Church of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos and of Saint Michael and the Souls (Cabeças)

Church of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos and of Saint Michael and the Souls (Cabeças)

Ouro Preto, Vila Rica, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Religious Architecture

As in other localities in the Minas region and in Portugal itself, the worship of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos (the Good Jesus of Matosinhos) is linked in this church to the worship of Saint Michael and the Souls, also being dedicated to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. It was in 1771 that the residents of Passa Dez (in the Bairro das Cabeças, in the western part of the city) obtained permission from the Bishop of Mariana to build a chapel for the worship of those saints. Master Pedro Francisco Rodrigues Lajes finished the work on the frontispiece in 1778; a new contract was made with the stonemason Pedro Miguel Moreira Gomes in 1783 for the erection of the towers with domed cupolas and pinnacles. There is a wall fountain dating from 1763 in the churchyard. Although built in the late 18th century, this church resembles other religious buildings from the first half of that century, having a triangular pediment, two square towers and two windows at the level of the choir. The portal, surmounted by a niche, is the most interesting feature: according to Myriam R. de Oliveira, this is the only case of a return to the “traditional scheme of the niche with a statue”, which was widely used in the mid-18th century in the Minas region and became obsolete in the late 1770s. This work was associated with O Aleijadinho by a councillor from Mariana in the late 18th century, but, according to this same scholar, this is an attribution that raises several stylistic questions. What is known for sure is that some features bear the unmistakable mark of the master, such as the series of three heads of cherubs above the arch, which can also be found in the Churches of Saint Francis in Ouro Preto and São João del Rei. Inside, the decoration is extremely simple, but there is a beautiful set of religious statues and two paintings attributed to Master Ataíde.

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