Devotion and religious syncretism
Basilica Sanctuary of the Lord of Bonfim: Portuguese Heritage, Bahian faith.
This is one of those top 1 city itineraries: YOU HAVE TO GO!!! Or are you going to stay without your picture on the famous railings covered by Bonfim’s colorful strips? Jokes aside, this is one of the points for which the Bahians have more affection and to where we often return. It is one of the most traditional Catholic churches in the city, dedicated to Lord of Bonfim, patron saint of Bahia and symbol of the religious syncretism of Bahia. The devotion to Our Lord of Bonfim is a Portuguese heritage, reinforced by the promises made by Dom João V in the image of Senhor do Bonfim, for the restoration of his father’s health, King Dom Pedro II.
Did you know that the iconic colored strips of the Lord of Bonfim were formerly called “measures”? That’s because they were exactly 47 centimeters long, the size of the right arm of the Lord of Bonfim statue! The most important religious and “profane” festival in Bahia, the “Lavagem do Bonfim”, takes place every year on the second Thursday of January. The Washing of the Church began (in 1773) when the slaves were forced to wash the church as part of the preparations for the Lord of Bonfim’s feast. Over time, candomblé followers identified the Lord of Bonfim with Oxalá, the male procreative power holder, and the Archdiocese of Salvador forbade the washing inside the temple.
Today, the party begins with a beautiful procession of baianas (from Candomblé) that walk from Nossa Senhora da Conceição da Praia Church to Alto do Bonfim. To the sound of African chants and songs, they pour perfumed lavender water on the steps and the churchyard, while the Church doors remain closed. It’s impossible not to be influenced by this devotional atmosphere. It has been preserved as World Heritage since 1998.
The second floor of the Bonfim Church keeps a beautiful surprise. A museum with a great artifacts arrangement brings together paintings, priests’ clothing, furniture and a wide variety of Ex-Vows – gifts given by the faithful to their saint of devotion in gratitude, consecration or renewal of a promise. They range from carved wood to carved silver or gold, in the shape of the body part that has been cured upon request. But there are also curious objects that devotees gave to the Church for attributing a miracle, such as a coin crushed by a gun bullet that slipped on the metal and saved the life of a person who had it in the pocket at the time of the attack.
In addition to countless objects and their curious stories, you can still look at the church from another perspective from above. The internal balconies give visual access to the entire length of the church, from the door to the altar, and you can see very closely the original French-made organ that was donated to the Church in 1854 by Feliciana Maria de Britto Lopes Alves. The instrument, restored by Daniel Rigatto, is composed of flutes, metals and tubes and is 4.3 meters high by 2.24 meters wide, has 290 tubes and is one of the few in Bahia of this model.
To complete the tour, what do you think of climbing the tower and seeing everything from above? A few years ago, access became granted, making it possible to see Ribeira’s seafront on one side and all the other neighborhoods from the Lower City until Contorno Avenue and the buildings at Corredor da Vitória on the other side. The large windows give wide visibility also to Largo do Bonfim, which is brand new, all beautiful and requalified.
Our Lord of Bonfim Church
Location: Our Lord of Bonfim Church – Basilica Sanctuary of Senhor do Bonfim. Largo do Bonfim, no number, Bonfim, Salvador-BA.
Contact: (71) 3316-2196.
Opening hours: Monday, from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Friday and Sunday, from 5:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
On the last and the first Friday of each month, from 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Sunday: 6:00 am, 7:30 am, 9:00 am, 11:00 am, 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm
Monday: 9:00 am and 5:00 pm
Tuesday to Thursday: 7:00 am, 8:00 am, 10:30 am and 5:00 pm
Friday: 6:00 am, 7:00 am, 8:00 am, 9:00 am, 11:00 am, 3:00 pm*, 5:00 pm and 6:30 pm* (* only on the first and last Friday of each month).
Saturday: 7:00 am, 8:00 am, 10:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
More details at this link.
Photos: Fábio Marconi
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Igreja de Nosso Senhor do Bonfim. Foto: Fábio Marconi