What is known about the life of Antonio Francisco de Lisboa, the Aleijadinho, was written 40 years after his death. Shrouded in mystery, legends and controversies, his life trajectory has not left many traces, making his work immortal.
Architect, sculptor and painter, he was the main artist of the rich Brazilian baroque and one of the most prolific. Aleijadinho created thousands of projects, sculptures, pieces and paintings, all with impressive refinement, which ensured him an important place in the prominence history of the Western art.
This itinerary passes through 5 of the cities that welcome his creations. Learn and enjoy the work of this great artist and the destinations beauties of the countryside of the state of Minas Gerais.
Sabará is 20 km from Belo Horizonte and houses the Brazilian baroque outdoor museum. The historical center of the city is listed by the National Historic and Artistic Heritage Institute and it is possible to observe buildings of three Brazilian phases of art movement which has in Aleijadinho its greatest representative.
The artist helped in the construction of the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. His contribution is mainly in the masonry, in beautiful reliefs in the frontispiece and in home. Its interior, especially the statues of St. John of the Cross and St. Simon Stock, which have been recently restored, are among the top copies of his work.
Nearby the church is the humble house where he lived. It is open for visits, but it is worth seeing and imagine about his routine, leaving the house and walking to the church.
Other places worth a visit are the Museum of Sacred Art, whose collection is dedicated to the baroque history and it has several important pieces, including Aleijadinho. And the Museum of Gold, which depicts the Brazilian Gold Cycle, when the Portuguese explored the metal and sent it to Europe. The Museum operates in a house where the gold was coined and taxed, and displays tools used in the extraction, such as silver, weapons and furniture.
Ouro Preto, Aleijadinho hometown, was originally called Vila Rica and almost of the city gold was sent to Portugal.
Ouro Preto is 120 km from Sabará and it was listed as World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Its historical center seems to have stopped in time, with mansions and monuments very well preserved and in its many slopes, turned into baroque preciousness streets. The largest of them is the Mother of Our Lady of the Pillar, with its impressive interior coated with 400 kg of gold and filled with sacred pieces and sculptures. In the basement of the sacristy is the Museum of Sacred Art, with many works of the 18th century.
Aleijadinho did not participate in the construction of the Main Church, but one of his most important architectural projects is nearby. It is the Church of St. Francis of Assisi - a significant monument of colonial art. The ceiling painting is amazing and it was created by Mestre Ataíde, a prospective genius.
This church is part of the circuit of Aleijadinho Museum, which still includes the Shrine of Our Lady of Conceição de Antônio Dias and the Church of Our Lady of Mercy and Pardons. In addition to his works, there are many important pieces of Brazilian sacred art made by several artists.
The main attraction of Congonhas was born of a promise. Sick after many years working in gold mines, the Portuguese immigrant Feliciano Mendes swore to build a temple if he recovered his health. Thus, the construction of Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos began in 1757. However, Feliciano Mendes died before seeing the finished work. It is a pity because the sanctuary is one of the greatest examples of baroque art in Brazil and it was listed as World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Beyond the beauty of the church, its chapel is a masterpiece of Aleijadinho: the set of soapstone statues of 12 prophets, which includes the sculpture of Daniel, considered the most beautiful of his entire career, in his talent boom. There are other pieces of the sculptor, such as the impressive Via Sacra: six chapels representing the steps of the Passion of Christ.
The whole history of the Basilica is told at the Museum of Congonhas, as well as the baroque and the religious history in this region of the state of Minas Gerais. Its exhibitions alternate displays of period pieces and the modern multimedia resources, to make the experience and learning even better. The city is 60 km from Ouro Preto and 115 km from the city of Tiradentes, our next stop.
The small city of Tiradentes has many Baroque beauties. The most important is the Main Church of Saint Anthony. Viewed from the entire city because of its elevated location, it impresses by the amount of gold in its interior and the structures of the facade structures and main door, built by the artist Aleijadinho.
The São José Fountain is one of the postcards of the city and is a bit far from its downtown, but it is worth the walk. For a long time, it was the main water supply source. People say that anyone who drinks from one of its taps soon marries.
At the end of the afternoon, relax in Largo das Forras, the main square of Tiradentes, and enjoy the colonial buildings around. Preferably, have a nice chat with locals - they are full of stories to tell.
What about ending our tour by taking a trip through time? Here, it is possible. You just need to embark on the Maria Fumaça (local and popular steam locomotive), a 15-km ride between the cities of Tiradentes and São João del Rei. You will feel back to the early 20th century, when the locomotive was built that makes this itinerary daily. Choose the right side of the locomotive to have a better view.
São João del Rei is also known as the "city of bells" because its churches bell to announce masses and the Hail Mary time. Among those who bell is the Basilica Cathedral of Our Lady of the Pillar, so beautiful as its same name located in Ouro Preto and listed by IPHAN (National Historic and Artistic Heritage Institute).
Aleijadinho left its mark on the Church of St Francis of Assisi, also listed by IPHAN (National Historic and Artistic Heritage Institute). Built in 1774, the basilica is in a garden framed by imperial palm trees. Its door was carved in soapstone and its interior houses a large crystal chandelier, in addition to the tomb of the former president Mr. Tancredo Neves. Born in the city, the politician has a memorial in his honor, not too far from there, with a collection of documents and information on his trajectory.
At the end of the trip, you will understand why the Aleijadinho art works enchant for more than 200 years and it will continue for more years.