Cathedral of Salvador

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Cathedral Basilica of Salvador
Catedral Basílica de Salvador
Façade of the Cathedral of Salvador, formerly a Jesuit church
RiteRoman Rite
Cathedral of Salvador is located in Brazil
Cathedral of Salvador
Location of the Catedral Basílica de Salvador
Geographic coordinates12°58′22″S 38°30′37″W / 12.972897°S 38.510330°W / -12.972897; -38.510330Coordinates: 12°58′22″S 38°30′37″W / 12.972897°S 38.510330°W / -12.972897; -38.510330
Direction of façadeNorthwest
Reference no.84

The Cathedral Basilica of Salvador (Catedral Basílica de Salvador), officially dedicated to the Transfiguration of Christ and named Primatial Cathedral Basilica of the Transfiguration of the Lord is the seat of the Archbishop of the city of Salvador, in the State of Bahia, in Brazil. The Archbishop of Salvador is also ex officio Primate of Brazil.

The Diocese of São Salvador da Bahia de Todos os Santos, the first in the Portuguese colony of Brazil, was created in 1551, only two years after the foundation of Salvador by nobleman Tomé de Sousa. The first bishop, Pero Fernandes Sardinha, arrived in 1552. A cathedral was built in the centre of Salvador around this time.

In 1676 the city became the seat of an archdiocese. After 1758, when the Jesuit Order was expelled from Brazil, the former Jesuit church of Salvador became the cathedral of the city. The building of the former cathedral was demolished in 1933. A scheme of its foundations can be seen on the pavement of the Praça da Sé (Se Square) in Salvador.[1]

Art and architecture[edit]

The origins is in several structures built by the Jesuit Order in Salvador. The Jesuits arrived in the city in the 1549 and planned a Jesuit college under Father Manuel da Nóbrega (1517-1570). The Colégio de Jesus (School of Jesus) was completed in 1585 through the financial support of the first governor-general of Bahia, Mem de Sá. Mem de Sá's tomb is located beneath high altar.[2]

In the second half of the 17th century the Jesuits built a new church - the one that exists today - in the Mannerist style then fashionable in Portugal. The façade is very similar to contemporary Portuguese churches like the Jesuit Church of Coimbra.

The façade is made in light Lioz stone brought from Portugal and is flanked by two short bell towers. It has three portals with statues of Jesuit saints, Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier and Francis Borgia. The gable on the upper storey of the façade is flanked by typical Mannerist volutes.

Interior of Cathedral of Salvador towards the main chapel.
Side Chapels in the Cathedral Basilica of Salvador

Inside, the cathedral is a one-aisled church of rectangular shape, without transept and with a very shallow main chapel. The side walls of the church have a series of lateral chapels decorated with altarpieces. This floorplan scheme is based on the Church of São Roque in Lisbon, the Jesuit church of the Portuguese capital, built a century earlier.

The chapels of the cathedral offer an interesting showcase of altarpiece art from the late 16th through the mid-18th centuries, all decorated with sculptures and paintings. Very rare are two 16th century Renaissance altarpieces that belonged to the previous Jesuit church and were reused in the new building. The altarpiece of the main chapel is a fine example of 17th century Mannerist art. Other chapels have Baroque altarpieces from the mid-18th century. The barrel vault covering the nave of the church is decorated with wooden panels dating from the 18th century and displays the Jesuit emblem "IHS". The paintings at the base of the nave are in vivid colors with an Asian design. They were painted by Charles Belleville (1657-1730), a Jesuit who had lived in Macau for ten years prior to his arrival in Bahia.[3]

The façade and floorplan of the Jesuit church of Salvador influenced several other colonial churches in Northeast Brazil, including the São Francisco Church of Salvador.


The sacristy of the church dates to 1694 and faces west towards the Bay of All Saints. The sacristy is called "Brazil's most exquisite".[2] It has three three altars and is richly decorated with Baroque furniture. The sacristy cabinet dates to the 17th century and has paintings of the life of Jesus on copper panels. The walls are covered in 17th-century Portuguese azulejos; the ceiling has wooden panels painted with Mannerist motifs and portraits of noted members of the Jesuit order.

Protected status[edit]

The Cathedral of Salvador was listed as a historic structure by the National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage in 1938. The structure was registered under the Book of Historical Works, Inscription 77 and Book of Fine Arts, fls. 14. The directive is dated May 25, 1938.[4][1]


The church is open to the public and may be visited.


  1. ^ a b "Catedral Basílica de Salvador (Salvador, BA)" (in Portuguese). National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage. 2019. Retrieved 2019-04-25.
  2. ^ a b Vilaron, André (2007). Igrejas históricas de Salvador = Historical churches in Salvador. Brasília, Brazil: Ministério das Relações Exteriores, Governo Federal. pp. 51–62. ISBN 9788560123001.
  3. ^ Silva, Zenaide Carvalho (2008). O lioz português : de lastro de navio a arte na Bahia. Rio de Janeiro, Brasil Porto, Portugal: Versal Editores Edições Afrontamento. ISBN 9788589309172.
  4. ^ Carrazzoni, Maria, ed. (1980). Guia dos bens tombados (in Portuguese). Rio de Janeiro, RJ: EXPED-Expansão Editorial. p. 54. ISBN 9788520800577.
  • da Silva Telles, Augusto Carlos: Atlas dos Monumentos Históricos e Artísticos do Brasil. MEC/SEAC/FENAME, 1980.

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