Ouro Preto: Self-Guided Walking Tour

This tour is designed to explain the influences of art and architecture, learn of important personalities and elucidate the colonial history of Ouro Preto. Alright, you’ve got your camera charged, a bottle of water and sun protection, you are just about ready to start exploring colonial Ouro Preto. Before embarking on your self-guided tour, here is some practical advice to keep in mind:

  1. Leave the havaianas at home!  The steep streets and their awkward cobblestones demand a bit of ankle support, bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes.
  2. Bring a sweater.  In winter lows can reach 17°C (62°F), while theoretically isn’t too cold, however is colder than most Brazilian locales. If you have been traveling in Brazil for a while, your baselines for chilly temperatures may have dipped below the norm.
  3. Try to visit the most important attractions early in the day. Museum and church closing times are all 5-5:30 pm, and most museum are closed Mondays. Plan accordingly.
  4. Be ready for some steep scrambles up and down inclined city streets. Only 5% of the area of Ouro Preto is flat, and the topography in some places can be nearly vertical. Not to fear this route is also designed to avoid from climbing the brutally steep ‘ladeiras’ (slopes).

Historical Background

The legend of the colonial city begins in the end of the 17th century in the foothills of the Serra do Espinhaça mountains, when a servant working for the Portuguese adventurers pocketed a shiny black metallic stone while drinking from the Rio Carmo.  Later the stone would prove to be gold that was discolored by iron-oxide in the area. Due to this realization, the Portuguese would open the floodgates to prospecting, mining, and subsequent slave trade.  The town that was formed was named Vila Rica de Ouro Preto (the rich village of black gold) and from that point would go on to be one of the richest cities in the new world.  Vila Rica became the capital of Minas Gerais and all-important stop along the Estrada Real, the road the Portuguese used to extract precious metals en route to Rio, before shipping the lion’s share of the riches back to Portugal. The Estrada Real would become an open vein for pillaging Brazil’s natural resources, in just one century the Portuguese were able to bleed out more gold than the Spanish empire seized in 200 years. In order to accomplish this, slave trade became the means to supply manual labor, and the population exploded to more than 100,000 inhabitants during the 18th century, most of whom were slaves.

Nearing the beginning of the 19th century Portugal had nearly exhausted the mines, squeezing out just about every last ounce of gold, the only wealth which was left in Vila Rica was that found within the city’s opulent churches. As boom went to bust, affluence was replaced by disease and poverty and the population of the town dwindled, and the capital was moved to nearby Belo Horizonte in 1897 and many residents followed.  Vila Rica, later known as Ouro Preto, would never return to the same grandeur, however today it still retains one of the best-preserved colonial centers.  In the 1960’s many artists made Ouro Preto their home, and in 1969 the Federal University opened it’s doors giving the town a youthful vibrance whose presence can still be felt around the towns many ‘republicas’ or student housing.  Presently the town’s chief industry is tourism, as it’s churches, museums, pousadas, and restaurants receive millions of visitors each year.

 1) Starting Point: Rodoviaria (Bus Terminal)

Because Ouro Preto has no airport, most travelers will arrive by bus, making this a natural starting point for the self-guided walking tour.  From the bus station you can also take advantage of beginning from one of the city’s highest points, letting the rest of the day be an easy downhill with great panoramic views. Continue walking along the Rua Padre Rolim towards the city center, enjoying the vistas as you make your way to the first stop.

2) Igreja Nossa Senhora das Mercês e Misericórdia

N.S. das Mercês e Miscordia. Photo: pbase.com

N.S. das Mercês e Miscordia at sunset. Photo: pbase.com.

