Unassuming from the outside, the simple facade of downtown Rio de Janeiro’s Sao Bento Monastery (Mosteiro de Sao Bento) belies its richly decorated and gold leaf-gilded baroque interiors. Built in 1671, it is one of Brazil’s most important monuments of colonial art. Among its treasures are a filigreed altar and rococo wooden carvings.
Visitors are welcome to explore the interiors during opening hours. Full- and half-day general sightseeing tours of Rio de Janeiro, on foot and by vehicle, often include a visit to Sao Bento Monastery. For a more in-depth experience, however, you could join a specialized tour that arrives in time for Sunday morning Mass. Art and architecture-focused city tours often include a visit here as well as other notable churches.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Sao Bento Monastery is a must-visit for architecture and art lovers.
- The monastery is free to enter.
- Visitors should dress conservatively, with shoulders and knees covered.
- The hilltop monastery offers excellent city views.
How to Get There
Sao Bento Monastery is perched on Morro de Sao Bento (Sao Bento Hill). To get there from Rua Dom Gerardo, go to No. 40 and take the elevator to the fourth floor. It is a 5-minute walk from the Parada dos Museus VLT Carioca light rail stop.
When to Get There
Sao Bento Monastery is open daily from 6:30am to 6:30pm. High Mass on Sunday begins at 10am and is celebrated with organ music and Gregorian chanting. Mass (7:30am weekdays and 8am Saturday) tends to be crowded, so it is advisable to arrive early or book a tour that guarantees entrance to Sunday Mass.
The Building of Sao Bento
Founded by a group of Benedictine monks, the monastery and church complex were constructed by slaves. Several of the sculptors and painters who worked on the intricate details of the church interior were monks as well. Construction of the church and monastery were finished at the end of the 17th century, but the monks continued to touch up the interior, most notably adding enormous silver chandeliers weighing over 200 pounds (91 kilograms) each.