Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos in Congonhas do Campo
Congonhas do Campo is located in the State of Minas Gerais, near the city of Ouro Preto. Its origin is related to the activity of mining prospectors who founded different setllements in the region, one of which had Our Lady of the Conception as its patron saint, and became known as Congonhas do Campo.
Construction of the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos, on the Maranhão hill, a steep slope next to Congonhas do Campo, is attributted to the Portuguese Feliciano Mendes. Following a serious illness, Feliciano Mendes apparently invoked the help of Senhor do Bom Jesus de Matosinhos, and having had his prayers answered, devoted his life to the hermitage. He then placed a cross on the Maranhão hill, thereby starting to worship Senhor do Bom Jesus de Matosinhos and promising to build a temple on that site.
Construction of the church began in 1758 under the supervision of António Gonçalves Rosa and António Rodrigues Falcato.
The chancel was built by Francisco de Lima Cerqueira in 1761. Feliciano Mendes died in 1765 but by that time the whole church was completed.
Apparently, the best artists of Minas Gerais were involved in the construction of the sanctuary, a fact that testifies not only to the commitment of its founder, but also to the rapid widespread of the worship of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos. The growing accumulation of alms enabled a simple temple to be transformed into a major sanctuary.
The project consisted of a church yard with an outdoor stairway decorated with statues of the prophets, and seven chapels illustrating the Stations of the Cross on the slope opposite the church, just like in the sanctuaries of Bom Jesus in Matosinhos or Braga.
The Stations of the Cross were sculpted in wood by the famous Aleijadinho and his assistants between 1796 and 1799. Their polychromy was added later and is attributed to the painter Manuel da Costa Ataíde.
The Twelve Prophets sculpture, commissioned from Aleijadinho in 1800, is a soap stone carving.
The church façade which is decorated with angles, pilasters and cornices is flanked by two towers topped by a white cross. The high altar and side chapels have a canopy and other Baroque ornaments. An image of Christ crucified on a cross and flanked by two angels can be seen on the high altar. Different panels depicting byble scenes can be seen in the chancel and all along the church nave.
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