July 8, 2012
The history of 18th-century Senhor Bom Jesus do Bonfim Sanctuary Basilica, often referred to as Nosso Senhor do Bonfim Church or simply Bonfim Church, started with faith in miracles. Caught in a severe storm at sea, Portuguese Navy captain Theodózio Rodrigues de Faria vowed that if he survived he would bring an image of the saint of his devotion to Brazil.
Ever since a replica of an image of crucified Christ revered in the captain's native Setúbal, in Portugal, was placed in the church in the mid-19th-century, the church atop the Sacred Knoll (Colina Sagrada) has been a site of pilgrimage, sought by people hoping for miracles. A room to the right of the nave lined with ex-votos and a myriad wallet-size photos of the grateful is one of the highlights at this attractive church in Rococo style.
In 1773, when slaves were ordered to wash the church's steps for the celebration of Bom Jesus do Bonfim, two Sundays after Epiphany, a new custom was born. The Washing of the Steps (Lavagem do Bonfim), held on the second Thursday after Epiphany, is a highlight of Bahia syncretism, in which rituals of Afro-Brazilian blend with Catholic traditions.
Since slaves were forbidden from engaging in candomblé rites, they masked them as Catholic observances and associating their deities with Catholic counterparts. Bom Jesus do Bonfim corresponds to Oxalá - an orixá, or candomblé deity, strongly associated with the creation of the world and a peaceful ending to life, filled with accomplishment - a good ending, or bom fim.
Address and Hours:Praça Senhor do Bonfim
Salvador-BA Phone: 55-71-3316-2196
Mass times: Mon 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Tue-Thur 7 a.m., 8 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., Fri 6 a.m., 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 3 p.m. (first Fri of the month) and 5 p.m., Sat 7 a.m., 8 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., Sun 6 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Next Page: Wish Ribbons at Bonfim Church
Photos taken during a press trip to Salvador by invitation of Bahiatursa. About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.