Nossa Senhora do Pópulo Church
Nossa Senhora do Pópulo Church is one of the most characteristic monuments of the city of Benguela and is classified as a National Historic Monument. This beautiful Baroque building is considered the first stone and lime building in the city, and it is the only one of its kind in all of Southern Africa.
The church was founded on 15th August 1617 by the Portuguese who used it to baptize the slaves before embarking them to Brazil. The slave ships arrived from the other side of the Atlantic loaded with blocks of stones to ensure greater stability during the crossing. When they arrived in Benguela, they would unload it on the beach, to then fill the slave cellar… so stones and stones were accumulating along the coast, until – in the mid-eighteenth century – it was decided to use all these stones to build a church that would be more durable. This is how, in 1748, the current building was inaugurated, replacing the first construction made of clay bricks.
The church still preserves some original pieces, such as the Brazilian wooden choir, the circular stained glass window in the façade, the elaborate rococo altar, some wooden figures and the bell that still rings to call the devotees. For a long time, the Pópulo Church was the main meeting place of the population, and its pulpit was used for all important communications.
In the records of the parish, it appears that the burials of Europeans living in Benguela were held there until 1838, when the city cemetery was inaugurated.
On a trip to the city of Red Acacias you cannot miss a visit to this Monument: the parish guides know many stories and can take you on a real trip to the past!
Written by: Miriam Bacchin