Estrada Real or The Royal Road

Our drive from Ouro Preto to Tiradentes took us along a section of the Estrada Real. On the way we stopped off at Congonhas, another colonial era mining town and religious centre.

Poster of the Estrada Real network found in a petrol station

The Estrada Real forms an integral part of the history of Minas Gerais and Brazilian independence. Construction of the road began at the very end of the 17th century and it ran from the coast at Paraty, north of São Paulo to a place called Diamantina in the north of Minas.  It passed through a number of mining centres, including Tiradentes and Ouro Preto. This section of the road is also known as the Caminho Velho, or Old Road, as a newer section was subsequently built between Ouro Preto and Rio de Janeiro, which was shorter.
These roads were heavily controlled by the Crown and patrolled by the military to prevent smuggling and ensure taxes were paid. As minerals travelled to the coast, imported goods travelled in the opposite direction, all transported by mules. In order to ensure the colonies in Brazil remained entirely dependent on Portugal the authorities forbade manufacturing and the growing of crops. This situation, together with taxation was the background to the Inconfidência Minera.


One of the towns on the Estrada Real was Congonhas, or Congonhas do Campo. This is the home to the Santuário do Bom Jesus do Matosinhos which was a centre for mining and for pilgrimage.   Every

Santuário do Bom Jesus do Matosinhos
View between the 6 chapels leading up to the church
One of Aleijadinho’s statues of the disciples

September since 1770 a festival has been held in celebration of Bom Jesus do Matosinhos.

Unfortunately the town was mostly closed when we visited, the church included. From the information boards it is apparent that the church was built between 1799 and 1875 and was designed by Aleijadinho.  The statues of the 12 Apostles at the entrance are supposed to be some of his finest works.

The other building of significance is the Romaria. This was built to house pilgrims in 1922 and was in use until 1966. It has recently been extensively renovated.

Views of the Romaria

Leaving Congonhas it was lunch time, and rather than eat at a dubious looking place in town we stopped at a petrol station with a restaurant on site. And what a choice. The Restaurante Profetas was great, for a transport cafe! The food was all being cooked an a traditional Fogão a Lenha with the meat being cooked on a separate grill. We didn’t want much to eat unfortunately so ordered pork and sausage sandwiches. The problem with these was our mouths only open 2 inches; these sandwiches were enormous. We have to pass this way again on our way back to Belo Horizonte ……..

After lunch we set off again and were soon passing Entre Rios. The important thing about Entre Rios is that Tom and Monica have a house there and part of Monica’s family live there. We sent her a photo of the sign to Entre Rios and she sent us a video of their collapsed barn and snow in Torcy! We would have dropped in and said ‘Hi’ but Brazilian hospitality being what it is we would probably have seen us staying there rather than getting to Tiradentes!

We arrived in Tiradentes at 2.30 pm, found the Pousada Laurito, dropped off our bags and set off to have a look around town.

Rua Direita, Tiradentes