first is located five blocks from the square and the other on a hill further away.
Having not reached the development of Ouro Preto, Mariana has fewer civil buildings and temples than the old Vila Rica.
4. São João del Rei MG
The city – with its hillsides, churches, museums and houses – preserves the wealth obtained from gold and reveals to its visitors the lifestyle of the miners, as well as presenting magnificent buildings from the Brazilian Baroque.
Gold made São João Del Rei a Baroque city, while commerce made it an eclectic city with modern touches.
The visitor’s eyes wander through the Baroque of Minas Gerais, which stands tall with its churches and houses, and also past the neo-Gothic, neo-classical and even modern “adventures” on the façades of some buildings. Take your time and know where you’re stepping;
Like other colonial cities in Minas Gerais, which originated from gold mining, São João del Rei was formed by the agglutination of small centres that sprang up near the mining sites.
Thus, the initial occupation took place in a very dispersed and rarefied manner, limited to spaced out clusters of low houses around a small chapel.
For the most part, their religious architecture follows the traditional patterns of mining parishes, with the classic layout of a nave, chancel, sacristies and side aisles, with the façade organised into a main body flanked by two towers, usually square in profile.
In terms of ornamentation, the churches mainly follow the artistic standards in force in Minas Gerais in the second half of the 18th and early 19th centuries, corresponding to compositions in the rococo style.
Even before the discovery of gold, this region was an obligatory point of passage for those travelling to the other mines.
5. Tiradentes MG
The architectural and urban complex of Tiradentes – listed by IPHAN in 1938 – represents one of the most important episodes in the interiorisation and consolidation of the colonisation of Brazilian territory.
In addition to the typically colonial buildings, the listed heritage includes traces of the way the city was settled, the way the plots were subdivided, the formation of blocks, the relationship between the denser areas and those of lesser occupation, as well as the green areas adjacent to the traditional urban site.
The city has one of the most important architectural collections in Minas Gerais, made up of religious, civil and official eighteenth-century buildings.
In terms of civil architecture, the harmony of the ground-floor houses stands out, characterised by the simplicity of their lines, which stretch out in continuous lines along the town’s main streets.
Some peculiarities also stand out in the urban landscape, such as the single-storey houses with an odd number of windows, depressed lintels and carefully crafted guillotine and lattice fences.
The sobrados, fewer in number, are characterised both by the exquisite treatment of the stonework in the openings (including, in some cases, polychrome paintings) and by the extremely rich internal finishes, particularly in the painted and panelled ceilings marked by polychrome compositions with Baroque figures and decorative elements.
Among the larger, panelled buildings is the Town Hall, as well as other official buildings such as the Forum building.
The Igreja Matriz de Santo Antônio stands out as one of the most important examples of colonial religious architecture in Minas Gerais, with a design by Antônio Francisco Lisboa, or Aleijadinho.
The church, built to the standards of the great parish churches of Minas Gerais, is richly decorated in terms of the nave and chancel, as well as the various richly decorated sacristies, in addition to the exceptional composition of the choir and the beautifully decorated organ, considered a unique piece in Minas Gerais.
In Tiradentes, the traces of the interaction between natural and social processes, produced from the 18th century onwards, stand out in a territory cleared by settlers in search of riches, overcoming resistance and taking advantage of natural conditions.
The city occupied the high ground with little slope, between the streams and the River Mortes, avoiding the fragile soil that opens up in gullies and the steeper slopes.
In the lowland areas – flooded and unsuitable for urban occupation – gold was extracted and some urban services were carried out.
6. Diamantina MG
The most beautiful historic city in Minas Gerais, land of diamonds and Chica da Silva.
Diamantina is a kind of gemstone of Brazilian Baroque art. A city whose historical heritage is among the most important in Brazil, ranking alongside icons such as Ouro Preto, Tiradentes, Olinda and Paraty;
The city of Diamantina, in the state of Minas Gerais, is an architectural jewel that UNESCO has recognised as a World Heritage Site.
What few people know is that this gem belongs to the São Francisco river basin and is one of its great cultural attractions.
Majestic in its preserved houses, welcoming in its mountain climate, appetising in its typical delicacies, the city also enchants with its baroque colouring and great youthful buzz.
The baroque side comes from the churches, the sobrados and the restored public buildings.
The youthful side comes from the students, who fill the city with sororities and make the hillsides and narrow streets a meeting place.
Diamantina also stands out for having been the birthplace of two illustrious sons.
The first is the former slave Francisca da Silva de Oliveira – Chica da Silva – a black queen who rose to prominence in the elitist society of 18th century Minas Gerais.
The second is the statesman Juscelino Kubitschek, the revolutionary founder of Brasilia in the early 1960s and one of the most remembered presidents in Brazil’s recent history. Both Chica and Juscelino had their houses transformed into must-see tourist attractions for anyone visiting Diamantina;
7. Olinda PE
Baroque is an architectural style that enchants and captivates with its richness and ornamentation.
In the churches of Olinda, this style manifests itself magnificently, telling the story of the city and conveying its cultural and historical importance.
A tour of these churches is a journey through Olinda’s history, revealing the unique characteristics of Baroque architecture.
The Igreja da Sé, the Igreja de São Bento, the Igreja do Carmo and the Igreja da Misericórdia are stunning examples of this style, with imposing façades, elaborate altars and impressive works of art. These churches are cultural and historical treasures that preserve Olinda’s identity.
The future of these churches promises to continue to delight future generations, keeping alive the Baroque heritage and the unique importance of Olinda’s churches.
8. Recife PE
The Baroque style in the north-east emerged from lay associations such as Confrarias, Irmandades and Ordem Terceira, which took the initiative to sponsor artistic production in the 18th century, with the weakening of the religious orders.
Baroque churches in the centre of Recife:
- Basilica and Convent of Nossa Senhora do Carmo – The external façade is in Baroque style. Inside, the Baroque decoration is of great value. Built between the 17th and 18th centuries.
- Igreja de Santa Teresa D’Ávila da Ordem Terceira do Carmo – Initially built for wealthy white people. Highlights include the baroque ceiling and altar.
- Matriz do Santíssimo Sacramento de Santo Antônio Church – has a colonial baroque style.
- Golden Chapel of the Third Order of St Francis – The ultimate expression of baroque in Recife.
- Church of the Venerable Third Order of St Francis – There are panels of Portuguese tiles from the 17th and 18th centuries.
- Franciscan Church and Convent of Santo Antônio – The position of the church’s only tower, which is set back from the façade, promotes a diagonal deviation in the composition that is a Baroque characteristic.
9. Salvador de Bahia
The churches of Salvador represent the splendour of the Baroque style in Brazil.
The Baroque is characterised by the amplification of dimensions and the excess of ornamentation.
History of Baroque Architecture in North-East Brazil and Minas Gerais