Miracle Statues and Wish Ribbons: Bahia's Terreiro Churches and Mercado Modelo
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A statue of Jesus dying on the cross may be standard-issue decor in a church, but the one in Bonfim Church is believed to possess some pretty amazing powers, and has an amazing story behind it.
The story begins on the shores of Portugal in the 1740s, when a woman discovered a mysterious statue of Jesus after a shipwreck and installed it in her garden. Her neighbors began crediting it with miracles, and people flocked from miles around to experience its healing powers.
A Portuguese sea captain who had survived his own shipwreck after vowing to serve Christ decided that bringing an exact replica of the statue to Brazil would fulfill that vow; its arrival in Salvador caused the same stir the original did in Europe, and the Bonfim church was built in 1754 to give it a permanent home.
Today the statue known as Nosso Senhor do Bonfim; Our Lord of the Good End, referring to Christ's death on the Cross is still venerated for its powerful miracles, and elaborate customs have evolved as the way to receive them. People hang plastic doll legs in the room that holds the statue to fix a knee problem, or a doll's head to cure anxiety. You can ask for your own miracle by tying a colorful wish ribbon on the church's iron gates, or by wearing one as a bracelet. But you have to leave it on until it falls off on its own, or your wish will go ungranted. That can take well over a year, so be patient.
Devil in the details
The Church of Sao Francisco is a grand display of wealth, but it bears some unholy imagery in the carvings created by the impoverished slaves who built it. They deliberately distorted the faces of the cherubs, and endowed some angels with huge sex organs. Others appear pregnant. Most of these creative flourishes have been chastely covered.
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