Thursday, May 29, 2014

Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem in Niterói

It’s one of those ideal spots for a church, or a fort. The tiny Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem church, which has a long, storied history, has survived nearly 350 years perched atop a tiny island just inside the mouth of Rio’s Guanabara Bay.

And that's the Christ the Redeemer statue perch in Rio way off in the distance in the center of the photo.

You can see the church just across the water from our neighborhood Icaraí beach. It occupies what is now the background to the more popular photo of Oscar Neimeyer’s iconic Contemporary Art Museum building. I’ve always wanted to visit the site but it was either closed to the public awaiting yet another round of restoration work or the access gate was locked shut.

This access bridge to the island was built in the 1970s.
The rare day when this gate is unlocked.
It's a long way up a very old stone walkway.

Now that the church has been brought back to working order it is only open to the public one Sunday a month. This past Sunday was my chance to see it up close, and to get spectacular views of Rio, the bay and back at Niterói.

Originally commissioned in December, 1663, the church was eventually completed in 1734. Over the centuries it was expanded, burned to the ground, rebuilt, handed over from one custodian to another, abandoned, rebuilt, closed again and finally maintained by a local Boys Club chapter on a minimal stipend from the city.

It’s a cute, if nondescript, little chapel. This church is really all about location.

To visit the island and the church plan your trip for the fourth Sunday of the month. The gate is opened in the morning, mass is celebrated at 10:00 a.m., and then the gate gets closed up in early evening.