Paço de São Cristóvão

Paço de São Cristóvão
Location in Rio de Janeiro
General information
Architectural style Neoclassical
Town or city Rio de Janeiro
Country Brazil
Coordinates 22°54′20″S 43°13′33″W / 22.90556°S 43.22583°W / -22.90556; -43.22583Coordinates: 22°54′20″S 43°13′33″W / 22.90556°S 43.22583°W / -22.90556; -43.22583
Current tenants National Museum of Brazil
Construction started 1803
Completed 1862
Client Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
Technical details
Floor count 3
Design and construction
Architect Pedro José Pezerát
Designated 99
Reference no. 1938

Paço de São Cristóvão (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈpasu dʒi sɐ̃w kɾiʃˈtɔvɐ̃w], English: Saint Christopher's Palace; also known as Palácio Imperial or Palácio de São Cristóvão) is a royal palace located in the Quinta da Boa Vista park in the Imperial Neighbourhood of São Cristóvão, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It served as residence to the Portuguese Royal Family and later to the Brazilian Imperial Family until 1889, when the country became a republic through a coup d'état deposing Emperor Pedro II. Then, the palace briefly served as a public building by the provisional government for the constituent assembly of the first republican constitution. It currently houses the National Museum of Brazil.



In the 16th and 17th centuries, the area where the Palace is currently located, was part of a Jesuit farm in the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. With the expulsion of the Order in 1759, the property was dismembered and passed into private ownership.

In the early 19th century, the area known as Quinta da Boa Vista (Good View Estate) belonged to the Portuguese-Lebanese merchant, Elias Antônio Lopes,[1] who had erected, around 1803, a manor house on top of a hill, from which one had a good view of the Guanabara Bay - which gave rise to the current name of region. When the Portuguese court was transferred to Brazil, in 1808, Elias António Lopes donated his farm to the Prince Regent John VI. John VI appreciated the gift and stayed for long periods in the manor house.

Royal residence

Given the lack of residential spaces in Rio de Janeiro and before the arrival of the royal family in 1808, Elias donated his property to Prince Regent Prince Regent John of Braganza, who had been living in the Paço Imperial since their arrival in Rio de Janeiro in 1808, to transform it into the royal residence. This was a nice strategy coup for Elias because being known for having the best house in Rio and offering this treasure to the Prince Regent was rewarded with another property that, although it was simpler in structure, was quite good compared to the possibility of to have no case had not advanced so skillfully. The prince-regent felt very honored by the gesture and the fifth would become his permanent abode in Brazil.

At the time, the area of the farm was still surrounded by mangroves and communication over land with the city was difficult. Later, the wetlands were grounded and the roads overgrown.

To better accommodate the royal family, the farmhouse, though vast and comfortable, needed to be adapted. The most important reform began at the time of the nuptials of Prince Pedro with the Archduchess Maria Leopoldina of Austria, in 1819, extending until 1821. he renovation was directed by English architect John Johnston and was completed in 1821. In front of the palace, Johnston installed a decorative portico, a gift sent from England to Brazil by Hugh Percy, 2nd Duke of Northumberland. The gate, inspired by Robert Adams' porch for the "Sion House", that nobleman's residence in England, is shaped in a kind of terracotta called "Coade stone" manufactured by the English company Coade & Sealy.

It is worth noting the architectural line of this palace in the similarity of the Ajuda Palace, which, left behind in Lisbon, ended up being unfinished, winning the Palace of São Cristóvão deserved relief as the new capital of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves and the Portuguese Empire.

Imperial residence

After the declaration of Independence of Brazil, in 1822, the palace became the residence of Emperor Pedro I. The remodelling and expansion of the palace continued under Portuguese architect Manuel da Costa (1822–1826), followed by French architect Pedro José Pezerát (1826–1831), credited as the author of the definitive Neoclassical project of the building. He added a new tower to the left of the main façade and added a third floor to the palace. The works were continued after 1847 by Brazilian artist Manuel de Araújo Porto-alegre, who harmonised the style of the façades, followed by the German Theodore Marx (1857–1868). Italian painter Mario Bragaldi decorated many of the rooms of the palace, including the Throne Room and the Ambassadors' Room, with paintings in trompe-l'œil.

After the marriage of Pedro I and Archduchess Maria Leopoldina of Austria, in 1817, the Imperial couple resided in the palace. Here were born the future Queen of Portugal, Maria II, as well as the future Emperor of Brazil Pedro II. Empress Maria Leopoldina died in the palace in 1826.

Pedro II, future Emperor, grew up and was educated in the palace, and in 1869 ordered the remodelling of the gardens. French garden designer Auguste François Marie Glaziou was put in charge of the project, which included artificial lakes, bridges, caves and fake ancient temples, all following the Romantic trend of the time. Pedro II's children were also born in the palace, including Princess Isabel, famous for having abolished slavery from Brazil in 1888.

After the Proclamation of the Republic in 1889, the Imperial family left the country and the palace and its surrounding gardens became empty.

Republican period

In 1891, the building was used by Brazilian politicians writing the first Republican Constitution of the country.

In 1892, the director of the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro managed to transfer the institution from the Campo de Santana to the palace. The inner decoration of the palace was dispersed, but part of it can still be found in other museums, like the Imperial Museum of Petrópolis, in which the Throne Room was reassembled.

At the time, the gardens had a long period of abandonment, but in 1909 President Nilo Peçanha had them restored and surrounded, preserving the characteristics that were given to him by Glaziou.

National Museum

Founded in 1818 by King John VI of Portugal, the National Museum was transferred to the old Imperial Palace of São Cristóvão in 1892. During its long history, its collections have been greatly expanded by acquisitions and donations, including by Emperor Pedro II, a great sponsor of the sciences. The collections include Astronomy (mostly meteorites), Palaeontology, Natural history, Ethnology (including many interesting works by Brazilian indigenous peoples) and Archaeology (mostly antiquities from ancient Egypt).

Much of the art collection displayed by the Museum still consists of what was gathered by the Emperor Pedro II himself. In this manner, it reflects 19th-century views of Anthropology, Archeology and sciences in general. Additionally, as is the case with the building, the collection is poorly preserved. It reflects the lack of public investment in education and sciences in Brazil and is in no way comparable to museums in the developed Western World.

Visitors can also see a few rooms of the ancient Palace with its original painted and stucco decoration, like the Throne Room, the Embassadors' Room and the room of Empress Teresa Cristina. These rooms still display a couple original pieces but are overall empty.

See also


  1. "Genealogia Fluminense - Cantagalo". Retrieved 2016-09-29.
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