Sao Joao del Rei Tourist Attractions
São João del ReiSituation and CharacteristicsSão João del Rei, situated in the south of Minas Gerais 200km/125mi from Belo Horizonte, was founded during the gold rush at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries, and was one of the main areas of conflict in the "War of the Emboabas" (1708-09), when the bandeirantes from São Paulo who had discovered the gold fought the Portuguese and Brazilians from other parts of the country who flocked into the região das minas (mining region) for control of the area. The Rio das Mortes ("River of Death"), with its old stone bridges, and the patrician houses of the colonial period still mark the pattern of the town. São João del Rei was the birthplace of José da Silva Xavier, known as Tiradentes, leader of the Inconfidentes, and President Tancredo Neves.Bus stationRua Cristóvão Colombo 599
Chapels of the Passion
Chapels of the PassionSeven Stations of Christ's Passion were erected in the 18th century at various points in the town center - in Rua Getúlio Vargas, Largo do Rosário, Praça Barão de Itambé, Largo da Cruz (or Praça Paulo Teixeira) and Rua Padre José Maria Xavier.
Nossa Senhora do Pilar
N.S. do PilarIn Rua Getúlio Vargas is the Cathedral of Nossa Senhora do Pilar (1721), with gilded altars.
Nossa Senhora do Rosário
N.S. do RosárioSouth-west of the Cathedral is Largo do Rosário (Praça Gastão da Cunha), with the church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário (1719).
Museum of Sacred Art
Museum of Sacred ArtSouth-west of the Cathedral is Largo do Rosário (Praça Gastão da Cunha), with the Museum of Sacred Art (Museu de Arte Sacra) and two patrician houses, the Solar dos Lustosas and the Solar dos Neves.
Nossa Senhora do Carmo
N.S. do CarmoRua Getúlio runs north-east from the Cathedral to Praça Carlos Gomes, with the church of Nossa Senhora do Carmo (1734). Close by are theChafariz do Largo do Carmo, a 19th century fountain, and the Solar da Baronesa de Itaverava.
São Francisco de Assis
São Francisco de AssisSouth-west of Praça dos Expedicionários is Praça Frei Orlando, on which are some of the town's most important buildings. The square is dominated by the magnificent church of São Francisco de Assis, built in 1774 to the design of Aleijadinho, with sculpture by him. On the façade of this Baroque church with its slightly outward-curving side walls is relief carving in soapstone, including the coat of arms of the Third Franciscan Order and the arms of the Portuguese Crown.
Nossa Senhora das Mercês
N.S. das MercêsOn Praça Barão de Itambé, north-west of the Cathedral, is the church of Nossa Senhora das Mercês (1853). In the same square is the pelourinho (pillory; 1812).
Regional MuseumSouth-east of the Cathedral on Largo Tamandaré (Avenida Presidente Tancredo Neves), is the Regional Museum (Museu Regional), housed in a building of 1859, with documents, photographs, craftsmen's equipment and other material illustrating the history of the region.
Avenida Presidente Tancredo Neves runs along the Rio das Mortes into the main road to Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro. On the other side of the river is Avenida Hermílio Alves, on which is the well-stocked Railway Museum (Museu Ferroviário), in a 19th century building.
War Veterans Museum
The War Veterans Museum is located on Avenida Hermílio Alves.
Paço MunicipalThe Paço Municipal (Town Hall) stands in Rua Ministro Gabriel Passos, a side street off Avenida Hermílio Alves, which runs into Praça dos Expedicionários. In this square are the Casa da Fundição (formerly the Gold Control Office), a colonial building now occupied by a school, and the Chafariz da Legalidade ("Fountain of Legality"; 1833).
Casa de Bárbara
Casa de BárbaraOn Praça Frei Orlando are the house of Bárbara Heliodora, muse of the poet and Inconfidente rebel Inácio José de Alvarenga Peixoto, and the Solar do Barão de São João del Rei.
Capela do Bonfim
Capela do Bonfim1km/.7mi from the town, at what was once the place of execution, is the Capela do Bonfim (1704).
Cristo RedentorOn the hill of Senhor dos Montes, 3km/2mi from the town center, is a statue of Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer).
Gold-mineIn Rua Silvério Carazza, on the way to the former Prison, is the Presidente Tancredo Neves Gold-Mine.
Heliodora LibraryThe Municipal Library (1827) has documents of historical interest.
There are several towns and attractions in the area surrounding São João del Rei.
TiradentesThe little town of Tiradentes, named after the hero of the independence movement, grew rapidly during the gold rush but now has fewer than 10,000 inhabitants. The finest of its religious buildings is the principal church, Santo Antônio (1710), which has gilded altars and a brightly painted organ made in Portugal in 1788. The façade (1810) was one of Aleijadinho's last works. The most striking feature of the interior is the choir, with festoons on the ceiling and carved pilasters. The Padre Toledo Museum occupies the house of Padre Toledo, one of the leaders of the Inconfidància Mineira, in which the conspirators used to meet. Also of interest is the Casa da Gravura, which preserves 18th century lithographic stones. Tiradentes provides the backgrounds for all Brazilian telenovelas (soap operas) set in the period of slavery.
Old-time railwayOn Sundays and public holidays an old steam train runs from the station in São João del Rei to Tiradentes (14km/8.7mi). The journey, on a line constructed in 1880, takes about half an hour and runs through beautiful scenery. At each end of the line the narrow-gauge locomotives are turned round by hand on small turntables. In the engine shed are three dozen of the old engines known as Maria-Fumaça ("Smoky Mary").
Barbacena60km/37mi south-east of São João del Rei and 170km/106mi south of Belo Horizonte is Barbacena (pop. 115,000), which has a number of colonial buildings, including the Solar dos Andrades, the Palácio da Revolução Liberal ("Palace of the Liberal Revolution"), now the meeting-place of the Town Council, and the principal church, Nossa Senhora da Piedade (1743-64).
PradosThe little town of Prados, 26km/16mi north-east of São João del Rei, has many 18th century churches, including Nossa Senhora da Conceição (1711) and Nossa Senhora da Penha da França do Bichinho (1771). Here too is the Fazenda do Coqueiro, now protected as a national monument.
Map of Sao Joao del Rei Attractions