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|Mariana & Ouro Preto • Brazil|
|October 13th, 2006
Mariana, Brazil • Organ Concert
|Located in the interior, mountainous state of Minas Gerais, the small colonial town of Mariana was an unplanned stop on our way to Ouro Preto. Its claim to fame are the many 2-story elaborate colonial houses built in the 1700’s and the Cathedral, Basilica de Nossa Senhora da Assuncao, which gives free organ concerts on Friday at 11am and Sunday at noon. As it happened, we would be close to Mariana at about 10am on Friday, so we made the stop to hear the concert from the famous wooden German organ, built in 1701. The history of the organ and a bit about the pieces to be played were explained to us by the lady who greeted us at the door of the Cathedral, who turned out to also be the organist! The organ is an intricate work of art with the organ pipes surrounded by cherubs, all beautifully painted. It is 1 of only a few of these organs left in the world, and was therefore carefully restored in 2004 by the preservation society in Germany for this type of organ. (There was a whole sheet of information about the organ given to us, but it is packed away, and I can’t remember the exact details). The concert was absolutely fantastic and well worth arranging a schedule around if going to be in the vicinity on those particular days.
Photos were not allowed inside the cathedral, even without flash, but I did manage pictures of the organ, and a few interior, including the ceiling paintings. There is work by Aleijadinho in this, and the other 2 main churches in Mariana. I’ll be saying more about Aleijadinho when we get to Congonhas in a couple of days.
The travel books say that positioned around the Plaza Minas Gerias is the “finest group of colonial buildings in Brazil”. They include 2 churches: Sao Francisco and Nossa Senhora do Carmo, along with the Casa da Camara e Cadeia, that was originally the government building (with the jail in the bottom). All were built from the mid to late 1700’s. The pelourinho, stone pillar at which the slaves used to be beaten, has been turned into a monument to Justice. The buildings in Mariana are the first we have seen where the fascinating use of carved soapstone is the primary ornamental feature, as opposed to wood.
One funny twist to this little town . . . Mariana was one the Capital city of the state of Minas Gerias. In its honor, there is a “change of government location” on July 12 each year where the government authorities from Belo Horizonte have a ceremony proclaiming Mariana the capital of MG for the day. Then all goes back to normal on July 13.
The weather had turned stormy, so we left Mariana for Ouro Preto to find a campsite before it started raining too badly.
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