The Church of Our Lady of the Mercy began construction in 1773, built in the classic Baroque style by Manoel Francisco de Araújo. Locals were forced to hand over all of the lion’s share of their wealth found in gold to the Portuguese authorities, therefore the remaining colonial churches and the sacred art found within them are the only vestiges of the decadence brought on by the gold boom, all other forms of wealth and precious metals in Brazil were extracted and sent to Europe. Over the years many of these churches were also plundered for the wealth they held within, today leaving only a fraction of the magnificence that once existed.  The most prominent feature of this church is the medallion-shaped portico which was crafted from soap stone and represents a virgin with arms raised to protect the slaves who worked the mines. A local legend insists that on cold rainy nights, the ghosts of enslaved miners still come to this church for mass.  Standing just in front of the wall adjacent to the church features panoramic views of the colonial Ouro Preto: steep cobble-stoned streets, historic buildings, and other dramatic churches perched on hilltops.

Baroque Mineiro is the style of art most closely associated with the colonial period in Minas Gerais, which had strong links with the Catholic church, which used art as a form of evangelization for illiterate Indigenous and African slaves. Baroque in Ouro Preto arose during the 18th and 19th centuries, a time of intimate relations between the church and state and also a time of grandeur created by the extraction of gold, diamonds and other valuable metals, it includes architecture, sculpture and painting. Baroque architecture evokes a European style that was modified by the slaves who constructed the structures. Notable baroque buildings and churches, evoke a sober and austere exterior, but within they behold magnificence that speaks of the opulence of yesteryear. Most churches were created using a combination of granite and limestone, but unique to Ouro Preto is the proliferation of soap stone.  Baroque art in Ouro Preto also employed heavy use sculpture and painting in an ornamental, narrative, and dynamic aesthetic that closely followed the Catholic indoctrination.

3) Museu de Ciência e Técnica da Escola de Minas

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Crossing through the northern section of the main square, Praça Tiradentes, you will notice a large whitewashed building, which once served as the former Governor’s Palace. This museum is home to one of the largest collections of rock and mineral samples in the world, featuring more than 30,000 pieces and Brazil’s largest collection of meteorites. The museum which operates under the Federal University of Ouro Preto is divided into several different sections including; mineralogy, astronomy, paleontology, topography, metallurgy, natural history and also has a working observatory.

Museum Hours: Most exhibits open Tuesday- Sunday from 1-5 pm. Observatory open Saturday from 8-10pm.
Admission Price: $5 BRL, children free.

4) Mirante das Lajes

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Continue down Rua Conselheiro Quintiliano Maciel, after passing by a strangely out-of-place chalet, you arrive to an Easterly facing vista, looking beyond the city center and outwards to the rocky outcroppings of Itacolmi State Park.  The natural stone obelisk that rises in the distance was used as a point of reference for the bandeirantes, gold seeking paramilitary groups proceeding from São Paulo who navigated the territory in search of riches.  Unlike Spanish America, Brazil had no large indigenous civilizations, instead nomadic groups that had no experience with metallurgy, making it impossible for the Portuguese to steal gold, instead having to discover it for themselves. In Minas Gerais, the Portuguese explorers would indeed find the largest cache of gold ever discovered, which would be depleted it in record time, leading from boom to bust in the span of only 100 years. The banderiantes, would let nothing stand between them and their precious bounty, along the way they waged war against indigenous tribes and employed African slave labor.  In the search of gold they would forever alter the history of Brazil and Minas Gerais, for better or worse.

5) Rustic Housing

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At the beginning of Rua Maciel follow the downhill slope zig-zagging through the residential buildings.  Unlike the impeccably maintained city center, this area on the outskirts features more rustic, authentic housing.  These homes, in a far less touristic area, are not painted with the same white wash and brilliant colors that you will find in the center, instead they show obvious signs of weathering and decay.  These adobe dwellings are antiques, similar in construction to the earliest phase of civil architecture.  The clay roof tiles are handmade, therefore not uniform, and steps for stairways are made using large slabs of flagstone.

6) Capela do Padre Faria

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Continue downwards walking along the awkward stones of Rua Santa in the direction of the small Chapel of Father Faria. The chapel’s namesake was the bandeirante João de Faria Fialho for whom the surrounding barrio was also named.  The small, austere and seemingly unassuming chapel is one of the oldest in the city, its date of construction is unknown, but is maintained that it was constructed in the beginning of the 18th century. The chapel’s diminutive size and plain exterior decoration contrast the ornate decoration of the gold-covered, baroque altarpiece. The exterior of the church also features the only triple barred pontifical cross in the state of Minas and a separate bell tower that houses the same bell that rung out on the day of Tiradentes’ execution.

