Chapel of Our Lady of Help
Santa Rita, Paraíba, Brazil
According to tradition, the chapels of Our Lady of Help and Our Lady of the Battles (which are 1.3 kilometres apart) were built in fulfilment of a vow after a Portuguese victory in a battle against the Dutch in 1636, the site of which the chapels mark. This appears to have been the origin of both chapels as there is no evidence of there having been any sugar plantations in this location. Oliveira notes how the Chapel of Our Lady of Help has been associated since its origin with salvation through religion and the violence of the Portuguese conquest of Brazil. This is reflected in the architecture, which combines Catholic symbols with arrow slits and cannon emplacements. This military character, which is typical of plain architecture, is also evident in the low and heavy volumes of the building. The porch, which features Tuscan columns, was classified by Gomes as the most erudite in the region of Pernambuco and inspired the design of the porch of the Chapel of Our Lady of the Exile, located about 14 kilometres away. The interior decoration contrasts with the austere exterior. The altar steps are of baroque design; the masonry of the crossing arch shows significant remnants of blue and red colouring; and the rococo decoration of the altarpiece has traces of gilding. Listed by IPHAN in 1938, the chapel underwent repairs in 1960, 1971, 1982 and 2005, which involved removing the guard-rail and imposts of the porch. The chapel of Our Lady of the Battles, listed by IPHAN, collapsed in 1987 and was rebuilt.