Church of Saint Peter and Chapel of the Third Order of Saint Francis of Assisi

Church of Saint Peter and Chapel of the Third Order of Saint Francis of Assisi

Rio Grande, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

Religious Architecture

Although it was raised to the status of a parish church in 1747, the Church of Saint Peter in Rio Grande was a precarious building. It had not been fit for purpose since 1750 because a bolt of lightning had struck a gunpowder magazine that stood beside it and set the church on fire, leaving it in ruins. Although the church was rebuilt, structural decay, humidity and the constant formation of sand dunes around it impeded the holding of religious ceremonies. After receiving a report from the parish priest, Rio de Janeiro’s governor, Gomes Freire de Andrade, who was in Rio to begin the demarcation of the boundaries established by the Treaty of Madrid, visited the church with his group of military engineers, and this inspection resulted in the construction of the new church. The project was designed by an assistant gunner who worked as an engineer, Manuel Vieira Leão, and dates back to 1755. Its floor plan is the only known one of its kind among 18th-century churches in Rio Grande do Sul. The Chapel of Saint Francis of Assisi was built in the same city, behind the Parish Church of Saint Peter, in the late 18th century. Its construction began in 1792 and in 1794 it was donated to the Third Order of Saint Francis, only being completed, however, as late as 29th October 1814, when the Order donated its altar with the images of Saint Peter and Saint Paul to the Parish Church of Saint Peter. It is assumed that the designer of the latter project was Colonel Francisco João Roscio, a leading figure in Portuguese military engineering during the colonial period. The entire complex of buildings is very sober. The Chapel of the Third Order displays a more popular taste, possibly because it did not follow the original project. Both churches were recognised as Brazilian national heritage in 1938 and underwent major restoration work in the late 1990s. Nowadays, the building of the Chapel of the Third Order is used as the Rio Grande Sacred Art Museum.

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