Admission price: $5 BRL

7) Igreja Matriz de Santa Efigênia dos Pretos

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Scramble up the inclined ladeira Rua Padre Faria until you reach the pinnacle where the imposing Church with privileged views.  This church, named after an Ethiopian saint, is unique not only for its architecture and religious art, but also for its history. The church was constructed between 1733 and 1785 when freed slave Chico Rei ordered the church’s construction. In order to finance its creation, slaves from a local gold mine washed bits of gold dust from their hair and beneath their fingernails to donate to the church. The slaves also labored in the edification, because of this it was only possible to build at night, after they had finished their work in the mines.  Manoel Fransisco Lisboa was the architect who projected the structure, while his son, Aleijadinho, sculpted the exterior portico and other interior elements from soap stone.  The altar features wood carvings of African religious elements such as shells, snails, horns, and even an African pope painted on the ceiling above the altar.

Detail of interior with African Pope. Photo: http://projetocevale.blogspot.com.ar.

Detail of interior with African Pope. Photo: projetocevale.blogspot.com.ar.

Visitation Hours: Tuesday – Sunday from 8:30-4:30. Mass Saturday 7:30pm and Sunday at 7 am.

8) Viewpoint Santa Efigênia

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After making the climb up to the church, take advantage of its topographic position to cross the street and enjoy panoramic view of the Praça Tiradentes, São Fransciso de Assis, and N.S. de Carmo below. The central portion of Ouro Preto will be explored towards the conclusion of the walking tour.

9) Ladeira Santa Efigênia

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As you wander down the steep graded Rua Santa Efigênia you are offered a chance understand the evolution of civil architecture over two centuries. Stop around the 320 block and observe the construction, largely one story homes without basements.  These are reconstructions of the adobe homes from the architectural phase from 1750 to 1800.  These dwellings have been restored, but originally they would feature adobe walls and would not have windows (think back to the rustic housing you witnessed before the Padre Faria chapel).

As you continue down this road you will notice a two-story straw-colored building with auburn trim around the 270 block.  This building is representative of the architectural phase that occurred from 1800-1850.  During this phase the concept of the metropolis was in full swing in Vila Rica, which in those times was largest city in Brazil with a population of 100,000 inhabitants, which even dwarfed New York.  This created new needs for architecture which could cleverly allocate space.  Two-story edification became the norm as residents lived above and opened storefronts on the ground level.  Other architectural elements started to be employed, glass was used in windows in some cases and cornices were placed above doors, windows, and balconies.

Later, after continuing down the street and crossing the bridge around the 80 block you will find a conglomeration of more decorative housing representative of the architectural phase that coincides with 1850-1900.  This final phase shows much European influence, especially from France, as the use of the chalet starts to be implemented.  Notice the tile roof starts to have a pediment inclined towards the street and is contained by more elaborate cornicing.  The ornamentation also is notably increased as ornamental iron balconies and latticework windows are present.  Many of the buildings from this epoch continued to have ground level storefronts, and in some cases to expand the residences a third floor was added.

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10) Casarão de Antônio Francisco Alves

Home of the 'Vira-Saia' under renovation at time of publication.

Home of the ‘Vira-Saia’ under renovation at time of publication.

This house dating from 1741 was owned by Antônia Francisco Alves, known locally as the “Vira-Saia”.  Alves was the leader of a gang of robbers who would attack the Portuguese officials transporting gold along the Estrada Real.  These Rio-bound expeditions would attempt to deceive such attacks by sending out decoys, groups of soldiers carrying sand traveling on alternative routes. However, Alves was infallible due to the fact that he had a spy working inside the foundry. Across the street you will see an Oratorio, or altar used to fend off evil spirits, which also had a hidden agenda.

