A Dark History: Churches in Salvador

History Facts

Where: Salvador, Brazil.
When: Many colonial buildings and hundreds of churches were constructed in the 16th and 17th centuries.
History: Built by African slaves forced into believing in their oppressors Catholicism.
Go for: Ornate decor and a chance to be healed.

Salvador is scattered throughout with a staggering 300 churches of Portuguese and black slave origins and temples.

Sao Francisco Church, Salvador

In colonial Brazil, slaves were forced to convert to Catholicism. The Portuguese constructed over 300 churches in Salvador alone and it was the slaves who built them. Sao Francisco is one of the most ornate, using real gold leaf like wallpaper.

The cherubs decorating the pillars are without genitalia. Slaves carved them with disfigured faces and grotesque organs and embarrassed priests had to chisel away the offending pieces.

Built in 1591, it is now in ruin but is still preserving the Portuguese colonial baroque style. Nowadays it is known as the convent of Carmelitas Descalcadas and it houses the tombs of Franciscans priests.

Church of Bom Fin, Salvador

The Church of Bom Fin is famous for it’s miraculous healing powers. Sufferers leave replicas giant casts of the part of their sick body part and pray for it to be cured. Photos and letters line the walls of this room of miracles from people who can’t afford body part replicas.


By Susi O’Neill