Church and Convent of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Church and Convent of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil

Religious Architecture

During his stay in Recife, the governor João Maurício de Nassau (1637-1644) built two palaces, the Palace of Friburgo, or Torres, and the Palace of Boa Vista. The latter has a high central body and a hipped roof, nd is ringed by a low body with four turrets with arrow-shaped roofs at each corner in the Dutch style. Following the Dutch surrender (1654), the palaces became royal property. The Carmelite friars, interested in founding a convent in Recife, were housed in the Palace of Boa Vista. After obtaining royal permission, the Order began building the convent in 1685, beginning with the church. But it was never completed. The chancel, where the construction of the church began, received a great deal of support from Captain Diogo Cavalcanti de Vasconcelos, who was buried there in 1703. However, the greatest support came from Captain António Fernandes de Matos, who was responsible for the main work on the church and convent. In 1696, the building work had reached the height of the church cross. It was fully completed only in 1767. The architectural model adopted for the church was a design used up to the last years of the 17th century, in which side and intercommunicating chapels are placed next to the nave together with an extremely deep chancel. In accordance with this plan, the transept, which has no cupola, is defined by two large chapels. The interior carving is varied and dates from different periods. It could be said that the church is an exemplar of its type. The high altar is in the rococo style. The wooden groin vaults of the chancel date from the 19th century and are a feature of the neo-Gothic style of that period. The transept altars are from the reign of King João V, although they have undergone subsequent modifications. The six-nave altars, which were formerly behind the intercommunicating chapels, date from the baroque period of King João VI and King José I. The six intercommunicating chapels were covered with cupolas with skylights. Three of them still exist. The nave altars were transferred to the entrance arches of these old chapels. The nave has a fine painted ceiling. The church façade dates back to 1767 and is a masterpiece of rococo design and craftsmanship, making it one of the artistic highpoints of 18th-century Recife. The origin of the belvedere located on one of the convent wings remains a subject of discussion. Oral tradition suggests that it was the central part of the Palace of Boa Vista, initially occupied by friars and escaping demolition. A superficial analysis confirms structural and stylistic differences between the belvedere and the remaining wing of the block. Only archaeological research (due to be carried out) will determine a definitive answer.

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