Yesterday we took a wild bus ride out to Pampulha in the suburbs of Belo Horizonte to visit the famous Igreja de Sao Francisco de Assis designed by the famous architect of Brazilia Neimeyer and with artwork by Portinari. Allen has long said this church was the highlight of his previous visit. I didn't know what to expect, but as we entered, I saw the altar by Portinari and was immediately moved to tears.
Created in 1943 during the late war years of World War II, and obviously influenced by Picasso, Portinari's paintings reveal great sadness with economy of line (and muted colors, offset everywhere with blue and white tiles, a motif of birds and fishes reflecting Portuguese influence).
Neimeyer's building is magnificant, small, modest, yet turning walls into rolling waves, all directed back to the altar. Outside, blue and white tiles decorate the back of the building, chronicling the life of St. Francis and faith, a testament to both hope and despair in a time of world war.