In a city as grand as Rio de Janeiro, it’s perhaps surprising that a small church is one of its most captivating sights. Sao Francisco da Penitencia Church is known for its dazzling gold interiors. Dating from 1726, it is also one of Brazil’s oldest churches and a shining example of baroque style in the middle of modern Rio. The Basics
Given its small size, Sao Francisco da Penitencia Church does not take long to visit, so it is easy to stop by while exploring downtown Rio de Janeiro. If you’d like to visit with a guided tour, look for downtown walking tours focused on Rio’s historic attractions; these tours typically also include stops at the nearby Theatro Municipal and Monastery Church of Santo Antonio. You can also visit on a customized private tour.
Things to Know Before You Go
How to Get There
- Sao Francisco da Penitencia Church is a must-visit for those with an interest in architecture and religious history.
- There is a small admission fee.
- Next door, the Convento de Santo Antonio contains the chapel of Nossa Senhora das Dores da Imaculada Conceicao.
- A garden on the grounds leads to the catacombs, used until 1850. Visits must be arranged in advance.
The church is located in Rio’s downtown Centro district within walking distance of many other attractions, including the Metropolitan Cathedral and the Carioca Aqueduct. The nearest Metro station is Sete de Setembro (Line 1), a short walk away.
When to Get There
The Sao Francisco da Penitencia Church is open Tuesday through Friday, from 9am to 4pm. To enjoy the interiors in relative peace, try to come soon after opening. The Dazzling Interiors
Critics say that the opulent church runs contrary to the beliefs of its namesake, since Saint Francis of Assisi would never have commissioned a church that’s drizzled in gold. Regardless of historical accuracy, however, the fact remains this historic church is a brilliant sight to behold, from the altar made of jacaranda to the blue tiles, specifically imported from Portugal, that line the chapel vestibules.