Congonhas is a small historical city at 75 km south of Belo Horizonte, along the ‘Estrada Real’ to Rio de Janeiro. The city is well known for the statues of Brazilian artist Aleijadinho.
Passions of Christ: ‘The Olive Garden’.
‘The Olive Garden’ is the second of six Passos, the Passion of Christ. ‘The Olive Garden’ demonstrates the night that Jesus – accompanied by his disciples Peter, John, Jacob – spent in the olive garden. Jesus told them to keep guard, since He was aware that He was betrayed and that He was about to be arrested. Jesus was very worried and appeared to have sweated blood.
from left to right (names in Portuguese):
Amos – Joel – Ezequiel – Isaías – Jonas – Abdias – Daniel – Jeremias – Naum – Habacuc – Oséias – Baruc
The ‘Passos’ are composed of no less than sixty-six statures, which are divided over six small chapels that are flanking the steep alley to Santuário de Bom Jesus do Matosinhos. These statues were created between 1799 and 1806. Initially, they were stored, until the chapels were finished, in 1875. The groups of statues in the six chapels demonstrate the Passion of Christ: Last Supper, Olive Garden, Imprisonment. Castigation, Carrying the Cross, and Crucifixion.
After the Last Supper, according to the four Gospels, Jesus spent the time in the Olive Garden (Getsemani), together with his disciples Peter, John, and Jacob. Since Jesus already knew that he was betrayed and about to be arrested, he asked his disciples to take turns on guard. Jesus was very worried; according to the Gospel, he was sweating blood. An angel appeared, in order to provide them mental strength. When Jesus left the Olive Garden, he was arrested and deported.
Through the years, this chapel, next to the chapel of “The Last Supper”, has undergone a number of reforms.
Above the entrance, one can read on the plaque:
‘Et factus inag/
‘E tendo caído em agonia, orava com mais instância’
(While I suffered with agony, my prayers became more intense)
Jesus is depicted in a pose, while He is praying in ultimate desperation. Kneeled, with spread arms, while bloody sweat runs on his face.
In the right hand, the angel holds a chalice that contained bile. The bile had to be drunk entirely. In the left hand, the angel holds a cross, thereby symbolizing the final prayers.
The composition of the statues (Jesus, the angel, and the disciples) form a perfect, harmonic composition. The power of the angel, the desperation of Jesus, and the calmness of the disciples. A psychological and dramatic triangle.
The anatomy of the statues of the sleeping disciples shows some errors, as if Aleijadinho (or one of his pupils) had some trouble to work out this scene to complete perfection.
The colors, added by Manoel da Costa Athayde, are the same as those in the scene of ‘The Last Supper’. These colors also appear in the other scenes.
Congonhas may be easily reached by bus from Belo Horizonte. A single ticket costs about 20 reais (8 euros, 2010). The city is situated at the Estrada Real, a historic route that leads from Minas Gerais (Diamantina and Ouro Preto) to Rio de Janeiro (Paraty or Rio de Janeiro). Near the bus stop is the tourist information center, where you can see a little overview of the church and the statues, and were you can make an appointment for a local guide who leads you through the historic center of the city. The church is easily reached by bus. It is also possible to walk this distance; it will take a bit less than an hour. Remember that the church resides on a hill, and therefore must be climbed. At the foot of the church is a regular market, worth a visit too.
|Congonhas, city of the Prophets
|Historic images of Congonhas
By Adriano Antoine Robbesom