* Irene's Country Corner * - Brasil - Rio de Janeiro



The Center

The Center corresponds to the old part of the city and is referred to as "Cidade" (Portuguese word for city) or "Centro" (Downtown). Carioca, Cinelândia, Glória, Lapa and others are the main districts in the downtown area, where major Brazilian and international companies keep their offices.

Rio's beautiful buildings, churches and other constructions of the 19th century and early 1900's, like the Municipal Theater, the National Museum of Fine Arts, the National Library, the Candelária Church, the Lapa Arches, and many others are concentrated in this area.

The Municipal theater, inaugurated on July 14, 1909, was inspired in the building of the Opéra Charles Garnier in Paris. We can see both in the interior and exterior of the theater, some beautiful works of arts like sculptures and paintings by famous Brazilian artists like the brothers Rodolfo and Henrique Bernadelli, Rodolfo Amoêdo and Eliseu Visconti. In the lower level of the theater we find the Assyrius Room, a former cabaret and today a restaurant.

Close to the theater is the National Library (Biblioteca Nacional) and the National Museum of Fine Arts (Museu Nacional de Belas Artes - MNBA). The archives of the National Library were brought from Portugal by Dom João VI in 1808, when he left Lisbon taking refugee in Brazil, and started to constitute a public library in 1814, becoming a patrimony of Brazil after its independence from Portugal, in 1822.

In 1910, the National Library started to occupy the building where it is located today, projected and especially constructed for this purpose by the engineer Marcelino de Souza Aguiar. There are about 8.000.000 works in the library and some rarities like the first edition of the famous Lusíadas by Camões, the first editions of Mozart's scores, the original Carlos Gomes scores (one of the greatest Brazilian composers), two 15th-century bibles, New testaments from the 11th and 12th centuries, and others.

The National Museum of Fine Arts (Museu Nacional de Belas Artes - MNBA), located in an impressive French Renaissance style building across from the Municipal Theater, was inaugurated in 1938, by president Getúlio Vargas and is the home of a large collection of Brazilian and international paintings. It is installed in the former building of the National School of Fine Arts, created by Dom João VI in the 19th century.

The purpose of the Museum is the acquisition, conservation and spreading of works of art which evidence the evolution of the Brazilian and foreign artistic production. The museum has more than 14.000 works of art, including Brazilian and foreign sculptures, drawings, engravings and a significant painting collection. The Brazilian painting collection of the Museum has approximately 2.200 works, among them, paintings by Victor Meirelles, Pedro Américo, Almeida Júnior, Belmiro de Almeida, Rodolfo Amoêdo, Henrique Bernardelli, Eliseu Visconti, Zeferino da Costa and others. The foreign collection consists of about 800 works of art, comprising the Italian painting of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries and the French and Dutch painting from the 16th century onwards and an interesting African collection. The foreign collection includes works of the French Louis Eugène Boudin, the Dutch Frans Post, the Italians Gianbattista Gaulli - " Il Baciccia ", Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Francesco Guardi, and others. The Brazilian drawings collection is one of the largest, with more than 4.000 works, including artists like Rodofo Amoêdo, Victor Meirelles and the brothers Henrique and Rodolfo Berndelli among others. In addition to the permanent collection, this museum has been the stage for major exhibitions in Rio lately, including Rodin, Miró and Dali.

The Lapa Arches (Arcos da Lapa), in the past...

The Lapa Arches, located in downtown Rio.

...and the present days.

The Lapa Arches, located in downtown Rio. Picture taken in April 2006.

The Lapa Arches, located in downtown Rio.

The construction of the Lapa Arches, a very beautiful 64 meter-high and 270 meter-length-structure in downtown Rio, began in the first half of the 18th century.

Located in the Largo da Lapa Square,the center of Rio’s turn-of-the-century nightlife, the Lapa Arches hold their place in history. The structure, a former aqueduct, containing 42 arches in two tiers was idealized with the purpose of supplying the city with water, carrying water from the Santa Teresa hill to the Santo Antônio hill.

In 1896 the city transportation company took over the aqueduct, which was abandoned, and converted it to a viaduct, laying trolley tracks across its length. Today they are still used for transportation. A cable car on its top carries passengers from the Carioca Station in downtown to Santa Teresa and vice-versa. Santa Teresa is an artistic community with many museus, art studios and cultural centers. There is a row of houses from the beginning of the 20th century, with around 50 ateliers where more than 80 artists work and who open their doors to the public to show works of art that vary from the classic to the contemporary.

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This page was created on: January 24, 2002.
Last updated on: January 26, 2005.

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