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Congonhas Overview

Yet another historical town in the Minas Gerais State, Congohas has some of the most important works of Baroque art and architecture, including the Basilica do Senhor Bom Jesus Matosinhos, for which the city is famous. Situated in a valley and surrounding by impressive mountains, this historic town is only an hour from Belo Horizonte, making it a great day excursion to explore the gold-painted sculptures and the intricate and lavish Brazilian sacred art.

Basilica do Senor Bom Jesus de Matosinhos
This beautiful cathedral sits on a hill overlooking the town, offering an amazing view of Congonhas and the surrounding hills. In front of the building are gardens and six white chapels, each containing Aleijadinho's life-size sculptures of the Via Cruces of Christ. Inside the cathedral are 66 soap stone sculptures of prophets also by Aleijadinho. The church was built by Feliciano Mendes, a rags-to-riches Portuguese explorer who paid for the construction after he was cured from a debilitating illness.

The Historic Center
Most monuments can be found on the Rua Bom Jesus Street, including the Church of Our Lady of the Pilar, which houses works that are the pinnacle of the Brazilian Golden Age. The sculptures painted in pure gold are just one of the many examples of the wealth brought by the discovery of gold in the nearby mines. The Museum of the School of Mines has an interesting collection of geological artifacts from around the world and houses historical information and relics from the mining camps that reigned in the colonial era.

In the 17th and 18th centuries Congonhas was an important mining town that contained huge fortunes of gold. In 1796 the mineral wealth made it possible to commission the great works of the renowned sculptor, Aleijadinho, and other historical monuments. The city also gained notoriety in the 1960's because of the cures being made by the medium called Ze Arigo, which drew people from all over Brazil and the world in search of healing.

Getting There Congonhas is about 1 hour drive from Belo Horizonte, and is reached by the BR 040 highway. For information how to get to Ouro Preto, Belo Horizonte, or any of the mining towns in Minas Gerais, please consult the transportation section on the Belo Horizonte page.

There are many hotels and inns that have a charming and rustic feel. The best place to stay is the Colonial Hotel overlooking the church and gardens. The more modern Max Mazza Hotel is also an option, which is located at Av. Julia Kubitscheck 410.

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