The only Moorish-style church in Brazil
The Church of Our Lady of Conception of Lapinha is located in the Lapinha neighborhood, between the Soledade and Liberdade neighborhoods in Salvador, Bahia’s capital. The neighborhood is in a high part of the city and is characterized by its old mansions, its narrow streets and its quiet daily life.
The Lapinha Church was built in a Moorish style and founded in 1771. It is included in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the records of Latin American Mozarabic style monuments*, as the only Moorish-style church in Brazil. After undergoing major transformations, its facade was reversed: previously it faced the sea; it’s currently facing the square.
The sanctuary reflects a mix of architectural styles. The facade has a simple neogothic style, painted in white. But inside, a big surprise. The walls are full of colors, textures and contrasts due to the Moorish influence, what reminds us of a mosque. The church has 6 side altars in addition to the main altar.
“This is the house of God, this is the gate of heaven”, say the Arabic inscriptions on the top of its central walls.
In 1913, the Archbishop of Bahia gave the Church’s administration to the Augustinian Recollect priests, who also included in the church the worship and devotion to Our Lady of Consolation, being the only one in the state of Bahia. In 1925, the Augustinian priests undertook a major renovation of the temple, where mosaics from Spain and many other elements and materials were introduced, and its interior was richly decorated in Moorish style. The Moorish decoration was Frei Leão Uchoa’s option, responsible for the work, who was also an Architect. The church was reopened in 1930.
Another feature of the neighborhood is its festive vocation. It is in the Parish of Lapinha that the Feast of Kings (Festa de Reis) takes place and also the beginning of the procession in celebration for the 2 of July. The church is next to Pavilion 2 de Julho where the images* of Caboclo and Cabocla are, which symbolize the popular participation in the struggles for the Independence of Brazil in Bahia. The military participation in this movement is represented in the bust that honors General Labatut, a Frenchman who fought alongside the Brazilians. Not far away, in the neighborhood of Soledade, we find the statue of the greatest heroine of Brazil’s Independence in Bahia, Maria Quitéria.
Terno de Reis “Anunciação”
In the neighborhood of Lapinha, there are events that mark the beginning of the year with masses, presentations and samba de roda. Terno de Reis, which celebrates the Day of the Three Kings every January 6, announces Christ’s birth from house to house. The Terno of Lapinha received the name of “Anunciação” (Annunciation), meaning it is the announcer of the other Ternos that come to visit the Lapinha Nativity Scene and pay their tribute in different ways to baby Jesus.
Almost forgotten (or unknown) by the urban public, this beautiful tradition still resists in the Parish of Lapinha, which has been developing in recent years a work of revitalization of this celebration. The Ternos are performed on the nights of January 5th and 6th, at Lapinha Square. Everyone is invited to participate and experience this traditional popular and religious manifestation.
Church of Our Lady of Conception of Lapinha.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, from 1pm to 7pm / Saturday, from 8am to 12pm
Largo da Lapinha, no number, Church, Lapinha. ZIP Code: 40325-220 – Salvador / BA
Phone #: 71 3242-9108
Terno de Reis: on January 5th and 6th, after Mass, usually celebrated at 6pm, there is the traditional Terno de Reis parade.
Moorish, Mozarabic – Moorish comes from the Moor, and was the name given to Spanish Muslims baptized after the pragmatic policy of the Catholic Kings in the 13th century (in 1502). The Mozarabians were Iberian Christians who lived under Muslim government rule in Al Andaluz. Their descendants did not convert to Islam, but adopted elements of the Arabic language and culture.
Igreja da Lapinha. Salvador, Bahia. Foto: Amanda Oliveira.