The church of the Third Order of Saint Francis was one of those serendipitous travel discoveries that you just kind of stumble into. I'd been hoping to catch a bit of Netherlands-Mexico at a restaurant, but by the time I got around to looking for a place with a TV, the few that were available were already packed. So instead I wandered around the semi-deserted streets. The elaborate facade of the church caught my eye. Inside the courtyard, a couple of sleepy dogs blinked at me as I walked toward the entry. The doors were open and entry was 5 Reais (about $2.50). So why not?
The sanctuary was pretty, with a sky blue, star-studded ceiling and loads of gold decorating the altar. But it was the rest of the church I found really interesting.
The hallways were beautifully decorated with scenes on azulejo tile. Downstairs was an ossuary,with little pictures and trinkets left on the pale marble ledges.
There was a whole wing of wax mannequins dressed up as saints, in various states of piety or agony.
Finally, a guide for another tour group stopped me and told me to be sure to check out the museum upstairs, so I did. I loved it - azulejo everywhere, old furniture and rainments, sloping wood floors buckling with age, and shutter-framed windows overlooking a square where cheers for a Mexico goal erupted.
Reading up on the church later, I discovered two things. The first is that the crazy facade is unique in all of Brazil. The second is that the church next door, the actual Church of Saint Francis, has an incredibly beautiful and elaborate interior with heaps of gold that I totally missed out on.
But I'm content with my little find. After all...