The train to Mariana is one of the most scenic things you can do in Ouro Preto.
It´s an old train with wooden decor that winds it way through the mountains to Mariana which is not far away, but it takes about an hour because the track is very steep at times.
The only people who might consider not doing the trip are people who are afraid of heights as there are some very steep climbs right on the side of the mountain.
The price for the ride is (in june 2010) 18 reais for a single ticket and 30 reais for a return ticket.
Ouro Preto, the largest and most homogeneous portuguese colonial style settlement in the world, perches on hilltops at an altitude of 1179 m. It was the first brazilian town to be declared a world's heritage by UNESCO and it is remarkably well preserved.
Praca Tiradentes, with roads leading off it to most of Ouro Preto's sights, is the best place to start a tour of the town. Ouro Preto has several museums as well as thirteen colonial igrejas (churches) that are highly representative of mineiro baroque (and even rococo) architecture. The Minas style is marked by elaborately carved doorways and curving lines. Most distinctive are the interiors; richly painted and decorated with cedarwood and soapstone sculptures, covered with gold. These masterpieces are done by the best artists of those days: a sculptor and architect Antonio Francisco Lisboa, best-known as Aleijadinho, and a painter Manuel de Ataide. Especially Igrejade de Sao Francisco de Assis, Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora do Pilar, Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo and Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosario dos Pretos, built in the 18th century, show the artistry of that time.
The elegant colonial buildings are all over Ouro Preto. One of them is the oldest Teatro Municipal (the Municipal Theatre) in the country which was established in 1770 and it is still open today. To know the history of the town, it is good to visit museums housed in a building from the 18th century. One of them is Museu da Inconfidencia (the Museum of Betrayal) which used to be the old city hall and was later used as a prison.
This church is quite interesting. It is the most famous church in Ouro Preto, and is an incredible example of Mineiro baroque. The construction was started in 1766. It is considered to be the masterpiece of the Brazilian born carpenter, construction supervisor and architect, Antônio Francisco Lisboa, Aleijadinho. He actually carved the whole exterior and interior of the church. The exterior has military symbolism: the cannon waterspouts; military (two-bar) cross; the domes shaped like soldier's helmets.
The paintings inside were the work of Brazilian artist, Manuel da Costa Athaíde. Athaide was born in Mariana and baptized on the 18th of October 1762. We weren't allowed to take photos inside the church, but the ceiling is amazing. Apparently, he never married, but he had four children by either an African woman, or a woman of African descent. He painted the Virgin Mary as an African, and all the surrounding cherubs as mullatto! I think it is just great and really very rebellious, especially considering the era in which it was painted.
There are some mines opened to public, allowing to recreate the hard conditions supported by the old miners.
We visited two of them: the mine of Chico Rei, right in Ouro Preto, and a bigger one in Passagem, close to Mariana, where we descent to the mine using an old trolley (so old that Fernanda decided to stay out of it - claustrophobia, she said...).
In our way up we had a demonstration about how to search gold in the mixture of rocks and water.
There are 14 churches in Ouro Preto and, so I've heard, they all face a different direction. To enter the bigger churches you'll have to pay R$5. You only have to pay once. Personally, I didn't. I hear it's amazing but I went into the free ones. I prefer walking around and meeting locals to going to tourist sites. Either way you go, you should check them out from the outside. Very interesting
Location 12km from Ouro Preto - on the way up to Bel Horizonte and first Capital of the Minas Gerais
Mariana was founded in 1711 - on the spot where the bandeiras found gold
The name of this previous Capital was given as honour to Queen Maria Anna of Austria
wife of Joao V
Who would think that Oscar Niemeyer of all people would find his way to this little colonial pearl, but he did and he build a house here.
It´s suppose to be shaped like a piano and many people will probaply say it´s ugly, but a few people also likes the works of Niemeyer so i thought i would just give it a mention here.
The whole town is a sculpture, composed by hundreds of churches and colonial buildings. It's a delight for our eyes, getting the top of one hill, and... to see the other. Absolutely marvelous.
