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Paraty has rich cultural heritage as well as natural beauty

Paraty, on the coast between the major Brazilian cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, is a jewel encrusted within the mountain range of Serra da Bocaina. Surrounded by Atlantic Forest and numerous waterfalls, the city faces the calm waters of Ilha Grande Bay. The region is dotted with 65 islands that offer stunning deserted beaches and turquoise blue waters.
However, Paraty’s historical city centre is perhaps its most important attraction and the main reason why the city became widely known. Its colonial era churches and houses have been protected by Brazil’s National Heritage institute of Arts and History (Iphan, in Portuguese) since 1958 and the municipality has been considered a national heritage site since 1966. In the past, Paraty was an important port. It was from there that gold from the state of Minas Gerais and coffee from the Parai­ba Valley were exported.
It’s easy to forget the hectic pace of the 21st century and dive into the rhythm of another era, as calm as the surrounding ocean, when one is in Paraty.
Buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries have been preserved to resemble their original appearance. There are no modern houses and cars are only allowed to circulate through the narrow streets of the old city at specific dates and times during the week.
Distances are short in the historical part of Paraty and it is possible to walk through the entire old city in a few hours. However, it is better to take your time to admire the architecture and visit the numerous art galleries and stores. In any case, the irregular pavement from the 18th and 19th century, called pis-de-moleque (boy’s foot), forces everyone to walk slowly in order to avoid spraining an ankle.
MASONIC SYMBOLS
A curiosity about Paraty is that many Masonic codes and symbols are hidden within its architecture. Like the city of i“bidos, in Portugal, Paraty was urbanized by freemasons.
Even the churches have Masonic symbols. The city’s main church, Nossa Senhora dos Remisdios, built in 1754, has the symbol of the Masonic Order of the Knights Hospitaller at its entrance. Finding it is easy: look for the image of a vase with three branches coming out of it.
Another sign of Masonic presence are the three pillars present in many intersections. They are always just three pillars, leaving a street corner without one. This forms the symbol delta, or a triangle. There are also many houses in Paraty painted white and blue, symbolizing the colours of freemasonry.
FROM CHURCHES TO FALLEN ANGELS
Paraty’s churches have a rich history. There was a church reserved for blacks called Rosario Church. Even today this church celebrates the feast of the Coronation of the Black Kings every November.
The main church was for whites, and now it hosts the Feast of the Divine, in honour of the Holy Spirit, every June. There was a chapel for women called Nossa Senhora das Dores, and, finally, the church which became the city’s postcard image, Santa Rita, was for mulattos, or people of mixed Portuguese and African ancestry. Facing the port, this iconic temple’s full name was Santa Rita dos Pardos Libertos, or Saint Rita of the Free Mulattos.
Photo by: Janaina Lins

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