Church and Monastery of Saint Benedict
Olinda, Pernambuco, Brazil
Benedictine monks arrived in Olinda in 1592, installing themselves in the Church of Saint John. After 1595, they moved to the Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount. From 1597 to 1599, they built a small monastery on a site they acquired near the river port of Varadouro. Only a few pieces from this building’s altarpiece now remain. The Marin d’Olinda print shows how it once looked, before the damage suffered in the 1631 fire. After 1654, the monks built a much larger church and monastery. It was substantially remodelled in 1750. In the second half of the 18th century, a new chancel was built and received a magnificent altarpiece and tribunes in the northern Portuguese carving style, recalling the carved and gilded woodwork produced by Friar José de Santo António Vilaça at the order’s Monastery of Tibães in Braga. Similarly decorated tribunes make the chancel an excellent example of Braga-style baroque architecture and ornamentation. In the 19th century, the monastery’s façade was subject to further renovation during the administration of Friar Filipe de São Luís Paim. With the goal of reviving the order in Olinda after 1895, monks were brought over from the Belgian congregation of Beuron. The monastery was restored and has a neo-classical appearance which does not alter the former arrangement of solid walls and openings. It contains rich silverwork and beautiful images of the Benedictine heavenly court. The whole complex is very well preserved.