Church and Convent of Saint Antony

Church and Convent of Saint Antony

Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Religious Architecture

The Franciscans arrived at Rio de Janeiro in 1592. They initially occupied the chapel of Saint Lucy and in 1615 they moved to the convent that was still under construction and which had been begun seven years earlier in keeping with the design of Friar Francisco dos Santos. The church was finished in 1620. It was fitted out with Mannerist altarpieces (since disappeared) and eighteen busts of the holy martyrs of Japan, which still decorate the parapet of the upper choir. The church has a single nave. The original chapel of the Third Order is built at right angles to it, a solution commonly used by the Franciscans in Brazil. The present-day wood carving of concentric circles in the chancel and on the corner altarpieces of the crossing arch is in the Portuguese style and was done in the second decade of the 18th century. The entire chancel is covered with carved and gilded woodwork and pictorial panels. It is the only work of this kind still remaining in the city of Rio de Janeiro. A huge arch communicates with the chapel of Our Lady of the Conception in the nave. With a decoration in the style that came after that of the chancel, i.e. the style from the reign of King João V, the area is also entirely covered with carved and gilded woodwork. The chapel contains the tomb of the Spanish prince Dom Pedro Carlos. Designed by Costa e Silva, it is a monument of classical-style features that partially clash with the rest of the whole, but it is of great importance since it is the only work recognised as having been done by the architect in Rio de Janeiro. In 1928, alterations made by the friars completely changed the church façade and the triangular pediment was replaced with an ogee pediment in the baroque style. The convent, which is still in use, is rectangular. It has several chapels in the galleries, particularly that of Our Lady of Sorrows, which has a delicate rococo carving. The most noteworthy element in the convent complex is the sacristy. At the back, there is a large chest of drawers made in 1745 by Manoel Alves Setubal. The floor is covered with polychrome marble and the walls are covered with paintings and tile panels depicting landscapes and narrating Saint Antony’s life. The lavabo, standing alone in the middle of the sacristy, is an excellent, monumental sculptural piece made of Estremoz marble, with four dolphins pouring water into shells. It is all surmounted by the representation of purity. It is the only non-parietal lavabo in Rio de Janeiro sacristies.

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