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São João del Rei
Distance from Belo Horizonte: 185 km (115 mi); Rio de Janeiro: 330 km (205 mi); São Paulo: 468 km (291 mi)
The name São João means Saint John in Portuguese, and is the name of several cities; São João del Rei means Saint John of the King, a tribute to the Portuguese kings.
The bells of the thirteen churches of São João del Rei toll differently to announce weddings, funerals and masses. The sound echoes between the colonial buildings and the cobblestone streets.
From the Cristo Redentor monument, on Alto da Bela Vista, visitors can look down on this town, which in 1709 was the setting for a battle between fighters from the State of São Paulo and the Portuguese.
São João del Rei - tourist attractions
Churches. The most important church is the Igreja São Francisco de Assis. Aleijadinho designed and created the carvings on the ornamental façade back in 1774. Notice the efect of the golden highlights on the white background in the main chapel and the Baccarat crystal chandelier in the shape of the Portuguese Crown. On the arch of the main door look for the face of Jesus formed by angel's heads.
The Igreja Nossa Senhora do Rosário, built in 1719, is one of the oldest; like others churches with the same name, this one was also built by black slaves.
Other churches not to be missed: the Catedral Nossa Senhora do Pilar, from 1721, the only church with gilded carvings on the altars, and the octogonal towers of the Igreja Nossa Senhora do Carmo, built in 1733.
At most churches, visiting hours vary, so it´s better to call in advance.
Museu Ferroviário. Museum of Trains. São João del Rei was one of the first cities in Minas Gerais to use trains. The museum exhibits some of the first locomotives (dated from 1880) and many old train parts.
Memorial Tancredo Neves. Born in São João del Rei, Tancredo Neves was an important Brazilian politician, having held offices as Representative, Governor, Prime Minister (during the very short period in which Brazil had a Parlamentarism) and eventually President of Republic; mr. Neves fell ill on the very first day he would take office as President, and died a few weeks later, on April 21st 1985 (Tiradentes, a Brazilian hero also born in Minas Gerais, died on April 21st 1792).
This memorial exhibits photos and movies portraying the political life of Tancredo; some multimedia expositions show important passages of his life.
Steam locomotive stroll. This charming train, called "Maria Fumaça" (Smoke Mary), was inaugurated by Brazilian Emperor Dom Pedro II in 1881, and takes passengers from São João to the nearby city of Tiradentes; visit the page about Tiradentes to read more.
More sites about Tiradentes:
Sao Joao del Rei site.
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