The Historical Center of São Paulo, which corresponds to the surroundings of the region where the city was founded, is the area where the memory of the capital is most vividly preserved. Old buildings, with impressive architecture, characterize the landscape of the surroundings, drawing the attention of those who walk through its streets. Due to this important role of preservation and dissemination of São Paulo’s history, this fraction of the Center became a reference in all the city tours, encompassing some of its most visited tourist spots. Among them, many churches stand out, that were part of the 460 years of evolution of the metropolis, which was founded by Jesuit priests in 1554. These are some of them:
The Catedral Metropolitana of São Paulo, commonly called Catedral da Sé, is the best known Catholic temple in the city of São Paulo. The town’s main church began being built in 1598, and was completed in 1612. The building we know today, however, was only erected centuries later when the necessity for restoration of the then deteriorated church could no longer be ignored. Designed by Maximilian Hehl, professor of the Polytechnic School, the present building began being built in 1912, a work that was only concluded more than four decades later, in 1954, on the anniversary of the 4th centenary of São Paulo. Being 111 meters long, 46 meters wide and 65 meters high, the Cathedral located in the heart of the city is one of the five largest neo-Gothic sanctuaries in the world.
Also located in the center, the Historic Triangle, which until the mid-nineteenth century defined the limits of the city, which had a little more than 30 thousand inhabitants, dates back to the beginnings of the capital. The triangle’s vertices are three of São Paulo’s main temples: the Monastério de São Bento, an important Beuronense style building with more than 400 years of history, also responsible for one of the oldest theaters in São Paulo; The Paróquia de São Francisco de Assis, a baroque building inaugurated in 1647, which has the most esteemed collection of images of the Franciscan order in Brazil; and the Igreja da Ordem Terceira do Carmo, which had its current installation erected between 1747 and 1758 and which has an expressive collection of colonial art from São Paulo.
Accompanying the development of the city, the three buildings saw the inhabitants of the small village cross the limits of the Triangle until reaching remote regions and consolidating a population of more than 12 thousand people.
Still without leaving the Old Center, at the end of the Santa Ifigênia Viaduct, it is possible to visit the Igreja de Santa Ifigênia, built in the twentieth century to replace the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, originally from 1720. An example of revivalist architecture, the present temple, which began to be used before it was concluded, in 1910, stands out for its high central tower and the detailed stained glass windows, imported from Venice.
In the Square of the Patriarch is the Igreja de Santo Antonio, historical patrimony of the state, that unites invaluable artistic pieces of the colonial period. In addition to its famous baroque carving altar from 1780, the sanctuary features the oldest and most well-preserved murals of the city, dating back to the beginning of the seventeenth century, which were found during its last renovation in 2005. Having faced many restorations, the current front of the temple, conceived in eclectic style, dates from 1919.
Not all the important religious centers of São Paulo express the Catholic faith. The Catedral Metropolitana Ortodoxa, one of the Greek Orthodox Churches of Antioch in Brazil, is one of the most outstanding buildings for its architecture, conceived by Paulo Tafic Camasmie based on the Church of Santa Sofia, a Byzantine building in Istanbul, Turkey. Located at the beginning of Paulista Avenue, the Cathedral was inaugurated in 1954, which makes it one of the most recent among the many prominent churches that permeate the city.