Capela de São José dos Homens Pardos em Ouro Preto: História, arte e restauração (Saint Joseph Chapel of Colored Men in Ouro Preto: History, art and restoration)

World Monuments Fund1 began working at the 18th century chapel of São José dos Homens Pardos ou Bem Casados in Ouro Preto in August 2010. WMF supported conservation activities focusing on condition surveys and exterior restoration work, including repairs to the tile roof, exterior walls, and geotechnical stabilization of the atrium and steps in front of the chapel. In the interior of the nave, deteriorated wood elements were replaced with new pieces, identical in size to the original. The transept arch and main and side altars were also restored. Paint analysis revealed the original color scheme and composition for the conservation of the pictorial elements. Conservators exposed and conserved the original mural paintings and decorative finishes of the walls and altars, which had been covered with paint for decades. Substantial work was completed in early 2012, and the church was open once again to the public following a celebration on March 18, 2012 to commemorate the feast of São José.

Since the reopening, the chapel has been used for religious ceremonies and musical performances, and the brotherhood of artists, artisans and musicians, historically associated with this chapel, is in process of being reactivated. WMF is currently supporting the conservation of religious artistic objects from the chapel. WMF is also sponsoring the development of a tourism route linking the site with the baroque chapels of São Francisco de Paula and Rosário dos Pretos, part of the Parish of Our Lady of Pilar.

Each church will offer activities that feature a different theme such as music (São José and Santa Cecilia), a high view of the city (São Francisco), or the baroque architecture of Ouro Preto (Rosário). The chapel of São José dos Homens Pardos ou Bem Casados was built by a brotherhood of mulattos associated with fine arts, crafts and music, and one of their members, the renowned Brazilian sculptor and architect Antônio Francisco Lisboa, nicknamed Aleijadinho, designed the church’s main altar and tower. The conservation work provides opportunities to make the history and significant of the chapel better known. The chapel, a National Monument in Brazil, was affected by soil instability and insufficient maintenance over the decades, which contributed to its deterioration and ultimately to being closed to the public for two decades. WMF’s work from 2010 to 2014 was conducted in collaboration with the Museum of Sacred Art of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

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