Recife and Olinda

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Church of the Sea - built upon the founding of Olinda and destroyed by the Dutch, and rebuilt, and burned and.... The pillars are sandstone - common building material for such buildings. The side altar is done in a baroque style, but one that is different than in Europe.

April 27, 2005 - Sailed into Recife's harbor and tied up around noon. We took a tour of Recife and Olinda - first in a big air conditioned bus (thank-god) and then small minivans up to Olinda's old town, then back to the big buses.
Olinda was founded in 1535 and Recife in 1537 by the Portugese. Recife is a large town (2 million or so), the state capital, and quite modern. It is a beach resort and you might think you were in Miami.
Our guide is an attorney, he does this to practice his english, and was very good at showing us the good and the bad, the poor/slums and the nicer areas. Lots of use of color on the stucco and brick buildings.
The old portion of Olinda is now undergoing preservation. The streets are cobblestone and quite steep.

the area beside the church - lots of rebuilding


one of the main streets - cobblestone

Brazil is 75% catholic (down in the last 10 years from 98%) and very important to their culture. Churches are everywhere you look. Some in great disrepair.
Our guide took us down the market street to another church - the Church of Mercy. On the way we were besieged by men, women and children selling everything imaginable and begging. Some of the items are obviously mass produced while a few were truely hand - crafted. The only real tempting portion were the wonderful smells from one booth - Tio Fria's - I only wish I could have dared to try her "tacos".

Old Olinda and modern Recife


Market street with Church of Mercy in the distance.

The Church of Mercy is a Benedictine church founded by the same German sub-order as the new Pontiff - a point they made several times. It is very much in the Grand Baroque style. It is different than the Baroque found in Europe. They really made it their own here in Brazil. The ceiling is magnificent and I wish I could have spent more time studying it. Each "icon" had vibrant colors and the ceiling over the main altar was even more vibrant. The colors are all from natural local products including blood. Unfortunately they have trouble with lots of pests that infest wood so they are having trouble preserving their buildings.

Ceiling of the Church of Mercy and one of the altars. Done in the late 1500's, the roof is painted with natural dyes occuring locally.

IMG_3226.JPG We left the old town of Olinda and reboarded the coach for the main square in Recife. The square contains trees, each of which is a different type and represents something special to the history of Brazil. One of the trees they pointed out is the Brazilwood. With my renewed interest in dyeing, here is the tree which was used to make red dye; some of which I have at home for another project.
Around the corner from the main square they took us to the Golden Chapel. This museum and active monastery is right downtown. The museum has a room of religous garb with some embroidery. But more importantly, the silk damasks showed patterns which are quite familiar -- Italian damasks that have been made from the middle ages to present times. Sorry no photos permitted.

One of the entry walls done in Portugese (not Dutch) blue tile work.


Will in the park in Government Square with the Government House behind him. In this Square are various trees - each type of which represents part of the history of Brazil.

The Golden Chapel is again the Brazilian Baroque and dates to the mid-17th C. The paintings that cover the walls are classic reformation. While we were there, the choir was practicing both acapella and with the organ. It was lovely and the accoustics divine.
The accompanying church sanctuary walls were covered in the Portugese blue tiles. Really quite lovely. Almost makes me want to know more about Catholic liturgy so I would understand the stories and symbolism.

Government Square


Casa de Cultura - until 1995 it was a prison. Now it houses shops that show the local arts and crafts.

The last stop, before returning to the ship, was at the Casa de la Cultura. For 100 years it was a prison. In 1995 it was converted into shops. Each shop specializing in different types of handicrafts. Many of the shops sold hamacks, made of the same material as table cloths and placemats - a type of woven cotton. Some had fine cotton and lace clothing or table linens. These also usually had some form of crocheted clothing, but all in small sizes or in colors that did not suit - unfortunately as they were nice. Many had wood carved objects and "tourist" stuffs. There were 2 leather shops but neither were of fine quality. The jewelry shops were nice, but no real bargains. In short we got off cheap - this time.
By then it was dark and time to rush back to the ship for a quick shower and rush to dinner.
A good day all in all.

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All text and photos copyright Robin Berry and William Ringer 2005.