Cities and Historic Buildings
Cultural and Architectural Heritage
The cultural and architectural heritage of buildings is no longer limited to official buildings, churches and large monuments. It can also apply to private buildings, urban stretches, regional customs, traditions, natural environments, pictures, furniture and even utensils.
For this reason, there is a division between material and non-material heritage. Material heritage includes cities and urban spaces, while non-material heritage includes beliefs, customs and traditions, passed on from one generation to the next, including frevo dancing in Pernambuco, the religious procession of Círio de Nossa Senhora de Nazaré in Belém, and the business of women in Bahia selling the typical Acarajé dish.
Brazil stands out not only for its natural beauty but also for its rich architectural heritage, ranging from the baroque, visible in the cities of Diamantina, Ouro Preto and Tiradentes, all in the state of Minas Gerais, through to the modern architecture of Brasília.
Brazil currently has 124 cities declared as historic sites by the Institute for Historic and Artistic National Heritage (Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional – Iphan), nine of which are acknowledged by the United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization (Unesco) as world heritage sites.
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Ouro Preto (MG)
The city, which until 1897 was the capital of Minas Gerais, is famous for its chapels, churches, fountains and bridges, which were built in the 18th Century. The city has masterpieces from the baroque and rococo artistic periods, in which both Portuguese masters and Mineiro artists worked, the most famous being Antônio Francisco Lisboa, better known as Aleijadinho (the Little Cripple). Ouro Preto was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1980.
The historic centre of Olinda, a city founded back in the 16th century, was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1982. Olinda is famous for its buildings, gardens, baroque churches and convents, most of which were built in the 18th century.
São Miguel das Missões (RS)
The ruins at São Miguel das Missões have been a cultural asset of humanity since 1983, together with the Argentinian ruins in San Ignacio Miní, Santa Ana, Nuestra Señora de Loreto, and Santa María la Mayor. This heritage goes back to the Jesuit missions of the 17th and 18th centuries, established to occupy land assigned to Spain and also to spread the word of the Christian faith. The ruins have specific drawings and are currently in various states of repair.
The historic quarter of the city of Salvador, the first capital of Brazil (from 1549 to 1763), was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1985, and preserves buildings from the period between the 18th and 20th centuries. Salvador is famous for the colors of the Pelourinho and the architectural complex of houses, solares, palaces, churches and convents.
The Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos, in the Minas Gerais city of Congonhas, was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1985. Built in the 18th century, this city offers the largest collection of colonial art in Brazil, including a church with rococo interior and Italian inspiration, as well as chapels and other baroque sculptures by Antônio Francisco Lisboa, better known as Aleijadinho. The Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos is considered to be the artist’s masterpiece.
The city of Brasília was given the title of Cultural Heritage City in 1987, when only 31 years old. Its construction was planned by city planner Lúcio Costa and by architect Oscar Niemeyer, who had the intention of bringing each element of this location into harmony with the general plan of the city. In particular, Unesco considers the official buildings to be “innovative and imaginative”.
São Luís (MA)
Homogeneous groups of architecture, mainly on the civil side, dating from the 18th and 19th centuries, make up the centre of the city of São Luís, a city which has been a Unesco Heritage Site since 1997. The city boasts close to a thousand buildings from the colonial and imperial periods, with characteristics of Portuguese colonization. In São Luís, we can also see Spanish influence in the flat rectangular streets, a road formation that has helped in the expansion of the central nucleus.
The historic centre of Diamantina was granted the status of World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1999. The city blends in well with the local landscape of rocky mountains, and its architectural heritage includes colonial houses with baroque inspiration, churches, and other historic buildings.
Goiás Velho (GO)
In 2001, Unesco granted the status of World Heritage Site to the historic quarter of the city of Goiás Velho (Old Goiás). The development of mining activities in the past has adapted to the physical conditions of this location, the architecture of which has its origins in the occupation and colonization of central Brazil in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Click here to acess the full list of cultural assets of Iphan. (content in Portuguese)