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Museu de Congonhas

The museum is located on the natural slope of the Sanctuary's terrain and, although it values the contrast with its contemporary lines, it does not detract from the protagonism of the entire secular complex. On the contrary: it was designed to talk; to the place where it was built, as the meeting between past and present, which guarantees the preservation of history for the future.


The dialogue with the place where a project will be inserted and for whom it is intended is one of the main characteristics of Gustavo Penna's projects. Specifically in the case of the museum, the concept went further. As it is a listed property and has a ritualistic vocation, the implantation of a contemporary building surrounded by 18th century buildings should, more than ever, respect its topography - which refers to the Baroque principle of the “search for the heavens”, for to be on a slope – and to revere the symbolism of the surroundings.


Despite being contemporary, the museum's architecture harmonizes with the language that has been there for centuries, through some of the project's characteristics: a neutral implantation, without volumetric competition with the main architectural ensemble; the rhythm; of the construction, with its openings, proportions, alignments and altimetry on a similar scale to the rest of the set; the large base of the stone building, very peculiar at the time of the construction of the Sanctuary, with the use of stones from the region, which do not feel foreign; in the context; the upper part is lighter, more fluid, the walls are whitewashed and painted with mineral paint – the same used in the restoration of the Passos de Cristo chapels and the basilica, approved by Iphan; the long and smooth curvature of the building, which “slides into the slope, in a concave shape that echoes the oval shape of the pilgrimage site, just below, as if the two fit together”, according to Gustavo Penna.


Occupying 3,500 m² of built area, the museum is divided into three floors: on the main level are the reception and the permanent exhibition room, made up of four spaces: the introductory room, the exhibition hall, the exhibition hall and a shop and one coffee. On the lower level there is a hall and access to the permanent and temporary exhibition area, the library and documentation area (which will consolidate the Museum as a reference center for Brazilian Baroque) and the administrative sector, in addition to an open-air amphitheater. Finally, on the basement level is the Baroque Reference Center, a studio for the development of stonework.


“Another extremely important factor is being side by side with the 12 Prophets, the masterpiece of Aleijadinho, the greatest artist in the Americas. And of the six chapels that describe the Passion of Christ, a wonderful thing. Our project had to be timeless, although it is a witness of its time and is proud to affirm poetry, respect, balance. The architecture of the Congonhas Museum feels safe to use the path of kindness, reverence, awareness and respect for the Bom Jesus de Matosinhos Sanctuary”, describes Gustavo Penna.


“The museum wants to enhance the symbolic axis that brings together the plans of the sacred, memory and local daily life. We seek to establish a link, an association with the symbolic territory, to preserve the existing hierarchy, the consistency and solidity of the historical and artistic collection, to reaffirm and ensure this heritage”, completes the architect Laura Penna, project coordinator.


The interior of the museum has fluid spaces. “Clean, white, clear, nothing fragmented. It is the Baroque itself translated by contemporaneity, where there is no rupture but the curve, the path to heaven”, explains the architect. In the areas of the museum, the architectural solutions sought to offer the greatest number of installations and lighting resources, to make the possibilities of creating museographic scenarios more flexible and enriching. Through dry-wall shafts on the walls of the permanent exhibition and the resources and facilities on the floors of the surrounding areas, it is possible to create any museographic arrangement.




If the architecture of the Congonhas Museum mimics the surrounding environment, integrating with the existing heritage, inside the collection is the representation of the city and what formed it: faith, devotion, the work and the figure of Aleijadinho and Congonhas itself , with its ethnic, historical and cultural characteristics. “The museum shows the dimension of the city as a work of art, a place of the sacred, a representation of heritage and as a demonstration of faith. Through the exposition of ex-votos and documentation, films, publications, in addition to the study of the reproduction of the 12 prophets, for their preservation as a landmark of baroque art", explains Sérgio Rodrigo Reis, president of the Municipal Foundation for Culture, Leisure and Tourism (Fumcult ), who will manage the museum. “Congonhas inaugurates the concept of the Site Museum in the country, that is, made to enhance the understanding of the place where it is inserted”, he adds.


The permanent exhibition is composed of 342 ex-votos ranging from the 18th to the 20th century, from the private collection of Márcia de Moura Castro and acquired by Iphan in 2011. From the pieces one can have not only an understanding of the process of devotion and faith, but from the cultural richness of its symbology. And it still brings a relic among the representation of ex-votos on votive tablets: a painting, made in wood in the 19th century by Euclásio Ventura, and which is the only existing image of Aleijadinho. It had disappeared from Congonhas in 1910, later bought by a collector and later returned to the government of Minas Gerais. A year ago, the Museum negotiated – and managed to – the return of the work to Congonhas.


Another important collection is the consolidation of a reference library in the themes of faith, devotion, in the work of Aleijadinho and in the history and culture of Congonhas. In total, there are around 4,000 books and 3,000 newspaper clippings, acquired from private libraries, from a selection of libraries in the municipality and from UNESCO and Iphan. Even in the souvenir shop, Congonhas culture will be present: since taking over Fumcult, Sérgio Reis has involved the community in the implantation process, through “rescuing the crafts of faith”. In this way, artisans from the city who make the traditional Santa Cruz crosses (made in crepe paper and hung outside the houses), the teardrop beads, the salt, sawdust and soapstone carpets and the decoration of the litters of procession will have their pieces for sale as souvenirs for visitors.


The inauguration of the Congonhas Museum will also give visibility to actions that have already been implemented in the Bom Jesus de Matosinhos Sanctuary, such as the scenic lighting of the 12 Prophets and the chapels that reproduce the Passion of Christ; the first application in the country for a virtual visit to a city (and within it to the Sanctuary, through the; the application of an audio guide, which the visitor can download on their cell phone and have all the necessary information while visiting the Sanctuary; the performance of acoustic shows in the Museum's amphitheater (with capacity for 100 people), as a way of rescuing colonial music from Minas Gerais; and the launch of three publications (one on the Museum's collection and two on Congonhas).


Another action, this one more delicate, concerns the reproduction of Aleijadinho's 12 Prophets, which are slowly deteriorating due to the bad weather in Minas Gerais air. The Museum is leading a research on the reproduction of the Prophets, through two processes: the first (and which has already replicated two of them, in a soapstone powder resin) is high-tech and consists of scanning the statues and subsequent reproduction. The second is a study on the molds of works made in the 1960s (similar to what Rodin did), to see if it is possible to reproduce them.


Gustavo Penna, Laura Penna, Norberto Bambozzi, Alice Leite Flores, Ana Isabel de Sá, Eduardo Magalhães, Fernanda Tolentino, Gabriel de Souza, Henrique Neves, Ivan Rimsa, Julia Lins, Juliana Couri, Laura Caram, Letícia Carneiro, Naiara Costa, Natalia Ponciano, Oded Stahl, Patrícia Gonçalves, Paula Salum, Raquel Resende

Management and Planning

Risia Botrel, Isabela Tolentino and Taimara Araújo


Congonhas – Minas Gerais – Brazil


Technical Data
Project year: 2005

Year of completion of the work: 2015
Built area: 3,625m²


Jomar Bragança

Leonardo Finotti

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