Parish Church of Saint Antony
Tiradentes, Minas Gerais, Brazil
It is likely that the first Chapel of Saint Antony, built by the founders of the arraial, served as a parish church as early as 1710, the year in which the Brotherhood of the Blessed Sacrament was officially created. In 1732, the brethren sent a petition to the Portuguese Crown asking for financial support to place wooden floors and ceilings in the new church they were building out of rammed earth, “as the former was of wattle-and-daub (pau-a-pique), small, and in ruins”. The building was built at the top of a hill, with a large embankment at the front. By the following year, work on the interior decoration was already under way. Between 1733 and 1741, the woodcarver João Ferreira Sampaio worked on the crossing arch, the elegant choir and the chancel. The chancel is entirely covered with carved and gilded woodwork in the King João V style, but also featuring elements that already show the influence of the rococo, according to G. Bazin. The two side oval panels were painted by João Batista in 1737. The six altars in the nave were constructed before the high altar and display much less sophisticated work. In 1752, the church was essentially finished, as in that year the painter António de Caldas was paid for the gilding work. He might also have been responsible for the painting of the ceilings. In 1786, the Brotherhood of the Blessed Sacrament ordered a new organ from Portugal; the mechanical part was purchased in Porto and the woodcarver Salvador de Oliveira was hired to design the structure and do the carving, which was painted and gilded by Manoel Victor de Jesus in 1798. The panelled and three-faceted ceiling of the nave features a painting in shades of green, ochre and gold by an unknown artist. According to Bazin, in the early 19th century, the original frontispiece (constructed around 1750) was “outdated”, and in 1810 the Master O Aleijadinho – already extremely weakened by illness – received 10 eighths (oitavas) of gold (80 ounces) to make a new design. However, the artist limited himself to modifying the upper part of the façade, in other words the towers and the pediment – proposing a “neoclassical stylisation of the shell-shaped pediment” that had been used in the Franciscan church at São João del-Rei. Contrary to what was believed until recently, the design of the doorway, dating from 1807, was not by O Aleijadinho, but rather by the woodcarver Salvador de Oliveira, as proved by recently identified documentary sources. Cláudio Pereira Viana was the master builder entrusted with the construction of the frontispiece (in rammed earth, bricks and mortar, including the rococo decorations), as well as the staircase and balustrade of the forecourt (1818-1820). The soapstone sun-dial – which has become a symbol of the city – was made in 1785 by Leandro Gonçalves Chaves. The church was listed in 1949 and underwent several restorations during the following decades.