Blood & Sugar, Places & History
Blood, Sweat, and Prayers
A Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos (The Church Our Lady of the Rosary of the Blacks) is located in and dominates the Largo do Pelourinho. The church was built over a period of a hundred years or so beginning in 1704 (the towers and facade were begun in 1780) by the enslaved members of O Irmandade de Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Homens Pretos do Pelourinho (The Brotherhood of Our Lady of the Rosary of the Black Men of Pelourinho) for their own use (they weren't allowed inside the other churches, you see). One probably would be hard-pressed to find many other churches with statues of black saints so prominently and forthrightly displayed. Work on the church was always done at night so that the slaves' normal daytime work would carry on uninterrupted. There's a slave cemetery out back.
Nossa Senhora do Rosário (Our Lady of the Rosary) was the name given to the Virgin Mary by Saint Dominic (São Domingos de Gusmão, in Portuguese), founder of the Dominicans, who "received" a rosary from Mary in a church in southern France around the year 1200. The Dominicans founded the lay brotherhood of the Rosary in Cologne, Germany, in 1408...the brotherhood arriving in Brazil in 1685 and eventually becoming a society of black men. Before they built their own church the brothers met in one of the side altars of the Igreja da Sé (which was located in today's Praça da Sé and destroyed in 1933 in order to provide a convenient turn-around for Salvador's street cars) before a statue of Nossa Senhora do Rosário. The statue was eventually transferred to their new church and remains there to this day.
The Tuesday evening Mass (6 p.m.) is accompanied by (in part) Afro-Bahian drumming.
Plunder and Splendor
A Igreja de São Francisco (The Church of Saint Francis) and its attached convent are up the cobbled streets and to the left at the far side of the Terreio de Jesus, standing at the end of an adjacent square (Praça Anchieta), beyond a large stone cross. This is where sweat was turned into splendor, and where the descendents of those not allowed to enter in centuries past now gather en masse for Tuesday evening masses (held at 6:00 p.m.). The place is awash in gold leaf, and it hosts a rococo gallery of saints and angels which, again, one would be hard-pressed to find in any other church -- lasciviously voluptuous cherubim (putti), others cockily propped, one arm raised, one hand resting on thrusting hips, protuberant manhoods now chastely and crudely excised -- all carved, of course, by slaves.
The keystone for the present church was laid in 1686.
Masses on Tuesdays at 7 a.m., 8 a.m., 4 p.m., and 6 p.m.; Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:15 a.m. and 6 p.m.; Fridays at 7:15 a.m.; Saturday at 7:30 a.m.; and Sundays at 8 a.m.
Inspired in a house other than that of The Lord?
Interior of the Igreja de São Francisco; construction of the principal altar began in 1708
Away from the main altar, towards the entrance...
The paintings adorning the ceiling are the work of Frei (Brother) Jerônimo de Graça and were begun in 1733.
Natura Moderatrix Optima, according to Horatio. Azulejos dating from 1743-46, in the cloisters.
Thijs Weststeijn has a beautifully conceived and written monograph on the cloister azulejos here...
Catedral Basílica on the Terreiro de Jesus
Naves of the Catedral Basílica
The sacristy; no bones in the drawers, just priestly vestments.
Igreja do Paço, on the Rua do Paço
Igreja do Paço from the Escadaria (Stairway)
Above is a scene from the film O Pagador de Promessas (The Payer - or Keeper - of Promises, which won the 1962 Palm d'Or at Cannes), set on the steps leading up to the Igreja do Passo.
It features capoeira by Mestre Canjiquinha (1925 - 1994) and several of his students, one of whom went by two apelidos (nicknames)...Gigante (because of his small stature), and Bigodinho (because of his little moustache). Irony lost out, and nowadays he is known as Mestre Bigodinho (since this was written Mestre Bigodinho has passed).
The putative day is December 4th, date of the Festa de Santa Bárbara, which to this day remains the area's biggest festival).
Jazigos in the Igreja da Ordem Terceira (Church of the Third Order) de São Francisco
Snow, Sugar, Tides, and a place to run away from...
As for Bahia's oldest church (or more accurately, oldest still existent church), that would be A Igreja da Nossa Senhora das Neves (The Church of Our Lady of the Snows) -- built in 1552 and situated on the Ilha de Maré (Tide Island, itself set in the northern end of the Baia de Todos os Santos). Construction was mandated by Bartolomeu Pires, a catholic priest and owner of one of the island's sugarcane plantations, and, not surprisingly, on the far side of the island a Nagô quilombo was founded (still existent today as the fishing village of Praia Grande -- "Big Beach").
