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Património Cultural
World Heritage

Historic Centre of Olinda


Olinda is located on the northern coast of Pernambuco State, to the north of Recife.
The first stage of the Portuguese presence in Brazil was associated to the sugarcane plantation. Olinda’s foundation and growth date from this time as, for a long time, it was the most important sugarcane trade centre in the North of Brazil. Founded in 1537 by Duarte Coelho as “Nova Lusitana”, it stood on a hill, by the sea, for strategic military reasons. The Cathedral, the former Bishop’s Palace and the Church of the Misericórdia date from this period.
About a hundred years after its foundation, Olinda was occupied, pillaged and burnt down by the Dutch. Most of its buildings and original layout were destroyed. Consequently, the capital of the state was transferred to Recife.
Following the withdrawal of the Dutch in the second half of the 17th century, Olinda began a reconstruction period that led to the present day historic centre.

Olinda has an irregular urban pattern determined by the housing layout rather than by the street layout. Its streets have adjusted to the topographic conditions, linking differentthe Misericórdia, St. Benedict Monastery and the Carmo Church and Convent. Apart from the convents and churches making up its architectural heritage, Olinda has other examples of road layouts such as Praça João Alfredo and Rua do Amparo, where a solid construction prevails.
The Jesuit College and Church of Our Lady of Grace, designed by the Jesuit architect Francisco Dias in 1592, is the only remaining example of a 17th-century construction in Olinda.
The former Episcopal Palace was a council seat and an episcopal seat between the 17th and 19th centuries.
The present-day Church of the Misericórdia dates from the 17th century and replaced a former one that was burnt down during the Dutch invasion. It boasts the coat-of-arms of Portugal’s King D. Sebastião on its frontispiece.
St. Benedict Church was built along the second half of the 18th century, whereas its Monastery went through extensive restoration works in 1860. Noteworthy in the Monastery are its large chancel and gilt carved work.
Olinda’s present Carmo Convent Church dates from the first half the 18th century. By the end of the 19th century, restoration works added a solid chamber to the church. The building went through rehabilitation and restoration works in the 20th century.


Guia dos Bens Tombados. Brasil, Coordenação de Maria Elisa Carrazzoni, Rio de Janeiro, Expressão e Cultura with the Cultural Support from Caixa Econômica Federal, 1987.

Património da Humanidade, World Heritage e Sites in Brazil, Pesquisa e Texto Percival Tirapeli, São Paulo, Metalivros, 2000

Dias, Pedro, Arte de Portugal no Mundo, Brasil - Arquitectura Civil e Religiosa, Lisboa, Editor Público – Comunicação Social, S.A., 2008.