The luxurious district of Graça in Salvador is home to the oldest church in this historic city, the Church and Abbey of Nossa Senhora da Graça. Full of legend and tradition, this church has a love story behind it, a love between a Brazilian Indian girl and a Portuguese sailor.
This famous story is about an Indian girl from the Tupinambá tribe and a shipwreck survivor. The Indian girl, originally called Guaibimpará, was baptised Catarina Álvares Paraguaçu in Saint Malo, France. She was offered by her father, Chief of the tribe, as a wife to the Portuguese sailor, Diogo Álvares Correia, who departed to Brazil on a French vessel and was shipwrecked off the coast of Bahia in 1509.
He was found by the Tupinambá Indians on a rock and became frightened. When he attempted to frighten them away with a gun, he accidentally shot a bird. The Indians were surprised and frightened by the power that he possessed thus, they called him the “Son of the Thunder” and considered him a god. They nicknamed him Caramuru (meaning Moray Eel or Creator of Fire in Tupi-Guarani) and he subsequently lived with them for many years.
Paraguaçu and Caramuru fell in love and formed the first Christian family in Brazil. One day she had a dream where she saw survivors of a shipwreck on a beach with a woman carrying a child in her arms. Paraguaçu believed that her dream was real and begged Caramuru to go and rescue them. He went out to find them and found survivors of a shipwreck, but he didn’t find a woman. Paraguaçu continued having the same dream and told Caramuru that if he really loved her he would continue to search for the woman. Thus, as proof of his love he continued to search until one day he found a suitcase swept in by the sea. He was surprised to find an image of Our Lady carrying baby Jesus in her arms which matched the description of the woman in Paraguaçu’s dream.
They thus founded a small hermitage where they displayed the image, and which after a few years was converted into the Church and Abbey of Nossa Senhora da Graça upon Paraguaçu’s request. This was the first church in Salvador da Bahia. The image can still be found there on the altar today, as well as the body of Paraguaçu, who was buried there.
The church dates back from 1535 and was built in Baroque style. Inside it is elaborately decorated with stunning paintings which relate the amazing adventures of Carumuru from his arrival in the Tupinambá tribe.
The Church and Abbey of Nossa Senhora da Graça was later declared a National Historic Landmark in Brazil and forms part of the beginning of the city of Salvador which is definitely worth a visit. An incredible church and an incredible story was made into a film called “Caramuru – The Invention of Brazil”, an adapted comedy which features Paraguaçu’s sister, Moema, Caramuru’s second love.
Salvador, the City of All Saints, is mystical and full of legend. So, if you happen to be in this magical land then make sure you rent a Bahia apartment so you can enjoy your stay in all the convenience, and with all the comforts of home.