The Mercado Modelo is, in my estimation, and in spite of being a tourist trap, pretty cool. It is located in the lower city across the street from the Elevador Lacerda, and is the old Customs House now transformed into a warehouse of handicrafts stalls. The rear part of the structure is given over to bars (very local) and restaurants (on the street level, and upstairs on a huge balcony). If you want to buy in the Mercado Modelo be prepared to haggle, and be prepared to shake off vendors insistent on selling something to you whether you want to buy or not. I like the (again, very local) scene behind the Mercado Modelo on the lower level, though I could do without the noise level produced by the capoeira there; the drumming reflects from the overhanging roof and can make conversation difficult.
In case you're interested, Salvador's first customs house was built in the upper city by governor Tomé de Souza in 1550. Eventually somebody figured out that it would be easier to have one down by the water, within easy access of incoming ships, and a new customs house was built on the current site in 1861. It functioned there until 1914, when new harbor warehouses were constructed and customs tasks transferred to them. The abandoned and unused customs house (the third actually, the second having been demolished to create a public square) was taken over by handicrafts sellers who moved over after the original Mercado Modelo (which was built in 1912) burned down (in 1969). There was a two-year wait while the customs house was refurbished, and it (or the new Mercado Modelo rather) has been operating since 1971.
The original Mercado Modelo
The site of the old Mercado Modelo is now occupied by a statue by Mário Cravo, the statue officially entitled "Fonte da Rampa do Mercado" ("Fountain of the Market Ramp") but more commonly referred to by locals as "A Bunda" ("The Butt").
Fonte da Rampa do Mercado
Rampa to the left, saveiros (dugout canoes) for fishing center
And a couple of hundred yards beyond this aptly nicknamed construction, out in the bay, there lies another christened comparison to a human part -- Jorge Amado's "belly button of Bahia" (o umbigo da Bahia) -- the Forte São Marcelo.
The "Belly Button" of Brazil...Forte São Marcelo
In 1912 the fort was used by the federal government to bombard the Palácio Rio Branco during a sailors' revolt!
Igreja do Bonfim
The Igreja de Bonfim commands a high position on the peninsula of Itapagipe (an area of land which spreads out from the cidade baixa into the bay) and is notable for being a place of veneration not only for Catholics but for Candomblistas. It is the endpoint of a yearly procession called the Lavegem do Bonfim (Washing of Bonfim), which is more accurately a reference to the washing of the church's steps by mães de santo (candomblé priestesses) who lead the procession from the Mercado Modelo to the igreja. This happens in mid-January, and the procession following the mães de santo is actually an enormous party, with drumming and dancing and eating and drinking slowly spreading from the area around the Mercado Modelo to the area around Bonfim. The church houses a curious room called Sala dos Milagres (Room of Miracles) where people leave votive offerings in thanks for cures, the votives forming a rather bizarre collection of hanging plastic replicas of multitudinous problematic body parts.
The Igreja do Bonfim is closely associated with fitas do Senhor do Bonfim ("fita" is "ribbon", and the Senhor do Bonfim is both Jesus Christ and his syncretized counterpart Oxalá), which are sold by wandering vendors both in Pelourinho and in front of the Igreja do Bonfim itself (unhappily, "sold" isn't really a very good way to put it, "pushed" and "foisted" being more like it). The idea behind the fitas is that they are tied around one's wrist with three knots, the knots corresponding to three wishes made as the knots are tied, and when the fabric wears out and the fita drops off...the wishes will be granted.
The length of the ribbons was originally determined by the length of the right arm of the statue of Jesus at the top.
The length of the fitas (47 centimeters) corresponds to the length of the right arm of a statue of Jesus positioned on the church altar, the statue having been carved in Setúbal, Portugal during the 18th century. The original fitas do bonfim were first produced in 1809, in accordance with common Portuguese custom. They were made from silk, worn around the neck, and were hung with small medallions bearing saints' images. And they were used after a cure via miraculous intervention, after the placing of an image or wax representation of the affected body part within the church (per above).
You see them all over nowadays, one very common place to hang them being the rear view mirror of Salvador's taxi cabs (quite often together with a figa, a good luck charm used to ward off the evil eye).