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Ouro Preto


Ouro Preto


The origin of Ouro Preto is in the camp of Padre Faria, founded by the bandeirante Antônio Dias de Oliveira, by Father João de Faria Fialho and by Colonel Tomás Lopes de Camargo and his brother, around 1698.

By the junction of these various settlements, becoming a seat of council, it was elevated to the category of village in 1711 with the name of Villa Rica. In 1720 was chosen to capital of the new captaincy of Minas Gerais. In 1823, after the Independence of Brazil, Vila Rica received the title of Imperial City, conferred by D. Pedro I of Brazil, becoming officially the capital of the then Minas Gerais state and being designated Imperial City of Ouro Preto. In 1839 the School of Pharmacy was created and in 1876 the School of Mines. It was home to the revolutionary movement known as Inconfidência Mineira. It was the capital of the province and later of the state, until 1897. The old capital of Minas conserved great part of its colonial monuments and in 1933 was raised to National Patrimony, being, five years later, registered by the institution that today is the IPHAN. On September 5, 1980, at the fourth session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee held in Paris, Ouro Preto was declared Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

No other Brazilian municipality has accumulated so many historical facts relevant to the construction of the national memory as this vast municipality. They stand out as important milestones of Brazilian history:

- Last decade of the seventeenth century and beginning of the XVIII - climax of the explorations of São Paulo, being discovered the "black gold";
- 1708 - War of the Emboabas; the friction between Paulistas and 'outsiders' reaches the high point in the district of Cachoeira do Campo;
- 1720 - Revolt led by Filipe dos Santos; riots against the Fifth of the Portuguese Crown;
- 1789 - Inconfidência Mineira; conspiracy between certain segments of the mining society of that time to make Minas free of the Portuguese yoke.

In 1897, Ouro Preto loses the status of mining capital, especially as it does not present viable alternatives to urban physical development, with headquarters being transferred to the former Curral Del'Rey (where a new, planned and spacious city was being prepared) . The old city continued to polarize its districts, but the municipality was only the shadow of what was once the Vila Rica Term. In 1923, by Law No. 843 of September 7, the old Itabira do Campo, now Itabirito, is emancipated, and in 1953 the municipality of Ouro Branco is created, dismembered from Ouro Preto by Law No. 1039, dated 12 December.

Currently the following districts of Ouro Preto:

(Cantareira do Campo, Amarantina, Glaura (White House), São Bartolomeu, Santo Antônio do Leite, Rodrigo Silva, Miguel Burnier, Correia Engineer, Santa Rita, Santo Antônio do Salto, Antônio Pereira and Lavras Novas.

Of these, those that have colonial origin are: Cachoeira do Campo, São Bartolomeu, Glaura (White House), Amarantina, Antônio Pereira, Lavras Novas. They took shape in the nineteenth century by commercial activity: Santa Rita de Ouro Preto, Santo Antônio do Salto, Santo Antônio de Leite (although the three also had a core in the 18th century, they only gained momentum in the 19th century). They developed in the nineteenth century due to the presence of the railroad (with remarkable presence of railway architecture): Rodrigo Silva, Miguel Burnier, Engenheiro Corrêa.

Situated in extremely hilly and rugged terrain, only the gold fever would choose this corner as the stage of a city. The relation human occupation X relief and geography provided Ouro Preto with some curious historical specificities. The historical-urban evolution of settlement nuclei can thus be studied by two biases: the gradual occupation of certain areas, according to the relief, and the formation of pathways that would condition the city's current features.

The first focus of interest - and what is most obvious to us - concerns, precisely, the occupation of hills and slopes. The first explorers, Antônio Dias and Faria Fialho, seem to be the most important, lending their names even to local toponymy. The occupation took place in two ways: on the banks of the brooks, where gold was abundant, and in the hills that surround the city, full of mines and trouble. In the early days the settlements that occupied the steep slopes took shape. Dominated by small, picturesque chapels and extensive mining areas, these settlements made the advent of several adventurers, some of them erected into true local potentates (in this detail, Pascoal da Silva Guimarães, owner of the gold mines of the Podre, is burned at the behest of the Count of Assumar in 1720). These various nuclei, of very ancient occupation, would soon have their brilliance dazzled by others, born on the banks of the brooks, in the back of the valleys that furrow the city.

Two campuses were distinguished outside the mountains: the Arraial de Nossa Senhora do Pilar and the Arraial of Our Lady of the Conception of Antônio Dias. Its two chapels, located near gold streams, had preponderant action in the urban evolution of the greater nucleus that then was drawn. This is so true that in 1711, with the creation of Vila Rica, the two nuclei were the focus of discussion, and in 1724, with the establishment of the first collective parishes of Minas Gerais, Pilar and Antônio Dias had their temples elevated to the category of churches parochial Not long after, and the old matrices were put into massive rebuilding. The various brotherhoods that would compete in the whole of the works are of fundamental importance in order to understand the gold-black society of the eighteenth century, a synthesis that is of every colonial society in Minas Gerais. Several of these brotherhoods later undertook the construction of new temples, more in keeping with the reality of the confreres. Together with the civil architecture, this architecture of religious character, indelible landmark of the landscape.

The Pilar has its Mercês, Rosário and its church of Third Order, the Carmo. Antônio Dias also has his Mercês and Rosário (Santa Efigênia) and also his representative of the Third Order, São Francisco de Assis. It is no coincidence that the two Third Orders, rivals, are already on the edge of the top of the Hill of Santa Quitéria. At that moment the urban conformation of the old capital was outlined: the House of Chamber and Chain was under construction and the Palace of the Governors was already in use. The hill of Santa Quitéria had its top terraced. The Square, now called Tiradentes, became the central point and physical climax of the evolutionary period of the aureus.

Thus we perceive the evolution of this city, curious and restless: from the chapels of the surrounding mountains to the back of the valleys, from the back of the valleys again to the mountain tops. It rises / descends from the hills, in addition to transporting techniques and people, has reinvented itself in the styles: from the simple baroque of the old chapels, to the baroque façade of the matrices; from the parochial baroque, superb and taciturn, to the elegance of the rococo rococo of San Francisco and Carmo. And in the Square, convergent point? The façade of the House of Chamber and Chain aspires to neoclassical ares, while the Palace, older, inherits its plant from the old Portuguese fortresses. Not to mention the ecclesiastics that in later times would punctuate the streets and alleys of other influences. What a historical and architectural heritage in a city that, far from being one and homogeneous, brings in its very heart the mark of heterodoxy and mixture!

Text and Research: Alex Bohrer
Photo: Vinícius Terror
Source: Ouro Preto City Hall website