Two Rio Centro churches

Just as important a part of Brazil’s early history as the Portuguese Crown was the Catholic Church and houses of worship form much of the landscape of Rio de Janeiro’s historical centre. Many of them are clustered around the Praca XV Novembre and the Paco Imperial.

Igreja do Nossa Senhora do Carmo da Antigua Se
Igreja do Nossa Senhora do Carmo da Antigua Se

Diagonally opposite the Paco Imperial, on the corner of Rua 7 de Setembro and Rua Premeiro de Marco is the Igreja do Nossa Senhora do Carmo da Antigua Se, or Carmo Church. It was built in 1761 and the carved rococo interior was finished by master sculptor Inacio Ferreira Pinto

The history of Carmo church is as closely linked to Brazil’s as the Praca and the Paco. The ashes of Pedro Alvarez Cabral, who discovered the country, lie in the main crypt. The Portuguese Royal family worshipped here. Princess Isabella was married here and the ceremony of the anointing of the Emperors Pedro I and Pedro II took place here.. In its 250 year life, many Rio babies’ heads have been wet at the beautiful marble baptismal font, many young Carioca brides have walked down the aisle under the magnificent painted ceiling, to their groom, waiting at the silver ornamented altar.

Just off Rua Premeiro de Marco in Rua Ouvidor, is the Igreja Nossa Senhora da Lapa dos Mercadores. Built by the local congregation of street vendors, it is far more modest shrine than Nossa Senhora do Carmo da Antigua Se. Still, with its exquisite carved wooden ceilings and walls as well as its stunning sacristy skylight, it is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful churches in Rio. Although the church saw no great royal occasions, it was however, touched by an important piece of Brasilian history and still today bears the mark. During the Naval revolt of 1893, cannon fire toppled the marble statue of the Madonna from the bell tower. The Madonna survived and was restored to the tower and the cannonball now rests in the sacristy.

These are just two of Rio Centro’s many religious houses. There are many other churches, monasteries and convents, all with their own beauty and interest