Historic Centre of Diamantina
The Town of Diamantina is located in the Espinhaço Mountain, to the North of Belo Horizonte, State of Minas Gerais.
The gold rush, begun in Brazil in the 16th century, reached this mining territory in the 17th century. Gold deposits were found at the confluence of Rio Grande and River Piruruca. As the news spread, a growing number of explorerrs started gathering in the area. Prospections were made exclusively for gold until 1720, when diamond deposits were brought to light.
Many different stories have been told about this discovery, but the first diamond stone is said to have been found by Bernardo da Fonseca Lobo. Due to this achievement, Lobo was given the title of notary public of the recently founded settlement of Vila do Príncipe.
The name of Diamantina would only come up in 1831, when the settlement was raised to the category of a town in 1841. By that time, the gold and diamond production was already exhausted in the region due to excessive exploration of natural resources. However, to this day, the name “Diamantina” bears testimony to the diamond rush.
Against the inhospitable background of the Espinhaço Mountain, Diamantina stands out as a world monument, and a unique standing example of what remains of the diamond industry on the American continent.
The town of Diamantina has a peculiar layout, with a steep slope and architectural solutions that can also be found in the north of Portugal. Its hillside streets paved with irregular stones, ramned earth and timber buildings, a variety of windows, balconies and roofs have nothing to do with the usual stone constructions. The architectural solutions are simple, as they are an adaptation of the Portuguese Baroque universe to the precariousness of wood and clay. Richer decorative solutions were reserved for the churches.
Noteworthy in the historic centre of Diamantina are its churches (the Church of Nossa Senhora do Carmo and the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi), noble residences, the Diamond Museum and the Library.
The church of Nossa Senhora do Carmo, built in the second half of the 18th century by the diamond purchaser João Fernandes de Oliveira, boasts paintings by José Soares de Araújo.
Construction of the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi began in 1768 on the initiative of Diamantina’s Franciscan Third Order.
Guia dos Bens Tombados. Brasil, Coordination by Maria Elisa Carrazzoni, Rio de Janeiro, Expressão e Cultura with Cultural Support from Caixa Econômica Federal, 1987.
Guia dos Bens Tombados. Minas Gerais, Coordination by Wladimir Alves de Souza, Rio de Janeiro, Expressão e Cultura, with Cultural Support from Credi-Real – Banco de Crédito Real de Minas Gerais, 1984.
Património da Humanidade, World Heritage e Sites in Brazil, Pesquisa e Texto Percival Tirapeli, São Paulo, Metalivros, 2000