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February 4, 2008

Sao Miguel das Missoes - Rio Grande do Sul


São Miguel das Missões - Rio Grande do Sul - Brazilian Cities

Arriving at the Missions is like traveling through 400 years of history. This going back in time allows one to relive the incredible evangelization work done by the Priests of the Company of Jesus and their determination to convert the Indians that inhabited this area of the Americas into Christians.

Sao Miguel das Missoes

The Mission People were basically comprised of guarani and tape Indians that lived in the region known today as the State of Rio Grande do Sul. In 1626, the Jesuits started to divide them into reductions – villages inhabited by Indians and catechizers. Between 1636 and 1639 they were attacked by explorers, but in 1682, they returned and founded the historical Sete Povos das Missões (Seven Peoples Missions).

Near São Miguel we find the ruins of three reductions: São Lourenço Mártir, São João Batista and São Nicolau, which together with São Borja, São Luiz Gonzaga and Santo Ângelo complete the Seven Peoples. Over the past three years most of the ruins have been destroyed, although Santo Ângelo – the most recent – houses a magnificent cathedral, a replicate of the one found in São Miguel, and an important historical museum. São Miguel was recognized as a Historical and Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 1983, becoming Rio Grande do Sul’s main tourist and cultural attraction where visitors learn about the roots of “Gaucho” formation.

São Miguel Arcanjo Archeological Site
In 1983 it was recognized by Unesco as a World Heritage of Humanity. Church construction started in 1735 and was finished in 10 years. It was built of sandstone, in three phases: the church nave, the tower and the portico. Some of documents from that time describe its interior decoration, with carved golden altars and several sculptures in wood made by Indians. Many of them are found in the Missions Museum. The Italian priest Gean Battista Primoli was responsible for the work and the baroque architecture influence is present in its construction.

Missions Museum
Created in 1940, this work by Lucio Costa, an architect, was inspired on the missioners houses. It is located in the São Miguel Arcanjo archeological site and delimits the boundaries of an old square, which was the reduction’s main element. It has a collection of approximately 100 images of saints carved in polychromated wood made by the Indians and Jesuits that lived in the reduction. It is the largest public collection of missions, having images ranging in size from a few centimeters to 2 feet high.

Sound and Light Show
Every night in this archeological site there is one of the most well produced outdoors shows. It tells the saga of the Jesuits and the guarani Indians in a poetic and captivating way. Before the show, erudite music is played to prepare the environment.

Angelopolitana Cathedral (Santo Ângelo)
It was constructed in the same place as the old Santo Angelo Custodio Reduction Church and it is a replicate of a church of ancient São Miguel Arcanjo people. It was constructed in sandstone and brick, with a portico topped by seven images sculpted in stone representing the patrons of the Seven Peoples Missions. Its interior is composed of three naves, separated by arcades and domes. It houses a wood image of Dead Christ, sculpted by a guarani artist in the Santo Angelo Custodio reduction after 1720. Tadeu Martins, an artist from Santo Ângelo, began painting the Missioner Saga in October 1991. It is a panel depicting the conversion of Indians to Catholic faith.

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