Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Sabará, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Religious Architecture

The Third Carmelite Order of Sabará was established in 1761. Two years later, work began on the building of the church. The initial design was the work of Master Tiago Moreira, who was also entrusted with its construction. The building works were already at a sufficiently advanced stage by 1767 to enable the placement of the image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the church, which was a cause for great celebration. In 1771, the Committee decided to modify the project of the frontispiece and towers, the height of which was increased. It is likely that O Aleijadinho had a say in these changes, since he was carving the sculptures of the pediment and portal at that time. In the latter work, the master introduced a new decorative composition: the cartouche or border crowned and presented by figures of child angels. As Myriam R. de Oliveira noted, although this typology is connected to the model of the borders of crossing arches in the Joanine period, it must also be associated with the motifs found on the façades of Portuguese churches of the Carmelite Order, namely those in the north of the country. One must therefore consider the possibility of the existence of “precise guidelines from the brotherhood-client” with this aim in view. In the interior, the pulpits, choir and balustrades of the nave – with sinuous designs, planned and executed by O Aleijadinho – are noteworthy. According to the above-mentioned specialist, he might also have been the artist who made the carvings of the crossing arch, traditionally attributed to the Portuguese Francisco Vieira Servas – who was responsible for the carving of the high altar in 1806 together with José Fernandes Lobo. The paintings on the ceilings of the nave and chancel were the work of J. Gonçalves da Rocha, painted between 1813 and 1818 and “revealing a naïve and primitive composition”, as well as a “poor colour scheme” – imperfections that were accentuated by the repainting work undertaken some decades later by Second-Lieutenant José Ribeiro da Fonseca.

Cláudia Damasceno Fonseca