Casa de Chica da Silva

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Casa de Chica da Silva

Diamantina is easily manageable on foot; the city centre is compact and there are plenty of little street-side cafés and bars. The best place to start exploring is the Praça Guerra (Praça do Sé) which is dominated by the towering 1930s cathedral. The most interesting church, Nossa Senhora do Carmo (R do Carmo, Tue-Sat 0800-1200, 1400-1800, Sun 0800-1200) is a short walk west along Rua Carmo Quitanda. It is most remarkable for its beautiful interior paintings, carried out by José Soares de Araujo, a former bodyguard from Braga in Portugal. Many of the city’s churches are painted by him, but this is by far his finest work. The Carmelites are said to have been founded before the time of Christ by the prophet Elijah, who is depicted on the magnificent ceiling, ascending to heaven in a chariot of fire, and brandishing a sword on one of the side altars. Another ceiling painting shows the patron saint and founder of the Third Order of Mount Carmel, the 12th-century English saint, St Simon Stock, receiving a scapular from the Virgin. The placing of the church tower at the back of the building was ostensibly to please Chica Silva, the black slave of Padre Rolim. In an era when black Brazilians were valued less than chickens she achieved liberty, married the wealthy diamond merchant João Fernandes de Oliveira and became the most influential woman in the city, living in luxury with him and their 14 children in a house overlooking the Praça Lobo de Mesquita. The house is now a museum, the Casa de Chica da Silva (Praça Lobo Mesquita 266, free) .

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