My overnight bus journey from Brasilia was rendered reasonably uncomfortable by my bruised coccyx: it isn’t easy to sleep on your side in a reclining seat it turns out. So my first action, on checking into my hostel was to go to bed for the morning.
Ouro Preto (black gold in Portuguese) is located in a mountainous mining area and was the centre of an eighteenth century gold rush that funded the Baroque architecture for which it is listed.
Alongside those looking to make their fortune from gold, the city also attracted artists and intellectuals and was the centre of the Golden Age of Brazil. Amongst these was a sculptor and architect generally known as Aleijadinho who is celebrated in one of the town’s museums.
The church interiors are wonderful but photography is not permitted. I did sneak a few illicit shots with my camera in my lap but the quality is consequently compromised.
The main square has the old municipal palace at one end and at the other the former Palace of the Governors, now a School of Mines and Metallurgy with associated museum, where I spent a surprising amount of time gazing at mineral and gem specimens.
While I was in Ouro Preto I took a bus ride out of town to visit a nearby gold mine. We entered down the inclined shaft on a rickety open carriage, let down by cable. The mine itself is no more exciting than any other underground attraction but it was interesting to see the way in which the miners followed the inclined seam of gold down through the rock.
Although there are still mineral resources in the area, gold mining declined in the nineteenth century and the town lost its position as state capital. It now relies heavily on tourism and has a massive number of gift shops full of religious statues, many in wood aping the wonderful Baroque carvings found in the churches. Regular readers will know how much I like religious knick knacks – particularly small cheap and tacky ones – and I was sorely tempted.
For the Lego model I tried a number of different churches and finally settled on this one:
I tried three different ways of building the front corner columns and finally settled for this approach, despite the dumpy look it gives to the facade.