Convent and Church of Saint Mary of the Angels

Convent and Church of Saint Mary of the Angels

Penedo, Alagoas, Brazil

Religious Architecture

The founding of the Convent of Saint Mary of the Angels in Penedo, together with that of the Franciscan convents of Saint Christopher and Saint Marechal resulted from the Chapter meeting of 1657. All three correspond to an extension of the sphere of influence of Pernambuco (with their mother institution in Olinda). The first stone of the church was laid in 1682, and by 1689 the chancel had already been completed. The dormitories were built at the same time and completed five years later. Work on the sacristy, transversal to the chancel, was begun in 1722 and contains a curious locally-made washbasin. The church façade appears to be the result of two different construction campaigns. The first must have taken place after the donation of the corresponding land in 1716 and resulted in the three arches on the ground floor, which followed the model defined in Ipojuca. The second campaign, completed in 1759 (as inscribed on the façade), resulted in the windows on the second floor and the magnificent pediment that crowns them, one of the most original and surprising architectural creations of colonial Brazil. The high altar and the remarkable set of gilded wood carvings connecting the side altars to the triumphal arch probably date from the mid-18th century. The date of the cavernous chapel of the Tertiaries, complete with its own sacristy behind the chancel and side aisles, is uncertain, but it was redecorated in 1784, the year that Libório Lázaro painted the ceiling of the main nave. During this time, the cloister was being reconstructed – work which was partially finished in 1783 (but not completed until 1820). The cloister is unusual because of the stone decoration that fills the empty space between the arches, a unique example among the Franciscan convents of northeast Brazil.

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