Commonwealth & World Topical Collecting

Churches of Brazil on Stamps

Brazil offers a rich architectural history – not least the magnificent array of religious buildings that have been built since it was colonised by the Portuguese in the 1500’s. Many of these splendid buildings, some of which cannot be matched anywhere else in the world, have been shown on the stamps of Brazil and further afield. We explain what a thematic collection of Brazilian churches on stamps has to offer collectors.

The social structure of imperial Brazil was not unlike that of other colonial empires, based initially on small coastal settlements established almost exclusively as trading posts, not as refuges from persecution. Their administration was loyal to the Portuguese crown and to the Catholic church (whose Pope had decreed boundaries with Spanish territories), while labour for agriculture and building was very largely provided by slaves – either natives or imported Africans.

Earliest churches

The oldest church in the country traces its history back to the very time when English monasteries were being harshly dismantled. Duarte Coelho set up a colony in 1535 in Igaraçu, close to present-day Recife or Pernambuco, on the easternmost coast (a name not to be confused with the better-known Iguaçu Falls). Dedicated to Sts Cosmas and Damien, it started as a simple chapel with triangular pediment and central door recognisable from an old picture rather poorly reproduced on SG 569 (Fig 1). Surviving an incendiary attack by the Dutch in the 17th century, it has been made somewhat bigger over the years and gained a modest tower with cupola, but externally, it is still quite austere (1698) (Fig 2). There are 18th century paintings inside recording historical scenes and some carved work added in the 1950s.


To find out more, see the latest GSM.

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