Before I left for Brasil, Bernie and I talked about a few things I really wanted to see while I was there. Near the top of my Wish List was the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi (Igreja de Sao Francisco de Assis). I knew it was in his city somewhere. And a little of its history.
It was the dream of the mayor of the city in the 1940s who continued in his political career to become the President of Brasil (and is still something of a local hero). The architect is said to have been inspired by a French poet who said, "A church is God's hangar on earth," but the Archbishop saw it as "the devil's bomb shelter." and unfit for religious purposes.
So, although it was completed in 1943, it wasn't consecrated until 1959. One mayor of the district tried to have it condemned and demolished and when that failed, abused it by filling it with altars and monuments of various styles that did not fit the building. It was finally taken over by the National Department of Artistic and Historical Patrimony (how grand does that sound?), refurbished, and the archbishop (another one, the original guy had been pensioned off by then) finally agreed that the church had "great artistic significance and a spiritual atmosphere" and it was consecrated.
I think you'd have to be on a boat on the lake to get the best view of it without the ferris wheel and suburb of Pampulha in the shot.
The lake was built in the early 1940s under the administration of the same mayor who commissioned the church. He used the church architect to design a group of buildings that became a reference point and influence on modern Brazilian architecture. It's a shame the administration of today don't share his vision, the lake is dreadfully polluted and smelly.
There were a number of diggers working up one end of the lake, so perhaps they are starting to clean it up in preparation for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. I hope so. Apart from the colour of the water and the smell, it is beautiful.
The Palacio da Liberdade was a surprise. One Sunday we'd stopped for a stroll around Liberty Square in the heart of the city, a lovely park with huge trees and long shady avenues. It is surrounded for the most part by lovely old buildings. I think I have this right, the streets around the square form the Circuito Cultural Praça da Liberdade (Liberty Square Cultural Circuit) comprised of 12 cultural venues.
The Governor's Palace is splendidly framed by tall palms in the square. We strolled in that direction, then Bernie noticed there were people entering the palace grounds and guessed it might be open to visitors.
Palácio da Liberdade (Liberty Palace), a former seat of government is now a museum that is open on Saturday and Sundays. Lucky us.
The queue wasn't very long but Bernie managed to get me seated in a deep comfy armchair while we waited our turn to join a guided group. Getting up out of the chair was a mission!
The 1897 palace is very grand with 30 elaborately decorated rooms.
The guide sounded very knowledgable. Bernie's girlfriend, Roberta, found a glossy book about the building somewhere, probably while I was engulfed in that chair, and offered it to me. I should not have accepted, I can't understand a word of it. If I could I'd be able to tell you more about the pics above.