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The saint inside the altar was a fundamental component of Alves strategy for the attacks.  Alves used the position of the saint to signal to other members of the gang which of the expeditions leaving the foundry was the decoy and which had the legitimate gold freight.  Alves earned his nickname, Vira-Saia or ‘the skirt-turner’, because he used the positioning the face of the saint towards the decoy while the skirt would signal the true direction of the gold cargo.  Vira-Saia was a local Robin Hood figure, although he did not steal to give to the less fortunate.  His true motivation for the attacks was hatred for the Portuguese, who he blamed for many injustices. Not only did Alves attack to pillage riches, but also killing many royal officials and leaving behind a sea of blood. After placing a bounty on the gold thief, Alves was discovered by officials who stormed his house one night and stabbed him to death in front of his family, before dragging them off to the outlying hills where they would receive a similar fate.

11) Ponte de Antônio Dias

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Continue down the road towards a romanesque bridge dating from 1755, which is known as “the whispering bridge” because it was the place chosen by poet and conspirator Tomás Antônio Gonzaga to reveal his forbidden love for María Doroteia Joaquina de Seixas, known as the muse of the insurrection.  He proposed marriage, however was not be able to wed as his involvement in the rebellion was discovered and he was sent into exile in Mozambique where he would later die.  The story of the tragic love tale would go on to inspire poems, books, and soap operas in Brazil.  On one side of the bridge there are great views, while opposite hidden just behind is a serene garden beside a small stream.

12) Mina do Chico Rei

At the fork in the road stay to your right, then turn right at the Rua Dom Silvério, just 50 meters forward. Chico Rei’s gold mine is an interesting stop that allows you to learn the legend of a historic personality of Vila Rica as well as explore the bowels of a decommissioned gold mine.  Chico Rei, formerly named Galanga, was the chief of a tribe in the Congo until 1740, when Portuguese slavers captured him and his people to bring to Brazil.  On the trans-Atlantic voyage to the new world, confronted with a storm, the Portuguese sailors threw his wife and daughter to sea to placate the rage of the storm which nearly sunk the ship. After arriving to Vila Rica, all of the African slaves were baptized with the name Francisco (nicknamed “Chico”) and then forced to work in the Encardideira gold mine.

chico-rei

Portrait of Chico Rei. Photo Wikiwand.com.

Chico Rei allegedly worked longer shifts than required and hid small gold nuggets in his molars so that in time he was able to buy his own freedom. Later he was able to emancipate his son, his people, and eventually purchase the mine itself.  The ability to free his people earned him the nobility of a monarch and garnered him the name of Chico Rei, or the slave king. Chico Rei became a very well respected member of society and went on to oversee the construction of Santa Efigênia church, the only church created for the worship of freed slaves in Vila Rica. In the 18th century Chico Rei would be formally recognized as a monarch by the Count of Bobadela, thereby completing the cycle of the king, turned slave, turned king once again.

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Entrance to the mine shaft.

The mine was long ago abandoned, until a family in 1945 bought a plot of land in the center of Ouro Preto.  Children of the family discovered the mine shaft by accident one day while playing on the property.  Today the same family administers the mine and hosts a weekend restaurant on the property.  The mine is open for independent exploration, a section of about 300 meters is illuminated with overhead lighting. Hard hats are provided, but it is necessary to traverse tight damp, dirty spaces crawling at times.

Admission price: $20 BRL, includes a pinga (shot of cachaça)

13) Aleijadinho Museum

aleijadinho

Photo: grupoescolar.com.

This annex of the N.S. de Conceção church features a small collection of works from the most important Baroque artist in colonial Brazil, Antonio Francisco Lisboa, better known as “Aleijadinho”.  Much about Aleijadinho and his life remains a mystery, but historians believe he was the son of Portuguese architect Manoel Francisco Lisboa and his slave Isabela. Aleijadinho worked with his father and gained knowledge of design, sculpture, and architecture. It is possible that the artist at a young age made a voyage to Rio de Janeiro with a gold shipment and spent the next two years in contact with Carioca artists, he would however return and his entire body of work would be completed within Minas Gerais.  Because he was a mulatto, early in his career he was forced to take work as a laborer working under other artists. Later he was recognized as a skilled artisan he was given greater freedom, and in the decade of the 1760’s saw his greatest proliferation of works, including the church of São Francisco de Assis.

