History, Culture and Architecture of São Luís do Maranhão

São Luís do Maranhão is the only Brazilian capital founded by the French, then passed through Dutch and Portuguese occupation.

It covers an area of 220 hectares. Around 2,500 buildings are listed as historical heritage sites in the state, and 1,000 by IPHAN.

Part of this site was declared a World Heritage Site in 1997 for its Portuguese colonial architecture adapted to the local climate.

The main architectural feature of the historic centre is its concern for the hot and humid climate.

Among the solutions was the use of tiles to waterproof the rammed earth façades. The floor plans are “L” or “U” shaped, with large roofs and shutters.

The architectural buildings are sobrados, single-storey houses and manor houses.

The sobrados have up to four floors, the ground floor being a commercial shop and the other floors residences. The manor houses, sumptuous sobrados, have many refined details, and the single-storey houses, finally, can be classified in various ways (for example, full dwelling: door with two windows on each side; half dwelling: side door and two windows).

Strolling through the Historic Centre of São Luís, the largest open-air museum in the world, you will discover a little of the island’s centuries-old history, palaces, squares, mansions, townhouses, churches, chapels, convents, fountains, museums, theatres and monuments that house the living memory of the people of Ludovico.

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