Monday, January 9, 2012

The Imperial City

This is Pedro I, the first emperor of Brazil.
In 1822, while on a journey to the gold fields of Minas Gerais, he spent the night at a farmhouse, high in the mountains above Rio de Janeiro.

There, some 70 kilometers distant from the capital, and at an altitude of almost 800 meters (2,600 feet), he encountered a climate much more invigorating than the stifling heat he’d been experiencing down on the coast.

Later, when the opportunity arose, he bought property in the area, intending to build a summer palace.

But it was not to be. In 1831, before he could bring his plans to fruition, he was forced to abdicate in favor of his five-year-old son.

Fast forward twelve years.

The young emperor, Pedro II, resurrected his father’s project by creating a town around the property.

He called it Petropolis, Greek for “City of Pedro” – named after himself.
And then he commissioned a Brazilian army engineer, Julio Frederico Koeler, to design him a building.

The neoclassical result, decorated with imported marbles and noble Brazilian hardwoods, became the royal family’s favorite residence.

Where they lived until Pedro II was sent into exile at the age of 64.

Here’s a link to a previous post about him. If you’re unfamiliar with his character, you’re going to enjoy reading about this most remarkable man.

Upon the abolition of the monarchy in 1889, the newly-proclaimed republic took possession of the palace and of the Imperial Regalia. And, unlike what happened upon the abolition of other monarchies, no item of the Crown Jewels was ever sold or destroyed.

So, today, on a visit to the palace, one can see not only the Emperor’s throne…

…but also his crown.

The palace’s archives also remain.
They consist of more than 250,000 original documents, ranging from the 13th to the early 20th century.

The gardens were designed by the French landscape architect, Jean Baptiste Binot, under the emperor’s personal direction.

And, elsewhere in the town, you can see the mansions of the elite of the time -- the wealthy and titled who frequented the imperial court.

If you’re going to be in Rio for Carnival, or better yet for the World Cup, I recommend a bus tour up to Petropolis

It will take you about ten hours, roundtrip, and will cost you about US$ 70, which includes the entrance fee for the palace.

Leighton - Monday


  1. Love your posted photos. I'd love to visit your Brazil sometime.

  2. Beautiful pictures of a fascinating place. I just finished "A Vine in the Blood," and once more I felt right at home in your country! Very good.

  3. Ricky: Come for the World Cup. Even if you don't like football (soccer) it's gonna be a great party.

    Lil: Thanks very much. The management appreciates your patronage.

  4. Aha, more information I can use to impress family and friends with my "deep" knowledge of Brazil. You've created a convert to the cause. Amazing how few know even a little about your world dynamo.