Around 1777 a debilitating illness, possibly leprosy, began to gravely affect the health of the sculptor.  As a result he lost most of his fingers and all of his toes, causing him to walk on his knees.  Due to this he was given the moniker “Aleijadinho” meaning the little cripple.  Aleijadinho did not let the degenerative disease stop him from his craft, he continued sculpting works of art from wood and soapstone using a hammer and chisel that were affixed to his mutilated hands with braces.  The disease disfigured his face and he developed a complex about his appearance, preferring to work at night so others did not see his disfigurement. Amazingly, he continued to work for decades in this manner even starting his own workshop and received many orders for his work.

Artist interpretation of Aleijadinho working after onset of his illness. Photo: photos.geni.com.

Artist interpretation of Aleijadinho working after onset of his illness. Photo: photos.geni.com.

Towards the end of the 18th century Aleijadinho would complete his masterpiece, The Prophets, in the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus in nearby Congonhas.  This work was symbolic not only as one of the final works of Aleijadinho, but also one of the closing works of Baroque Mineiro, that was paralleled the depletion of gold in Minas Gerais. Around 1807, his disease progressed to an advanced state and he closed his studio, although continued to supervise his apprentices. In 1814, while still overseeing several projects, Aleijadinho died a poor artist leaving behind an impressive artistic legacy.  More than 40 years after his death a biography was written about him, which continues to be the best historical document about the life of the man who many since have dubbed the Brazilian Michelangelo.

Detail of Prophets in Congonhas. Photo: pixabay.com.

Detail of Prophets in Congonhas. Photo: pixabay.com.

Visiting Hours: 8:30-12pm, 1:30-5pm. Closed Mondays.

Admission price: $10 BRL (combined entrance to N.S. Conceição and São Francisco de Assis churches)

14) Nossa Senhora da Conceição Antônio Dias

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This church originally from 1699 was later rebuilt in 1725 by Manoel Francisco Lisboa.  The church, one of the first in Ouro Preto, features construction in several different phases of Baroque, original architecture was begun in the 18th century, however the facade was not completed until the 19th century. Within the church the tombs of both Manoel Francisco Lisboa and his son Aleijadinho are housed beside the altar of our lady of the good death.

Admission price: $10 BRL (combined entrance to Aleijadinho Museum and São Francisco de Assis churches)

15) Igreja São Francisco de Assis

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Following the curve of Rua Bernardo Vasconcellos toward the center you approach what many scholars, artists, and historians refer to as the pinnacle of Baroque architecture in the whole of Brazil and one of the seven wonders of the Portuguese world.  Truly a collaboration of the masters of Baroque art and architecture in Minas, many of the most important artists and architects contributed to the church. Construction began in 1766 and many traditional architectural elements were abandoned or drastically altered, the floor plan is unique and the towers cast in cylindrical shapes causing departure from established patterns.  São Francisco de Assis is also said to be Aleijadinho’s crowning work within Ouro Preto, as it has been said that the elaborate ornamentation of the facade is so well integrated into the building that it transcends the work of a sculptor, and instead should receive credit as an architect.  Aleijadinho also designed the six lateral altars, however they would not be completed in his lifetime, instead his plans would be completed by others. Nearly all of the religious statues within the church are Santos de Roca, effigies that achieve a level of realism by making use of real hair, ivory employed for teeth and finger nails, and inlays of rubies and other precious stones.  The altarpiece is a vertiginous synthesis of a massive gold-laden arc de triumph, interlaced with representations of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Trinity, and Saint Francisco of Assisi.

Aleijadinho's portico intricately carved from soap stone.

Aleijadinho’s portico intricately carved from soap stone.

