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Convent of San Antonio

Convent of San Antonio (46)

Built in 1608 by Franciscan monks, the Convent and Church of San Antonio, along with the Church of St. Francis of Penance, make up the oldest religious complex in Rio de Janeiro. 

It is worth noting that the current structure of the complex is an extension dating from 1780, a variation of the original architectural skeleton, since when the convent began to be inhabited in 1615, it was not large enough to meet the demands of faithful.

Step into the Church of the Convent. Its baroque style merely frames the wonderful altarpieces within it, to the sides: the Immaculate Conception and St. Francis of Assisi, which support the central altarpiece, a wonderful image dedicated to San Antonio. However, if you really want to be impressed, you mustn't miss the Sactistía. Here you can see the representation of the Miracles of San Antonio through original tiles dating from the early 18th century. This, together with the different shades and colours of marble that cover the floor, makes this room one of the most beautiful in the whole convent. 

Annexed to the side of the Church of San Antonio is one of the most impressive baroque chapels in the city, the Golden Chapel. And as soon as you enter, you'll understand how it got its name. All decorative details were made and carved in cedar and covered with sheets of 22-carat gold. This spectacular chapel was built between the 18th and 19th centuries, and its large number of sculpted, balustered and arabesque works are the 17 framed paintings representing the saints of the Order of San Francisco. The convent also houses the Imperial Mausoleum, where the remains of the friars of the convent along with the Brazilian Imperial Family were laid to rest in 1937.

But for many, the highlight is not the structure, altarpieces or the convent chapel, but the story behind one of the Franciscan monks who lived within these walls. Between 1776 and 1820, the Chapter House of the Convent of San Antonio served as a university. It is said that Fray Sampaio, political mentor of Don Pedro I, was the one who wrote the famous speech that the son of King John VI delivered on 9 January 1822, marking the beginning of Brazil's independence from Portugal, when Pedro I proclaimed his desire to stay in the country.

And since you're walking around this complex, you should visit the Church of St. Francis of Penance, which was built in 1657 on land that Franciscan monks gave to the Third Order of San Francisco and is considered a work of baroque art and culture. Adorned with ornate carvings and gold ornaments, I recommend you look up and observe what are considered to be the first Brazilian paintings to simulate perspective, which were produced between 1736 and 1741 and represent the Glorification of San Francisco. Along with the Museum of Sacred Art in the building, they are one of the most attractive features of the church.

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