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Church of Saint Francis of Assisi

Oscar Niemeyer’s beautiful and controversial masterpiece of organic modernism is one of Brazil’s most celebrated landmarks and Belo Horizonte’s shining jewel.

Take the time to visit perhaps the most influential and controversial example of Niemeyer’s genius, the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi. While Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyers contributions to mid-century modernism can be seen across the country, notably at the Supreme Court, the Presidential Palace and the National Congress, some of his earliest and most interesting work is here in Belo Horizonte.

Since its completion in 1943, the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi has been the symbol of Pampulha and a defining landmark of Belo Horizonte. However, it was not accepted as such for some time. Scandalized by the unconventional design, church officials took 14 years to agree to have it consecrated. Visit today and you will see the extent to which this once shocking building has now been embraced not only by locals, but also by people from all over the world. 

Niemeyer was inspired by the words of the French poet Paul Claudel, who wrote, “A church is God’s hangar on Earth.” See how the church’s structure resembles a series of waves rising against the embankment of the lagoon. The lagoon is itself part of the broader architectural complex of Pampulha, designed by Niemeyer in 1940 to be a garden city within the mining capital of Belo Horizonte. 

Approach on foot to see the building at its best, following the popular jogging path that follows the shoreline of Lagoa da Pampulha. Consider the astonishing level of innovation that went into designing the building’s unmistakable flowing exterior. The façade features blue-and-white murals by Portinari depicting the life of St. Francis of Assisi. Inside the images continue in ocher, set off by the wooden arched ceilings. 

Visit the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi in the late afternoon to see its murals beautifully illuminated with colored lights as night falls. Note that the church doors are open only during the day, but its exterior is a lovely sight at any time.


Guide to Exploring Church of Saint Francis of Assisi


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San Diego Suítes Pampulha SG$44
San Diego Suítes Pampulha

San Diego Suítes Pampulha

Avenida Otacílio Negrão de Lima, 1624, Pampulha, Belo Horizonte, MG
     
    3.5 out of 5.0 Stars

    Located in São Luiz, this hotel is 0.9 mi (1.4 km) from Mineirao Stadium and 2 mi (3.2 km) from Church of Saint Francis of Assisi.

    Da Orla Pampulha Hostel SG$39
    Da Orla Pampulha Hostel

    Da Orla Pampulha Hostel

    Av. Octacilio Negrão de Lima, 2077, Pampulha, Belo Horizonte, MG
       
      2.0 out of 5.0 Stars

      Located in São Luiz, this hostel is within a 15-minute walk of Lagoa Pampulha and Mineirao Stadium. Mineirinho Stadium and Brazilian Football Museum are also within 15 minutes.

      Stop Inn Plus Pampulha SG$25
      Stop Inn Plus Pampulha

      Stop Inn Plus Pampulha

      Avenida das Palmeiras, 743, Sao Luiz, Belo Horizonte, MG
         
        4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

        Located in São José, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Lagoa Pampulha and Mineirao Stadium. Mineirinho Stadium and Brazilian Football Museum are also within 10 minutes.

        Pousada Sossego da Pampulha SG$31
        Pousada Sossego da Pampulha

        Pousada Sossego da Pampulha

        Av. Cel. José Dias Bicalho, 1258, São Luiz, Belo Horizonte, MG
           
          2.5 out of 5.0 Stars

          Located in São José, this pousada is within a 15-minute walk of Lagoa Pampulha and Mineirao Stadium. Mineirinho Stadium and Brazilian Football Museum are also within 15 minutes.

          OYO Pousada Lagoa
          OYO Pousada Lagoa

          OYO Pousada Lagoa

             
            2.5 out of 5.0 Stars

            Located in Jardim Atlântico, this pousada is within 1 mile (2 km) of Lagoa Pampulha, Pampulha Architectural Complex and Pampulha Art Museum. Nado Lake Park and Casa do Baile are also within 3 miles (5 km).

            Nobile Inn Pampulha SG$33
            Nobile Inn Pampulha

            Nobile Inn Pampulha

               
              3.5 out of 5.0 Stars

              Located in Pampulha, this hotel is 0.8 mi (1.2 km) from Lagoa Pampulha and 1.5 mi (2.5 km) from Mineirao Stadium. Federal University of Minas Gerais and Mineirinho Stadium are also within 2 miles (3 km).

              Pousada Pampulha R&R
              Pousada Pampulha R&R

              Pousada Pampulha R&R

              R. Expedicionario Celso Racioppi 701, Belo Horizonte, MG
                 
                3.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                Located in Ouro Preto, this pousada is within 1 mi (2 km) of Church of Saint Francis of Assisi and Mineirao Stadium. Japanese Garden and Pampulha Art Museum are also within 6 mi (10 km).

                OYO CHA Pampulha Design Hotel SG$27
                OYO CHA Pampulha Design Hotel

                OYO CHA Pampulha Design Hotel

                   
                  3.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                  Located in Jardim Atlântico, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Lagoa Pampulha and Pampulha Art Museum. Pampulha Architectural Complex and Nado Lake Park are also within 3 miles (5 km).