The piece de resistance within the church is the breathtaking fresco painted on the ceiling by Manoel Acosta Ataidé.  The massive, vibrant painting pays homage to the virgin Our Lady of Porziuncola.  Ataidé painted the subject matter with obvious new world influences, as the virgin was painted with mulatta features, thought to be inspired by his wife, giving the depiction a radically progressive national identity. The virgin is surrounded by angelic troubadours that whimsically transport the viewer into the heavens accompanied by a celestial orchestra. Ataidé achieved a lightness using his characteristic soft blues contrasted with rosy reds.  Strung from the utopian scene are banners with the inscriptions “Momento Mori”, literally ‘remember that you will die’ a friendly reminder that all on earth is ephemeral, highlighting the necessity for eternal salvation.

Ceiling fresco of São Francisco de Assis by Ataidé

Ceiling fresco of São Francisco de Assis by Ataidé. Photo: Wikipedia.

São Francisco is also the centerpiece of the elaborate rituals which take place for Semana Santa, the week leading up to Easter. On Thursday a foot washing ceremony takes place at the church, symbolic of the humility of Jesus. On Good Friday a portrayal the passion occurs as Christ’s body is placed on a massive cross in front of the church.  The most spectacular event takes place between the night of Saturday and Sunday morning, when the town begins to pepper technicolor saw dust, coffee grounds, and colored paper over the cobblestones throughout town, creating a kaleidoscope of religious designs and insignia.  The collective effort starts around midnight and continues on until the ceremonies begin the following day, everyone is allowed to lend a hand in the work.  Finally in the early morning of Easter Sunday, the procession of the resurrection begins from the São Francisco church and continues along the paths of the multicolored carpets. As residents and tourists file through the streets, the hours of intricate design are undone in a matter of moments, concluding one of the most memorable Semana Santa ceremonies on the continent.

Visiting Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 8:30 -12pm, 1:30 -5pm.  Mass Sundays at 7pm.  Closed Mondays.

Admission price: $10 BRL (combined entrance to Aleijadinho Museum and N.S. de Conceção)

16) Feira de Artesenato

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Soapstone crafts on display at artisan fair.

Just in front of São Francisco church is the local artisans market where you can see local artists carrying on with the tradition of Aleijadinho. This artesian fair is a great place to see artists at work carving, chiseling, and painting away on soap stone original creations.  Everything from vases, plates, bowls, religious figures to ashtrays can be found for sale here.  The artists are very accommodating for any questions or pictures and are not at all pushy.  This is a great place to search for souvenirs, support the local economy 🙂

17) Statue of Tiradentes

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From the artisan fair walk one block East to the main plaza. The statue at the center of the square of the same name is in honor of the pivotal character of the earliest Brazilian independence movement the Inconfidência Mineira.  In the second half of the 18th century Portugal was indebted to England and as a result was starving for gold production from Vila Rica, however at that time in Minas Gerais the natural resources were being rapidly depleted.  Not understanding that natural resources were finite, the Portuguese tried to overcompensate by demanding more from residents of Vila Rica in the way of an additional tax, the derrama. In Vila Rica these demands exacerbated poor living conditions, disease, and high death rates among slaves and poor residents.

In this context Joaquim José da Silva Xavier, the man who later would be immortalized as Tiradentes, was working in military campaigns to take gold to Rio before it made the voyage across the Atlantic.  Tiradentes saw the amount of gold and diamonds that the Portuguese were pillaging and realized that was the cause for much devastation in Vila Rica.  During these trips to Rio he also made contact with others who had lived in Europe and was introduced to liberal ideologies.

In 1788 Tiradentes joined several intellectuals from Vila Rica, hopped up on French revolution rhetoric, who began to conspire for the formation of a Republic independent of Portuguese domination. Tiradentes was one of many other conspirators mostly comprised of white upper-class citizens including intellectuals, poets, priests, military and state officials.  The ideas put forward by the conspirators were forward thinking, as Brazil would not become a republic for more than a century later, however also half-baked, as comprehensive economic and social plan were never developed. Tiradentes concocted a plan for resurrection to take place on the day of the derrama tax on February 1789, however he would be betrayed by a fellow conspirator before the uprising could be enacted.

