Nossa Senhora da Penha Church
This church is well known for its multitudes of worshippers from virtually all over Brazil and its prime vantage point on a high rocky bluff, making it visible from miles around.
Built in 1635 as a tiny, rustic church by Portuguese sea captain Baltazar de Abreu Cardoso on land of his own. In 1728 the original fraternity became the Venerável Irmandade de N.S da Penha de França (Venerable Brotherhood of Our Lady of the Bluff of France).
Work was done to expand it, especially on the stairway, to make it safer to the pilgrims climbing up this huge stone bluff. It is now object of legend and pilgrimage, with its famous 382 steps cut out of the bare rock. Some penitents climb the steps on their knees.
The church interior conveys simplicity with only one altar in the main chapel, on which stands the statue of the patroness. In the back is the old altar form the original rustic church with the statue of Our Lady of Rosario. The church building has two towers, with a carillon brought over from Portugal.
The church is the center of huge pilgrimages, especially in the month of October, which is devoted to the patroness. There is the Casa dos Romeiros (House of Pilgrims) with a room full of written vows, votive offering, and objects of all sorts.