Brazil is a huge, wonderful country with beaches, landscapes and musical rhythms of iconic stature all over the world. But it also boasts imposing architecture that is not less important than the things for which the country is most renowned.
The Portuguese first arrived in Brazil in the early 16th century, and one of their major concerns was to ensure their ownership of the land, leading them to build fortresses and religious sanctuaries. A good example of constructions from that period is the Fort of Santo Antônio da Barra, in Salvador da Bahia. It was the first fort built to protect the city, in the year 1583. The García D’Ávila Castle, likewise from the 16th century and in Praia do Forte, is the only mediaeval type construction in the Americas and it played a crucial role in the protection of the Brazilian coast.
Once the Portuguese had settled, colonial architecture began. It is a foreign style adapted to the local means and the weather. Initially façades were white, with bright colors used only for the window frames and doors. The Jesuits, Franciscans, Carmelites and Benedictines brought the latest European artistic trends to Brazil, mainly baroque and rococo. Sophistication in art, architecture and decoration can be found in the churches, monasteries and convents they built, particularly in Salvador da Bahia, the first capital city of Brazil, between 1549 and 1763. The various religious orders and the wealthiest and most influential families erected the most beautiful baroque buildings of Brazil in Pelourinho. This quarter of Salvador da Bahia features the greatest concentration of colonial architecture in South America and was included by Unesco on its World Heritage List in 1985. It is a privilege to walk through its cobbled streets, along the Largo da Terreiro and in Praça Tomé de Souza. You should make it a point to visit the Church of the Third Order of St. Francis, in the Plateresque style, and the Igreja e Convento de São Francisco, a church and convent with dazzling golden interiors.
The colonial architecture of Paraty in Rio de Janeiro also stands out.
The early 19th century brought about important changes in the history of Brazilian architecture. When Napoleon invaded Portugal in 1808, Portuguese royalty and many families of the Portuguese nobility fled to Rio de Janeiro, bringing along their own aesthetic inclinations as far as architecture was concerned. Rio de Janeiro has many examples of this architectural style, for instance the National Museum and the Santa Casa de la Misericordia.
In the late 19th and early 20th century a new harmonious blend of various styles came into fashion, under the influence of Paris and the Belle Époque. The Teatro Amazonas in Manaus, called the jungle jewel of the Belle Époque, was erected in 1896 as a tropical miniature replica of La Scala in Milan. The Elevador Lacerda, an Art Déco masterpiece, was the first public elevator in the world; it connects the upper and lower parts of the city of Salvador da Bahia.
These styles were followed by the Neo-colonial style, which sought the true style of Brazil in the past, and Brazilian modernism, which set its sights on the future. Among the works of Brazilian modernism there are many impressive buildings in Brasilia designed by the great architect Oscar Niemeyer.
One of the most famous constructions and something that fills all Brazilians with pride is the Cristo Redentor, standing atop the hill known as Corcovado, a symbol of love and brotherhood that is included among the New 7 Wonders of the World.
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