Ouro Preto is a treasure trove of colonial architecture in the state of Minas Gerais, and synonymous with the mythical “gold rush”. They say that Ouro Preto is the star of the former Estrada Real. Ouro Preto, was born in 1711 and is located 93 kilometers from Belo Horizonte, was the first capital of Minas Gerais in the nineteenth century. In 1933 the Brazilian political Getulio Vargas decided to preserve it as a “national monument and national artistic heritage,” attentive to the value of its baroque churches decorated with works of Antonio Francisco Lisboa “O Aleijadinho” (the biggest Brazilian artist of the colonial period), together with other creators, as the painter Manuel da Costa Ataíde and Portuguese sculptor Francisco Xavier de Brito.
What to see in Ouro Preto?
There’s plenty to do in Ouro Preto, because in addition to a dozen spectacular churches is the Opera House opened in 1770 (the oldest in South America) and the Museum of Inconfidencia, stone bridges, the Portuguese style houses as Contos House and the Palace of the Governors.
On these streets up and down steep, paved with round stones, where colonial inns abound today painted yellow or blue, and from three centuries ago as slaves carried in chairs upholstered in silk the ladies of the aristocracy. The architecture of Ouro Preto is the testimony of this splendor. So in 1980 he was declared Cultural Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO.
The city is famous for its churches: St. Francis of Assisi, Our Lady of Pilar de la Concepcion, Rosario, Santa Iphigenia among the best known. Seers are said to elude to Ouro Preto, by strong human impact that occurs when walking through the city. Some of that energy is felt in the theater golden reflections of the Nossa Senhora do Pilar Church, that seems lit from within by religious gold and baroque decoration.
You can see the rustic church statues of slaves, (Santa Iphigenia, the saint of Ethiopia), where even the pope is black. It seems that Santa Iphigenia became possible through the generosity of Chico Rei, a slave who bought his freedom with his own gold mine Encardideira.
The statements of the ceiling paintings of the Sao Francisco de Assis church, a place where you can see the work of Manuel da Costa Ataíde. This church was built in 1766 and is the masterpiece of Aleijadinho.
In other details, the Ouro Preto contradictory past comes to light. It is evident in the signs of Masonry, hidden in the pyramid of seven steps in front of an altar. Or in the sculpted decoration of shells (used as currency to buy slaves and among the captives, for fortune telling), which appear in St. Iphigenia.
And finally, a visit to the Museum of Inconfidencia, a few blocks of those three churches, reveals that the first statues of saints sculpted in Ouro Preto, was enlisted to be all over Brazil in the religious processions (had a hole well hidden inside, to smuggle gold).
Bon voyage to Ouro Preto!