Diamantina (World Heritage)

Diamantina (World Heritage)

The name of the city is a reminder of its former importance as a supplier of gemstones. The first diamond deposits outside of Asia were found here in the 18th century, which subsequently led to a boom in the diamond industry. The baroque colonial buildings invite you to travel back in time.

Diamantina: facts

Official title: Historic center of Diamantina
Cultural monument: a colonial settlement set like a gem in a necklace of inhospitable mountain peaks; impressive stately buildings such as the Casa da Quitanda and the house of Chica da Silva, as well as the Eschwege Institute, today’s Museo do Diamante, the Mercado, the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo and the Igrejas Nossa Senhora do Rosario and da Ordem Terceira de São Francisco
Continent: America
Country: Brazil, Minas Gerais
Location: Diamantina, northeast of Belo Horizonte
appointment 1999
Meaning: the perfect adaptation of an urban concept to the landscape and adaptation of a European settlement concept to the American context of the 18th century. Appointment: 1999

Diamantina: history

1713 first treasure hunters in the mountains near the later Diamantina
1729 rapid growth of the Ar raial do Tijuco settlement after the discovery of diamonds
1734 Establishment of this settlement as the administrative center to control diamond mining
1760 Construction project approved for the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo
1771 Decree of the “Regimento Diamantino”
1781 Construction of the organ of the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo
1784 Consecration of the Igreja Nossa Senhora das Merces
1794-1868 Karl Friedrich Philipp von Martius, from 1826 professor of botany
1820 6500 plants from Brazil donated by Martius for the Munich Botanical Garden
1831 Arraial do Tijuco receives the status of a village
1837 Construction of a tower for the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo
1838 Renaming of Arraial do Tijuco to Diamantina and recognition as a city

Diamonds, adventurers and sensual slaves

At Easter, the residents lay out a magnificent carpet of tropical flowers on the sloping small streets, which are paved with coarse natural stones, and then walk over them with a measured step and singing in a procession led by the bishop. Far away from the tourist routes, the small town with the simple, low baroque churches looks rural and calm and has a more contemplative, village-like character.

At the end of the 17th century, gold was discovered on the green banks of the Tijuco River. Bold adventurers – coming from Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo – invaded a landscape that up until then could be called idyllic. The natives of the Puris tribe were particularly in the way of these Portuguese invaders in their plans and were driven out or even killed.

During the day, men used to deprivation, with leather hats on their heads against the scorching sun or rain, rummaged for the precious metal and often found peculiarly shiny stones. These were mostly thrown away carelessly or used as tokens in the makeshift taverns and brothels in the evenings. This continued until it was established at the court in far-off Lisbon that these pretty little stones were the most valuable diamonds, like those only known from India. From then on, the mines were strictly monitored, as the Crown wanted to secure all mined gemstones without exception. But they also showed themselves to be generous: by decree, every slave who found a diamond of more than 17 carats was released. Above all, it is the stories that are far from the earth-shattering story that are worth telling, including those of Isidoro, an escaped slave who searched for precious stones near Diamantina and withheld his precious finds from the crown. Such an offense was punished in a draconian way: After the persecution was successfully completed, Isidoro was brutally tortured and finally dragged through the dust of the place by a horse as a deterrent. He died as a folk hero and has since been considered a saint by the Diamantines, from whom help is sought. The German naturalists Johann Baptist von Spix and Karl Friedrich Philipp von Martius should also be mentioned, because they visited Diamantina on their research trip and certainly entered the church of Nossa Senhora do Carmo, which is still the most beautiful of the town’s seven baroque churches and chapels. Perhaps they were listening to the sound of the organ covered with gold leaf, a foundation of the royal diamond buyer João Fernandes de Oliveira. The two German researchers never met him, nor did his black lover Chica da Silva, whose well-preserved house stands on Praça Lobo Mesquita.

According to softwareleverage, Chica da Silva, probably the most famous lady of the place, is said to have ordered the bell tower of the Nossa Senhora do Carmo to be behind the church in order to be less disturbed by the noise. For this seductive playmate, her lover had a palace and a theater built, as well as a pleasure garden with European plants and an artificial lake. When he became interested in a beautiful slave, Chica ordered her newborn child to be drowned in the river. Another slave, whose laugh de Oliveira liked, had the jealous Chica unceremoniously tore out all her teeth.

Diamonds are still mined, cut and also offered for sale here and there. And the beautiful open Mercado dos Tropeiros, where cattle and pack animals of the diamond caravans were once tied, also still exists. When someone plays samba in the alleys at night, some wish the devil him – because in Diamantina extremely romantic serenades are centuries-old tradition. Especially on bright nights with a full moon, the »Seresteiros« – alone or in groups – wander through the Beco da Mota with their guitars, a once much sung about »desolate and frivolous« alley that everyone in Brazil knows.

Diamantina (World Heritage)