Though very steep, the town is small, and easy to see in one or two days, if you skip the details. Otherwise.. only the baroque churches are more then 300!
Esta igreja e a famosa igreja de Ouro Preto que contem, todo o altar esculpido por Aleijadinho, alem de outras obras menores do mestre barroco
Thias is the famous church in Ouro Preto, wich has a whole althar sculpted by Aleijanho, who was called this way because, his fingers had fallen down due to a disease called Lepra (Aleijadinho = Criple), this church holds other minor works of the great barroque master
The Oratory Museum is established in the old house of the St. Carmel Novitiate where you can see samplew of Brazilian faith, which was inserted in the daily life of the 18th & 19th centuries. These oratories were molded according to the esthetic beauty of that time, reflecting the ways and customs of a strongly religious society. Also this is a display of effective and anthropological nature, with typical scenes where the use of oratory reflects Brazilian imagery.
It's a tribute to the victims of the cruel crown regim,the place was the first the Municipal Hall,and later,the political prisoners jail in the state.
On its main floor you'll find a monument which holds the mortal remains of the participants in the revolutionary movement,and its original manuscripts.
The upper floor houses religious handcrafts and old furniture from the 18th and 19th.
Igreja Nossa Senhora do Rosario - built by slaves in 1785, with a unique rounded shape - Largo do Rosário 31 3551-4736
Matriz Nossa Senhora do Pilar – the oldest in the city - Praça Monsenhor Castilho Barbosa - 31 3551-4735
Casa dos Contos – in colonial baroque style was the home of a tax collector which later was turned into prison.
Museo de Arte Sacra - Praça Monsenhor Castilho Barbosa in the basement of Nossa Senhora do Pilar - 31 3551-4736
Museo Alejadinho - Rua Brigadeiro Musqueira, on Praca Antonio Dias, in the sacristy of church Nossa Senhora de Conceição, with its 8 decorated altars! Both father and son are buried in this church.
Teatro Municipal - (Opera House). The oldest functioning theater in South America, built in 1770 - Rua Brigadeiro Musqueira
Museo do Oratório – Small or big oratories are shown, used for praying. Some excellently decorated, especially the chinese ones. Rua Brigadeiro Musqueira - 31 3551-5369
Museum of Mineralogy – with an extended collection of minerals and gems - on Praca Tiradentes, 20 - 31 3559-1597 / 3559-3119
There are more churches, bridges, fountains and beautiful houses.
There are nice hikes in the area and don't forget Mariana and Gongonhas!
Look at the photos!
This rococo church is of great beauty. Its construction started in 1776. The two towers are taken a little back so that they do not attract more attention than the beautiful facade, sculptured by Aleijadinho on soapstone. There are other works of his inside carved in wood and soapstone. His sculpture is amazing. Only the baptismal font took him 3 years. The astonishing paintings on the ceiling were the work of Manuel de Costa Ataide. Both artists were considered the most important of the Brazilian colonial art.
The courtyard is ideal for resting as it offers great views of the surroundings.
It is next to the open market.
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The Museum of Inconfidência on Praça Tiradentes is the old town hall which was later turned into prison. Now it is a well organised museum telling the dramatic story of Gold and the revolution against the Portuguese. Important archives and documents, writing and mining tools and interactive screens help the visitors grasp the real history of the region. There is even a game concerning the story of Inconfidencia Mineira. The exploitation of the locals by the Portuguese is pointed out. The building itself is an excellent example of colonial baroque art.
Entrance is 8R$ (3.6$US)
Next to the church of São Francisco de Assis is the open local market. Craftsmen sell their souvenirs here, usually carved in soapstone or wood. Even if you don't buy anything it is worthy of a visit to watch craftsmen carving the stone with great skill!
Someone showed me how fast he could carve beautiful designs on the soapstone. At my amazement he explained he had been doing that since his early childhood!
Look at the photos...