Sunday 3 January 2016


Via Shutterstock.

5. Bonfim Church

There are more than a few interesting rituals associated with this eighteenth-century church that exemplify the syncretism of Catholic and African religions. To start, a Portuguese Navy captain, caught in a storm at sea, vowed to bring an image of Christ crucified to Brazil if he survived. In 1754, the image was brought into the Church of Our Lord of Bonfim, now a pilgrimage sight for miracle seekers. In fact, the Room of Miracles is lined with replicas of body parts healed or in need of healing and small photographs of the grateful. Bonfim Church is well known for its colorful wish ribbons, tied around the wearer's wrist with three knots — each representing a wish — and worn until they fall off, at which point the wishes should be granted. Each ribbon is 47 centimeters long, the length of the right arm of the statue of Jesus at the church's altar.

Each year, around a million people come to participate in the Washing of Bonfim, a custom started in 1773 when slaves were told to wash the steps of the church in preparation for the feast of Our Lord of Bonfim. The tradition now blends Catholicism with the Candomble African religion, as the slaves, who weren't allowed to openly participate in their own religious rites, adopted the worship of their deities into Catholic ones — viewing Oxala, creator of humanity, in the statues of Jesus, for example.

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