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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 around Church of Saint Francis of Assisi


Map

Best Lodging Options Near Church of Saint Francis of Assisi

See all 280 Properties near Church of Saint Francis of Assisi
Stop Inn Plus Pampulha ¥3,509
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. Church of Saint Francis of Assisi is 0.9 mi (1.5 km) away.

    San Diego Suítes Pampulha ¥4,711
    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 within 1 mi (2 km) of Mineirao Stadium and Church of Saint Francis of Assisi.

      Da Orla Pampulha Hostel ¥4,083
      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 10-minute walk of Lagoa Pampulha and Mineirinho Stadium. Brazilian Football Museum and Pampulha Architectural Complex are also within 15 minutes.

        Pousada Sossego da Pampulha ¥4,335
        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. Church of Saint Francis of Assisi is 1 mi (1.6 km) away.

          Quality Hotel Pampulha ¥5,267
          Quality Hotel Pampulha

          Quality Hotel Pampulha

          Av. Presidente Antonio Carlos, 7456, Belo Horizonte, MG
             
            3.5 out of 5.0 Stars

            Located in Pampulha, this hotel is within 2 mi (3 km) of Lagoa Pampulha, Mineirao Stadium, and Church of Saint Francis of Assisi. Pampulha Architectural Complex and Casa do Baile are also within 1 mi (2 km).

            OYO CHA Pampulha Design Hotel ¥2,782
            OYO CHA Pampulha Design Hotel

            OYO CHA Pampulha Design Hotel

            Av. Octacilio Negrão de Lima, 16410, Pampulha, Belo Horizonte, MG
               
              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. Nado Lake Park and Casa do Baile are also within 3 mi (5 km).

              Hotel Minas Pampulha ¥3,252
              Hotel Minas Pampulha

              Hotel Minas Pampulha

              Avenida Coronel José Dias Bicalho, 1164, Belo Horizonte, MG
                 
                3.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                Located in São José, this hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Lagoa Pampulha and Mineirao Stadium. Church of Saint Francis of Assisi is 1 mi (1.7 km) away.

                OYO Pousada Lagoa ¥2,190
                OYO Pousada Lagoa

                OYO Pousada Lagoa

                Av Otacilio Negrao de Lima, 14950, Jardim Atlantico, Belo Horizonte, MG
                   
                  2.5 out of 5.0 Stars

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