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Sabará, Brazil

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Colonial History and Outstanding Food in the Hills of Minas Gerais
Sabará, Brazil
By Bernardo Gouvêa (WebShots[1]) [Creative Commons], via Wikimedia Commons

Updated on Sep.6, 2011

Sabará was one of the most important towns of the 18th-century Gold Cycle and the Royal Road in Minas Gerais.

Located less than 16 miles east of Belo Horizonte at the meeting of the Velhas and Sabará Rivers, Sabará (pop. 126.269) is surrounded by mountains which once yielded rich veins (lavras) and today afford visitors ecotourism and historic tours. Sightseeing, shopping for lace and other crafts and enjoying the local food, highlighted in two main festivals, are some of the best things to do in Sabará.

Sabará Churches

The Our Lady of Conception Church, Sabará's mother church, dates back to the early 18th century. It has a profusion of ornate, gold-leafed Baroque details and a baptismal font by architect and sculptor Aleijadinho.

The Nossa Senhora do Ó Church, also from the early 1700s, has motifs which indicate the influence of Macau on the Portuguese craftsmen of the time. Like the Matriz, it has rare paintings depicting the circumcision of Jesus. The Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos Church, built by slaves, had its construction interrupted due to the Abolition of Slavery. It houses an 18th-century chapel and the Sacred Art Museum.

Nossa Senhora do Carmo Church, with an Aleijadinho-designed frontispiece, is another Baroque treasure in Sabará.

Museums and Other Architectural Gems

Don't miss the Gold Museum (Museu do Ouro), which has from mining implements to clothing worn by the Gold Cycle elite.

The Slavery Museum, the fine Municipal Theatre (1819), with Italian touches, and the Padre Correia Mansion, which now houses the City Hall, are some of the other attractions you can visit in the central historic area.

Ecotourism and Historic Tours

At the City Hall, inquire about tours of the surrounding mountains, which include historic stretches of the Royal Road as well as trails with lookout points for a view of the town and the hills.

Semana Santa in Sabará

Commemorations of the Holy Week in Sabará are, like the ones in other colonial towns of Minas Gerais, rich in ritual and historical elements. Sabará, however, has a ritual said to be unique in Brazil - the Opening of the Sepulchre on the afternoon of Holy Thursday.

The ritual dates back to the 18th century. Local families are responsible for keeping the image of Jesus Christ, the sepulchre, and clothes used in the ceremony, which in 2011 returned to the São Francisco Church after being held at the Rosário Church for 10 years.

Shopping in Sabará

Sabará's Turkish lace (renda turca de bico) has been listed as intangible heritage. You can buy it at the local crafts association (Associação dos Artesãos da Praça Santa Rita de Sabará).

Another great place for crafts is the Handicraft Co-op.

Food is an attraction in town year-round and products made from jaboticaba are some of the best buys; read more about the local food festivals and restaurants (next page).

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