Brazil travel guide



Salvador Travel Guide

Igreja do Bonfim

The Igreja de Bonfim commands a high position on the peninsula of Itapagipe (an area of land which spreads out from the cidade baixa into the bay) and is notable for being a place of veneration not only for Catholics but for Candomblistas (a local religion). It is the endpoint of a yearly procession called the Lavegem do Bonfim (Washing of Bonfim), which is more accurately a reference to the washing of the church's steps by mães de santo (candomblé priestesses) who lead the procession from the Mercado Modelo to the igreja. This happens in mid-January, and the procession following the mães de santo is actually an enormous party, with drumming and dancing and eating and drinking slowly spreading from the area around the Mercado Modelo to the area around Bonfim. The church houses a curious room called Sala dos Milagres (Room of Miracles) where people leave votive offerings in thanks for cures, the votives forming a rather bizarre collection of hanging plastic replicas of multitudinous problematic body parts.

The Igreja do Bonfim is closely associated with fitas do Senhor do Bonfim ("fita" is "ribbon", and the Senhor do Bonfim is both Jesus Christ and his syncretized counterpart Oxalá), which are sold by wandering vendors both in Pelourinho and in front of the Igreja do Bonfim itself . The idea behind the fitas is that they are tied around one's wrist with three knots, the knots corresponding to three wishes made as the knots are tied, and when the fabric wears out and the fita drops off the wishes will be granted.

The length of the fitas (47 centimeters) corresponds to the length of the right arm of a wooden statue of Jesus positioned on an altar within the church, the statue having been carved in Setúbal, Portugal during the 18th century. The original fitas do bonfim were first produced in 1809, in accordance with common Portuguese custom. They were made from silk, worn around the neck, and were hung with small medallions bearing saints' images. And they were used after a cure via miraculous intervention, after the placing of an image or wax representation of the affected body part within the church (per above).

You see them all over nowadays, one very common place to hang them being the rear view mirror of Salvador's taxi cabs (quite often together with a figa, a good luck charm used to ward off the evil eye).

Working Hours: Tuesday - Sunday from 6 a.m. to noon & from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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