Mariana

Mariana is the oldest city in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. It is a touristic city, founded on July 16, 1696, and retains the characteristics of a baroque city, with its churches, buildings and museums. Mariana, originally known as Nossa Senhora do Carmo, came into existence with the discovery of gold along the Ribeirão Nossa Senhora do Carmo river in 1696. Known informally as the Primeira Cidade (First City), it is indeed a city of firsts: It was the first vila established in the state and soon became the first state capital, and a major center for the burgeoning gold trade. In 1745, the Portuguese king, Dom João V, renamed the city after his wife, Maria Ana D’Austria. Around the same time, the city became the seat of the first bishopric in the state and hence became an important religious center for the region. In response to the influx of people, streets and rectangular plazas were planned, making Mariana the first planned city in the state. These days, Mariana preserves many of the original colonial buildings and churches in such a thorough way that the traveller almost feels he has stepped back in time.

Local buses run between Ouro Preto and Mariana every thirty minutes, dropping passengers at the tourism office on Rua Antônio Olinto. The ride takes 35 minutes.

The city has several touristic attractions, including:

  • Minas Gerais Square, where there are three historical monuments: Town Hall and Jail, Saint Francis of Assisi Church and Our Lady of Carmo Church.
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St. Francis of Assisi Church, Mariana
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São Pedro dos Clérigos Church, Mariana
  • Basilica Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, or Cathedral of Sé , is one of the largest and most important churches in town. It is located in Sé Square, the city's main square and also a tourist spot. The Cathedral of Sé awes visitors with the richness of ornamentation, and its many precious treasures. The Arp Schnitger Organ, inside the cathedral, was built in the first decade of the 18th century in Hamburg Cermany. It is an instrument of great importance, being considered for inclusion in UNESCO’s World Heritage of Arp Schnitger organs. The magnificent sounds of the Schnitger organ can be heard in regular concerts at the Cathedral of Sé. Check out concert schedule.
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Arp Schnitger Organ in Cathedral of Sé, Mariana
  • Museu Arquidiocesano de Arte Sacra (Museum of Sacred Art of the Archdiocese): Installed in a colonial building whose construction began in 1770, this is one of Brazil’s best sacred art museums, with over two thousand objects, including a golden reliquary considered to be the richest in the state and second in Brazil. The collection includes works in soapstone, porcelain and wood, Portuguese paintings, paintings by Ataíde, and many other objects. 
  • The Music Museum of Mariana: works in Cultural Center Dom Frei Manuel da Cruz (former Bishops' Palace). Only museum of its kind in America, with its collection of documents, sheet music, and manuscripts from the 18th to the 20th centuries, the museum holds a permanent exhibit where visitors not only see but feel the music.
  • Cachoeira do Brumado (Brumado Waterfall), (in the district of the same name).
  • Gruta da Nossa Senhora da Lapa (Cave of Our Lady of Lapa), at the end of Rua da Lapa (in a small district a few kilometers north of the main town).
  • Rua Direita. The oldest and best-preserved houses of the town line this beautiful street, the second oldest street in town. Some highlights include the Casa do Barão de Pontal, (former state governor’s house), the Casa Setecentista, (a 18th-century archive building), and the house of poet Alphonsus de Guimarães, now containing a small museum dedicated to his work.

More information about Mariana’s main attractions is available here.

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