Joao Pessoa


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Paraíba Paradise

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History of João Pessoa

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The historic centre of João Pessoa

João Pessoa is one of the oldest cities in Brazil and was founded by the Portuguese in 1585 after wars against the local Indians and the invading French. It had a stormy history and came under Spanish influence when Spain and Portugal were briefly united in the Iberian Union (1580-1640). It was also held by the Dutch for around 20 years in the 17th century. Its name has changed several times and its current name, literally translated as “John Person”, dates from 1930. The city’s name was altered from Paraíba as a tribute to an assassinated local politician, João Pessoa.

In the 16th century, Portuguese settlers from Pernambuco founded Filipéia de Nossa Senhora das Neves (today João Pessoa) at the mouth of the Paraíba River. The area soon proved perfect for sugar production, with the French, the Dutch and the Portuguese all constantly fighting to control the Paraíba region as a place to to grow the lucrative sugarcane.

The fortress of Santa Catarina, near João Pessoa, was built by the Portuguese to protect the city from the invading Dutch, who soon became the greatest threat to Portuguese supremacy in Portugal’s Colonial Brazil. The Portuguese Empire managed to protect the integrity of the territoriy of Brazil, which become independent from Portugal in 1822.

Besides beautiful beaches and white sand caressed by the warm,turquoise sea, the capital of Paraíba State is a city with very unique characteristics, including beautiful baroque structures, like the church São Francisco and the convent Santo Antonio, dating back to the XVIII century.

João Pessoa is full of preserved natural forests, squares and gardens, which is why it is considered one of the cities with the highest index of green area per inhabitant in the world. Another beauty of the city is Ponta do Seixas, the easternmost point of South America, which can be seen from the majestic Farol do Cabo Branco (Cabo Branco Lighthouse).

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São Francisco Church

As mentioned above; a must see is the beautiful baroque style architecture of the convent Santo Antônio and the church São Francisco, buildings that date back to the XVIII century. The church altar is adorned with gold and magnificent Portuguese tiles. It’s also worthwhile visiting the churches N.S. da Guia and N.S. do Carmo, and the Palácio da Redenção (Redemption’s Palace). All three of these buildings date back to the XVI century. Be sure to make time to visit the Santa Rosa theatre, still in use, and one of the oldest theatres in the country, dating back to 1889. And don’t miss the fort Santa Catarina, with cannons that are more than 400 years old, in the town Cabedelo, 25 km from João Pessoa.

Historical sites

Barroco Park

It is formed by the colonial mansions scattered around the upper and lower regions of the city.

Theatro Santa Roza

A building from 1889, this theatre was decorated in baroque style. It is one of the oldest theatres in the Country. It is located at Pedro Américo Square.

Redenção Palace

Erected in 1586, Redenção Palace used to be the home of the old Jesuits convent. Today the building is the State Government headquarters.

Santa Catarina Fortress

The fortress built in 1586 comprises the captain’s house, a chapel and cannons from the XVI century.

Saint Francis Church and Saint Anthony Convent

Totally embellished in baroque style, the church and the convent were built in 1589 and 1779, respectively. The highlights are the chapels of the Third Order of Saint Francis and Saint Benedict, featuring Portuguese ceramic panels and sacristy. The spaces also feature, regularly, popular art exhibitions.

São Frei Pedro Gonçalves Church

Erected in 1843, the church was restored in 2002 and features the foundations from the old XVII century building. In front of it there are many restored colonial mansions.


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