Mariana and Ouro Preto

Ouro Preto Travel Blog

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An old carriage at the Minas do Passagem mine.

6 August:
Caught the bus this morning to visit the Minas do Passagem, now a tourist venue showing the insides of an old gold mine that operated from 1719 to 1985!  We took a little cable car 350m into the mine until we were about 120m underground and then had a guided tour of a few of the tunnels.  The guide spoke English, but not an awful lot of information was given, apart that about 35 tonnes of gold were taken out of here during the mine´s life.  There is a small shrine to Santa Barbara, the patron saint of people with dangerous occupations, and we saw a small part of the big underground lake - the water is incredibly clear and you can cave-dive here if you´re so inclined.  From here we took another bus to Mariana, another colonial gold town with scenic cobbled streets and churches on almost every corner.

Method of transportation for us into and out of the mine.
  We had a look inside the Catedral Basilica da Se to see the 1701 German organ which has been restored recently, and the ornate decoration of the church itself.  Then wandered around the streets and plazas, as the places we wanted to visit seemed to be closed. 

Headed back to Ouro Preto for lunch, and then went down to the Matriz de NS do Pilar, with its extremely ornate interior - it is apparently the 2nd most opulent church in Brazil, after Salvador).  There is a lot of gold, silver and scroll work, plus incredible bird chandelier holders that stick out from the walls and hold the chandelier chains in their beaks.  The crypt houses a display of over 430kg of gold and silver religious pieces, and the hair on the image of Jesus in the church is real.

Interior passages of the mine.
  Climbed back up the hill to visit the Casa dos Contos, built in the late 1700s for a wealthy local who eventually lost it to the government for non-payment of taxes and debts.  Some of the Inconfidencia rebels were imprisoned here before their trials.  The basement slave quarters house a collection of whips, chains, manacles, stirrups, crockery and even a couple of vicious looking man traps used on escaping slaves - quite sobering as slavery was only abolished in brazil in 1888.  The upstairs rooms have collections of books, documents, coins and banknotes in honour of the former use of the house as a mint.  THere is also lots of explanation about the restoration of the building, which discovered many previously unknown wall and ceiling paintings, along with hidden niches, arches etc.
Part of the underground lake in the mine - the water is soo clear.
.  Last stop today was the Municipal Theatre, the oldest still-operating theatre in SOuth America.  It was built in 1769 and has 3 levels of seating, none of which looks very comfortable!  Also has some interesting decoration inside, but getting quite faded.

7 August:
Last day in OUro Preto before catching the night bus to Sao Paulo.  Very interesting visit to the Museo Oratorio, a large collection of hand-made oratories (little shrines of devotion) dating from as far back as the 17th century.  They ranged in size from tiny little necklaces to massive chest oratories that acted as mini-chapels in remote areas.

Churche in Mariana - almost one on every corner!
  There is even one carved out of an ostrich egg.  Oratories were carried by many of the early exploreres of Brazil, providing them with blessings and protection as they went along their dangerous path.
After lunch and a drink we visited the Museo Guignard, a small museum devoted to the works of the famous Brazilian artist Guignard.  Luckily there were some books around explaining his life and works, and the very helpful guide managed to get across most of what we needed to know by using very simple Portuguese!  We spent the rest of the day in the internet cafe, sipping coffees on the plaza and having an early dinner before catching the 6.30pm bus to our next stop.

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An old carriage at the Minas do Pa…
An old carriage at the Minas do P…
Method of transportation for us in…
Method of transportation for us i…
Interior passages of the mine.
Interior passages of the mine.
Part of the underground lake in th…
Part of the underground lake in t…
Churche in Mariana - almost one on…
Churche in Mariana - almost one o…
Interior of the Municipal Theatre,…
Interior of the Municipal Theatre…
Praca Tiradentes, OUro Preto.
Praca Tiradentes, OUro Preto.
Example of a bullet oratory, Museo…
Example of a bullet oratory, Muse…
The ostrich egg oratory.
The ostrich egg oratory.
View over part of Ouro Preto from …
View over part of Ouro Preto from…
Us in the grounds of Museo Casa Gu…
Us in the grounds of Museo Casa G…
Ouro Preto
photo by: Paulovic