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Ouro Prêto

Ouro Prêto

Ouro Prêto, a city in the mountains of southeastern Brazil in the state of Minas Gerais, particularly famous for its eighteenth-century baroque architecture. Established by gold prospectors in 1698, the town became the capital of the newly created captaincy of Minas Gerais in 1720.

The enormous wealth generated in the surrounding region by the Western world's first great gold rush financed the construction of many churches, public buildings, and private homes in a distinctive baroque style. Some of the churches were designed and built by Brazil's most famous artist of the colonial period, Antônio Francisco Lisboa, better known as Aleijadinho (The Little Cripple), in the late eighteenth century.

With the drastic decline in gold production after 1770, the city experienced decades of economic stagnation and slow growth. In 1897 the state capital was moved to Belo Horizonte, thus depriving the city of its political importance. The Brazilian government declared the city a national historic monument in the 1930s, and it is also recognized by UNESCO as a world historic monument. The architectural beauty of the central city has been very well conserved, and today the city is an important tourist attraction. In 2005, the population was estimated at 58,300.


Charles R. Boxer, The Golden Age of Brazil, 1695–1750. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969.

A. J. R. Russell-Wood, "The Gold Cycle, ca. 1690–1750," in Colonial Brazil, edited by Leslie Bethell. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987, pp. 190-243.

Additional Bibliography

Castro, Yeda Pessoa de. A língua mina-jeje no Brasil: Um falar africano em Ouro Preto do século XVIII. Belo Horizonte: Sistema Estadual de Planejamento, 2002.

Pereira, Edimilson de Almeida; Núbia Pereira Magalhães Gomes. Ouro Preto da Palavra: Narrativos de preceito do congado em Minas Gerais. Belo Horizonte: Editora PUC Minas, 2003.

                                       Marshall C. Eakin

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