Olinda Old Town

Olinda Old Town (World Heritage)

The city, which was founded in the 16th century, is inextricably linked to the sugar industry and is known as the »Pearl of the Brazilian Baroque«. The old town shines with numerous buildings, gardens, churches and monasteries such as the São Salvador Cathedral or the Archbishop’s Palace.

Olinda Old Town: Facts

Official title: Olinda old town
Cultural monument Old town and others with the Cathedral (Igreja da Sé), the Church of Mother of Divine Grace (Nossa Senhora da Graça), the Franciscan Monastery (Convento do São Francisco), the Church of John the Baptist (São João Batista dos Militares), the Archbishop’s Palace and the Ribeira -Market
continent America
country Brazil
location Olinda, 10 km north of Recife
appointment 1982
meaning the former center of the sugar industry as a »pearl of the Brazilian baroque«

Olinda Old Town: History

1537 Foundation of the city
1551 Branch of the Society of Jesus
1580 Sao Joao Batista dos Militares Church
1585 Convento do São Francisco
1592 Church of Nossa Senhora da Graça
1612 1000 sugar factories in the city
1630 Attack by a Dutch force
1631 Looting and pillage of the city
1654 Recapture by the Portuguese
1778-1823 Bishopric
1679 Episcopal Palace
1710/11 Civil war between Olinda and Recife
1911 Demolition of the Carmelite monastery
1980 National monument

Inspiration for painters, musicians and poets

The wild, sometimes infernal dance of a swaying, sweating ball of people begins at noon under the piercing tropical sun and does not end until after midnight – in the ten-day street carnival of Olindas, Samba does not rule, but Frevo with its complicated turns and jumps. Musicians who have come together spontaneously are followed by tens of thousands up one street and down the next; In the crowd, dolls up to five meters high, giant kites and vultures, but also the bellies decorated by painters of heavily pregnant women who are constantly dancing, are eye-catchers. According to oxfordastronomy, no other Brazilian festival can boast such a picturesque backdrop of architectural pearls, coconut palms, tropical gardens, beaches and the greenish-blue sea. »O linda«, »how beautiful«, someone is said to have exclaimed enthusiastically centuries ago – in this way,

Almost two dozen churches, eleven chapels, plus handsome aristocratic residences and colonial houses are relatively close to one another in the increasingly better restored historical core, while to the north there are sometimes very depressing poor quarters. It is surprising that the little Alt-Olinda, founded before Salvador da Bahia, was once the most economically important Portuguese settlement in northeastern Brazil because of the sugar cane cultivation. In 1630 the Dutch attacked from the sea. Churches and palaces with irreplaceable cultural assets were looted and set on fire. The stones and bricks of these destroyed monuments were used to expand the nearby, until then almost completely insignificant Recife – today a city of millions.

The Dutch-West India Company appointed the 34-year-old Westphalian Prince Johann Moritz von Nassau-Siegen as governor-general of New Holland, who brought Dutch and German scholars and painters to his court. The Dutch painter Frans Post, whose pictures are also hanging in the Louvre, portrayed the Olinda of the 17th century like no other – including the two-tower Igreja do Antigo Convento do Carmo of the late Renaissance. In addition to scholars and artists, farmers displaced by the Thirty Years’ War also came to the new colony. In the battle of Guararapes of 1649, however, the Portuguese armed forces were far superior to the Dutch colonial adventurers and therefore ultimately victorious. Now the Franciscans, Benedictines, Carmelites and Jesuits could begin with the reconstruction of the “Portuguese Olindas”.

No resident of Olinda is as well known in the world as Archbishop Dom Helder Camara, who is still effectively committed to human rights even in retirement. His official seat was the former Jesuit monastery with the exceptionally beautiful, very simple church Nossa Senhora da Graça, only a few steps away from the oldest Brazilian settlement of the Franciscans, the Convento de São Francisco with the church Nossa Senhora das Neves. Here, too, Portuguese azulejos, scenic tile pictures, are particularly eye-catching because of their rare quality. They are mainly dedicated to the life of St. Francis. In the Benedictine monastery, a masterpiece of the late baroque, the gilded high altar is a special eye-catcher. It was decorated with crystal mirrors and images of saints. Probably the most beautiful view of the sea,

Painters and poets from all over Brazil find inspiration in Olinda, well-known stars of the Musica Popular Brasileira live there and occasionally make music in front of a pub at night. The famous repentistas of the north-east, the masters of impromptu alternating singing, like to meet on baroque church stairs not only for the annual January festival of their guild. In pairs, they rhyme poetic, political or cheeky with passers-by, and of course they particularly like to target foreign visitors as objects of their mockery.

Olinda Old Town