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The Paço Imperial ( , ), or Imperial Palace, is a historic building in the centre of the city of Rio de Janeiromarker, Brazilmarker. The Paço Imperial was built in the 18th century to serve as residence for the governors of colonial Brazilmarker and was later used by King John VI of Portugal and the rulers of the Empire of Brazilmarker, Pedro I and Pedro II. It was one of the main political centres of Brazil for nearly 150 years, from 1743 to 1889.

The Paço Imperial is located in the Praça XV in central Rio. Due to its architectural and historical significance, it is one of Brazil's most important historic buildings. Nowadays it serves as a cultural centre.



The current building was constructed by the order of Gomes Freire de Andrade, governor of the Capitania (colonial administrative region) of Rio de Janeiro. The architect was the Portuguesemarker military engineer José Fernandes Pinto Alpoim, a close collaborator of the governor, who greatly enlarged the existing buildings of the Royal mint and the Royal storage house which existed in the same place. This new Governor House (Casa dos Governadores) was finished in 1743 in a plain Baroque style and, except for some details, had the same appearance as the building that exists today. The Palace, very similar to contemporary Portuguese manor houses, has a beautiful Baroque portal made of Portuguese marble, several inner courtyards and a stairway to reach the upper storeys.

Main portal of the Paço Imperial.
The whole area beside the Governor House was also remodelled by Pinto Alpoim and turned into a spacious square (known today as Praça XV) including a marble fountain brought from Lisbonmarker. On the opposite side of the square, a large residential building for the Teles de Menezes family was built (a portion of this building still exists).

In 1763, as the seat of the colonial government of Brazil was transferred from Salvadormarker to Rio de Janeiro, the building was turned into the Viceroy Palace (Paço dos Vice-Reis), used by the Viceroy of Brazil as administrative centre. Around this period, the square beside the Palace gained a stone harbour and a new fountain (Fonte de Mestre Valentim) that still exists today.

Royal Palace

In 1808, when the court of Prince Regent John VI arrived in Rio escaping the invasion of Portugalmarker by Napoleonic troops, the Palace became a Royal Palace (Paço Real) where the Prince Regent (and later King) John VI used to rule the newly-named United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and Algarves. Around this time, a third floor was added to the central portion of the façade of the Palace, which faced the sea. At the back of the Palace, an elevated passageway was built that linked the Palace to the Carmelite Convent, where Queen Mary I of Portugal was housed. A throne room was arranged on the second floor of the Palace, where the traditional ceremony of beija-mão (hand kissing) took place.

Imperial Palace

As Brazil became an independent nation as the Empire of Brazilmarker, in 1822, the Palace continued to be a centre of administrative power under Emperors Peter I and Peter II, and was renamed Imperial Palace (Paço Imperial).

Several important events of the History of Brazil are associated with the Paço Imperial. On January 9 of 1822, from one of the balconies of the Palace facing the square, Peter I announced that he would refuse Portuguese orders and remain in independent Brazil (the so-called Dia do Fico). In one of the rooms of the Palace, Peter II's daughter, Princess Isabel, signed in 1888 the famous Lei Áurea, which definitively banned slavery from Brazil (some sources point that slavery ban was signed at a Free Masons temple at Rua Do Lavradio - Lavradio Street). Moreover, the Palace, the surrounding square and chapel were the stage of the coronations of John VI and the two Peters.

Decadence and recovery

With the foundation of the Republic of Brazilmarker, in 1889, the Paço Imperial lost its former importance and was turned into the central Mail Office of Rio. The inner decoration of the rooms was dispersed, and the façades were modified. In 1980 a profound renovation returned the building to the appearance it had around 1818, a relatively easy task since an enormous number of images from the 18th and 19th centuries depict the Palace in detail.

Since 1984 the Paço Imperial has been an important cultural centre, hosting temporary art exhibitions of painting, sculpture, cinema, music etc. It also hosts the Paulo Santos Library, specialising in art, architecture and engineering, containing several rare books from the 16th to the 18th centuries.

See also


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