Friday, January 21, 2011

The Church of Immaculate Conception in Manaus, Brazil

It takes crossing a few noisy, filthy streets to reach the park around the Church of Immaculate Conception in Manaus, but any crossing is worth the effort. The church grounds are converted to a haven to stroll or sit or admire the ancient trees that tell of the jungle that once was here. In the middle of it rises the white and yellow sanctuary; low, horizontal, with two pivotal belfries over its main entrance.  At night, well-aimed lighting transforms the building into an almost elfish haunt, like something out of a story; baby blue, perhaps to recall Mary’s royal color, and an ochre in complimentary contrast.

We enter through its massive main doors and are immediately arrested by the dramatic altar piece, showing an enraptured Mary, probably ascending, amidst cherubim and standing on her signature lilies. The backdrop is heavenly blue and illuminated to ultimate effect.

Draga masters Portuguese and while I’m trying to figure out who the effeminate angelic figure in the pink robe might depict, she engages a kind lady who’s obviously involved in the church’s goings on. We should really check out the church’s museum, insists the lady, and we follow her to an adjacent chamber. She points at a kind of wooden throne.
“This is where the pope sat,” she whispers, pointing at the picture of John Paul II on the wall, and explains that the wall is a remnant of the original church that stood here. It burned down and the present white cathedral was build in its place in 1850. Some of the artifacts in the room are from the earlier period.

A striking Lady of Sorrows stands facing a rather unusual sculpture of the Deceased Christ, laying horizontal and covered in a death shroud. Against the back wall He falls under the weight of His cross. Priestly garments hang behind glass. In a cupboard against the opposite wall are manuscripts and antique Bibles.

As we walk out of the church I realize what great comfort I draw from finding any kind of church, or even any kind of fidelity to the great mystery of who we are. Whoever walks this planet baffling at the great differences that seems the divide us, will find ultimate kinship in religious expressions, but only when he remembers that these images reflect questions, never answers. 
Tree in the church yard, Manaus, Brazil
The Church of Immaculate Conception in Manaus, Brazil
Marian altar piece of the Church of Immaculate Conception in Manaus, Brazil
Pink angel shielding a child

Pink Angel - close up
St. Jospeh, I'm guessing
The chair that once held JPII

An unusual depiction of Christ; deceased and covered with a shroud

Our Lady of Sorrows

Our Lady of Sorrows - close up

1 comment:

  1. When I travel, I love going to different churches.
    The one near my Buenos Aires apartment was amazing! I can show you the pictures!


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