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History and Recife’s Capela Dourada

The 18th and 19th century structure of the Capela Dourada is one of the most beautiful colonial infrastructures of Recife Brazil. Its rich altar covered with gold and a well-designed roof attests to the elevated tastes of the era. It is connected to a suite of buildings and a convent, which is tiled with delicate panels with rich religious designs. The Capela Dourada is of course never complete without a visit to the Museu Franciscano de Arte Sacra or the Franciscan Museum of Sacred Art that preserves a collection of rare images and religious objects.

A remarkable monument of Baroque influence, the Capela Dourada also has paintings on its ceilings depicting scenes from religious history and sacred texts. The altar has already been mentioned but it calls to be cited again as one of the finest there is Brazilian architecture. It is actually an arch of two levels made of jacaranda and cedar wood all plated with gold. There is the golden cross of Christ suspended with silver and gold rays shining behind his head. The Capela Dourada is one of those few places in Brazil with well-preserved religious artifacts. It reminds the people of Recife of two things: its colonization and its religious heritage.

There are three reasons then to visit the Capela Dourada: first, the chapel itself with its exquisite Baroque-inspired art as seen in its icons and paintings; second, the Franciscan Museum of Sacred Art, which serves as the repository of Recife's religious history; third, the Church of the Ordem Terceiro de Sao Francisco or the Church of the Order of St. Francisco, which rather has an oil painting of crucified sure to bother your visual life. The painting must have been to the dislike of someone who scratched the faces of the soldiers. Behind the altar are the church archives with twelve cabinets of jacaranda and a collection of records dating back to the 18th century.

People come to the Capela Dourada for many purposes of course, as the number of tourists to Brazil grows every year. They come assuming roles: as pilgrim, as petitioner, and as visually curious. But whatever the purpose or role, the Capela Dourada is place where present meets the past and past mixes with the present. A traveler cannot help but realize that beneath the breath-taking exterior of the chapel preserved down to the ages is a story of a city and a people walled out by its colonial symbols. Thus, from a piece of architectural feat it is transformed into something of historical importance to Recife, in this northeastern part of Brazil.

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