Tiradentes and other conspirators were arrested and imprisoned for three years while awaiting trial. During the trial in 1792, Da Silva, who among other professions also worked as a dentist, was mocked in court and given the name of Tiradentes, ‘the tooth puller’. The inconfidência movement had no defined leader, however Tiradentes assumed responsibility for his role.  All members of the group were sentenced to death, however the queen of Portugal commuted all stays of execution with the exception of Tiradentes. On April 21, 1792 Tiradentes was hanged and quartered in Rio de Janeiro and later his head was displayed in the place where his  the statue now erected in Ouro Preto as an example to sympathizers. Due to his status as a martyr and his physical appearance, Tiradentes became a jesus-like figure within Brazil and a national hero. Today in Brazil, April 21, the day of his death, is celebrated as a national holiday.

Tiradentes death

Depiction of Tiradentes death by hanging and quartered. Photo: wikipedia.

18) Museu da Inconfidência

The Museum to the Inconfidência stands across the plaza directly in front of the Tiradentes statue.  Constructed in 1789, the Baroque building with Neo-classical traces once served as an administrative building and jail.  Former Brazilian president Getulio Vargas started a motion to have the building transformed as a space to recuperate the memory of the revolutionary movement.  The exhibits inside the museum serve to recount the colonial period of Ouro Preto, display important documents from the failed insurrection, as well as exhibit religious arts, including original works by both Aleijadinho and Mestre Ataidé.  The museum also houses a crypt where the remains of the members of the inconfidência are laid to rest, many of whose remains had to be repatriated from Africa where they had been exiled.

crypt-museu-inconfidencia

Tomb of Tiradentes in musem crypt.

Visiting Hours: Tue-Sun 10am-6pm.

Admission price:  $10 BRL.

19) Nossa Senhora do Carmo

Just beside the museum stands Our Lady of Carmo church. The construction was concluded in 1825, much later than most other churches in Ouro Preto.  The structure was built in the Rococo style, or late Baroque. Rococo was a departure from the ostentatious and ornate Baroque, which paralleled the depletion of gold in Ouro Preto, calling for a more simplified style.  The carved soap stone piece above the entrance was attributed to Aleijadinho, but was more probably an understudy, as it was crafted late in the life of the ailing  sculptor.  The interior is notably less indulgent than other churches.

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20) Casa dos Contos

After zigzagging through the most trafficked ladeiras of Ouro Preto, just before crossing a picturesque bridge stands the Casa Dos Contos. This museum’s major objective is to preserve the history of the gold period as well as the national culture.  The baroque building was owned by the merchant João Rodrigues de Macedo, and was a place where the plans for the uprising of the Inconfidência were developed in secrecy.  Once the insurrection was quelled, the building would become a prison for many of the conspirators. The building later was destined to the Portuguese court and used as administrative center for collection of gold, taking the royal fifth, a tax on all coinage that was destined to be sent to Portugal. Today the museum functions as a historical landmark with historical and cyclical expositions and also has several displays on the history of currency in Brazil.

Admission price: free

Visiting hours: Tue-Sat 10-5, Sun 10-3, closed Mondays.

21) Nossa Senhora do Pilar

Rua São José leading towards Rua Randolpho Bretas in the Southwest sector. One last church worth entering before concluding the tour is Our Lady of Pilar church.  This ornate Baroque church’s interior is possibly the best illustration of the opulence in Ouro Preto.  The churches altar and pulpits are profusely ornamented with more than 400 kilos of gold and silver.  The church also feature a museum of religious arts in the sacristy, which houses more than 8,000 pieces from the 17th to the 19th century.

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Alter, pulpits and nave lavishly adorned with gold and silver. Photo: resumoescolar.com.br.

This concludes the self-guided walking tour of Ouro Preto, now that you have taken in the sights and the history it is recommended to stop and enjoy a beautiful sunset.  Also don’t forget to enjoy the many local restaurants offering regional delicacies such as pão de queijo, Ouropretana brand beer, and the dessert Romeo e Julieta, you won’t regret it. Boa viagem!

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