Sanctuary and College of Caraça
Catas Altas, Minas Gerais, Brazil
The name of the Caraça (big face) mountains and nature reserve derives from the colonisers’ perception that the range’s profile resembled a human face. A chapel was built here around 1774, dedicated to Our Lady the Mother of Men, as well as a house to shelter missionaries, on the initiative of a certain Brother Lourenço from the Lamego bishopric. Some historians hold that he was really José Policarpo de Azevedo, one of the figures involved in the attempt to assassinate King José I (1768), who had taken refuge in Brazil to escape capital punishment. The original features of the house and chapel are known from an old drawing apparently used as a model for the Seminary of Mariana. When he died in 1819, the founder left all his property to the prince regent, requesting that a teaching institution be established at the site. The resulting college was founded in 1820 by two Lazarist priests designated by King João VI. In 1883, a building in the neo-Gothic style replaced the original chapel; elements from the latter are nevertheless still identifiable, such as the floor flagstones and some religious images, as well as the altars painted and gilded by master Ataíde, who also painted the canvases embellishing the church, among them the famous depiction of the Last Supper. One of the college’s wings was destroyed by a fire in 1968, which also affected the library. In the 1980s, the complex was subject to a thorough and ambitious restoration.