Church of Saint Iphigenia and of Our Lady of the Rosary of Alto da Cruz

Church of Saint Iphigenia and of Our Lady of the Rosary of Alto da Cruz

Ouro Preto, Vila Rica, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Religious Architecture

The Brotherhood of Our Lady of the Rosary of the Black People of the Parish of António Dias was established in the parish church in 1717, then moved to the small chapel in Alto da Cruz do Padre Faria. The latter, according to tradition, had formerly been dedicated to Saint Iphigenia and, for this reason, the church maintained both names. The building contract for the definitive church was awarded to António Coelho da Fonseca in 1733 and dragged on at least until 1785 (the date inscribed near the cross at the top of the pediment). The Portuguese Manuel Francisco Lisboa, the father of O Aleijadinho, was entrusted with several inspections of the work. He was also one of the main wood suppliers. The design has also been attributed to this master, since it has similar features to the Parish Church of Caeté. The rectangular floor plan is more elegant than that of other churches previously built in the region: since there are no aisles flanking the nave, the volumes of the towers stand out from the main body of the building. According to Myriam R. de Oliveira, this seems to have been the first church in the Minas region “to effectively take advantage of the new construction possibilities offered by the use of stone masonry” and has several innovations: the towers are slightly set back in relation to the frontispiece, the cornerstones are rounded at the edges, the towers have domed roofs, the cornice above the oculus is semicircular in shape (an extremely important detail in the evolution of Minas religious architecture), and the decoration of the portal consists of a niche containing the image of Our Lady of the Rosary. Between 1762 and 1767, the stonemasons Henrique Gomes de Brito and João da Rocha completed the roof of the building. The interior decoration was started in 1747 by Francisco Branco de Barros (responsible for the design and supervision of the work on the altars), Francisco Xavier de Brito and Manuel Gomes da Rocha (responsible for the statuary), Felipe Vieira (the wooden ceiling and the wood carving of the chancel), Jerônimo Félix Teixeira (wood carving). The façade and the staircase leading up to the church were made between 1777 and 1785. The church was remodelled several times throughout the 19th century. Some of the work deprived the building of its original character, particularly that carried out in 1894-1896, which included the repainting (with white oil paint) of the side panels of the chancel, and the altars, pulpits and ceiling of the nave. Those elements were partly restored by IPHAN in the 1960s.

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