Culture Architectural heritage of Manaus mark the history of 352 years of the ‘Paris of the Tropics’

Buildings listed as Manaus' Historic and Cultural Heritage. (Art: Guilherme Oliveira)

Gabriella Lira – from Cenarium

MANAUS – Manaus, symbol-city of the rubber boom, celebrates 352 years this Sunday, 24th. During these more than three centuries, the capital of Amazonas keeps, in many of its buildings, the traces of the contrast of the Greek and Roman classical architecture with the contemporary, mixing trends and architectural techniques of today. This can be seen, mainly, in downtown. The CENARIUM MAGAZINE went behind and shows, in this report, a rich and valuable architectural heritage that remains preserved over time.

In Brazil, the formal recognition of a material heritage is the “tombamento”, which represents the recognition of the historical, artistic or cultural value of the place, taking into account its social function for preserving the identity of a community and transforming it into an official public patrimony. The Amazon journalist, artist, historian and writer Otoni Mesquita explains more about the city’s architectural heritage.

“To be considered a patrimony does not always imply being something very old, it can be something traditional and that persists. In general, people have a notion that heritage always means buildings from the 19th century backwards”, explained the researcher.


CENARIUM talked to Otoni in one of the symbols of the historical heritage of Manaus, the Museum of the City of Manaus, which operates in the Paço da Liberdade, in downtown Manaus. In 1956, the Paço was considered part of the Historical Heritage of the city of Manaus by Law n° 565, from May 26 of the same year. The front of the historic building is considered one of the last representations of neoclassical architecture in Brazil.

“We are inside a 19th century construction, which has been transformed into a museum, but it is loaded with history. We have a significant part of our history here, which are the funerary urns of some ethnic groups that inhabited this region before the white man settled here. These manifestations, from these people of different ethnicities that lived here, should be prioritized and overvalued. But we are still in the process of valuing them”, explains Otoni.

The Amazon journalist, artist, historian, and writer Otoni Mesquita. (Reproduction/Facebook)

Get to know the buildings listed as Manaus’ historical patrimony:

Teatro Amazonas 

Inaugurated in 1896 and located at Largo São Sebastião, Manaus’ historic center, the Teatro Amazonas was listed as a National Heritage Site in 1966. With capacity for 701 people in the performance hall, distributed between the audience and three floors of boxes, most of the material used in the construction of the place was imported from Europe.

With more than 30 Murano glass chandeliers, a geometric floor design made of 12 thousand pieces of wood, the dome is made of 36 thousand glazed ceramic scales, and has glazed tiles. 

Municipal Clock

Installed in 1929 on Avenida Eduardo Ribeiro, very close to the historic Cathedral of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, the Clock, which has a Swiss gearing, is approximately five meters high.

With dials placed on both sides, the Municipal Clock allows the visualization of the time in both directions of the avenue where it is located. Around the dials is the Latin philosophical inscription “Vulnerant omnes, ultima necat”, or “All wound, the last kills”, meaning that “every hour wounds our life until the last one steals it”.

The Municipal Clock of Manaus (Alex Pazuello)

Adolpho Lisboa Market

Symbolizing the commercialization of regional products from Manaus, the Municipal Market Adolpho Lisboa, located at Barés Street, Manaus downtown, is another heritage of the rich and successful economic phase of the Rubber Cycle. It was inaugurated in 1883 with influences from European constructions and an Art Nouveau style architecture. 

The Adolpho Lisboa market, in Manaus. (Mário Oliveira/Semcom)

Matriz Church

The church Nossa Senhora da Conceição, known as Igreja da Matriz, located at Praça Osvaldo Cruz, Manaus downtown, was built in 20 years, between 1858 and 1878, by Carmelite missionaries. The church bells were imported from Portugal and installed in 1875.

The construction contains rustic features with predominantly straight lines and the building’s front is divided into two floors. Its staircases suggest the design of a lyre. 

The Matriz Church, in Manaus. (Ingrid Anne/Manauscult)

Heliodoro Balbi Square and Provincial Palace

Located on 7 de Setembro Avenue, Heliodoro Balbi Square, better known as “Police Square”, occupies an area of 8,515 m². The name became popular because of the constant presentations given by the Military Police band at the location that, until 2004, housed the General Command of the Military Police, in the Provincial Palace.

Part of Heliodoro Balbi Square and the Provincial Palace. (Reproduction/SEC-AM)

Amazonas Public Library

Built between 1905 and 1910, the Amazonas Public Library, located on Rua Barroso, in the center of Manaus, was designed by Pará architect José Castro de Figueiredo. It suffered a fire in 1945, losing almost all of its collection and the south wing of the building, which was rebuilt and reopened two years later. It has an eclectic style architecture, with classical elements predominating. 

The historic Public Library building, located at Rua Barroso, Manaus downtown. (Reproduction/SEC-AM)

Manaus Customs House 

Inaugurated on January 18th, 1909, the Customs building, located on Marquesa da Santa Cruz street, Manaus downtown, has a medieval moorish style and the stones used in the construction were imported from Europe. It is connected to the floating port of Manaus, on the banks of the Rio Negro. It is not open for public visitation. 

The Customs building, also in downtown Manaus. (Reproduction/Iphan)

São Sebastião Church 

On the ‘corner’ of the Teatro Amazonas, the São Sebastião church was inaugurated in 1888, before it was finished in 1893. The church went through a renovation between the 20’s and 30’s. At the time, some changes were made in the building’s front, which has medieval traces, mainly gothic, but the predominance is of the Neoclassical aspect.

The São Sebastião Church, in Manaus. (Reproduction)

Museum of the City of Manaus 

The City Museum of Manaus was created by the mayor João de Mendonça Furtado, in 1982, and is located at Instalação Street, in the structure of the Municipal Secretariat of Education and Culture (Semed). More than 20 years later, in 2005, the City Museum project was resumed, and now houses the Paço da Liberdade, the former headquarters of the City Hall. 

The front of the Paço da Liberdade, in Manaus. (Márcio James/Semcom)

Palace of Justice

Located on Eduardo Ribeiro Avenue, it was built more than 100 years ago to be the headquarters of the Judicial Power of Amazonas. The building was revitalized and has functioned since 2006 as a Cultural Center, with exhibitions and artistic-cultural activities. The Cultural Center of Justice Palace has two floors and its architecture is a mixture of several architectural elements, such as Renaissance and Neoclassical. 

The Palace of Justice, in Manaus. (Michael Dantas)

Rio Branco Palace 

The Palácio Rio Branco is next to the D. Pedro II square and the Paço da Liberdade.  It is the former headquarters of the Amazonas Legislative Assembly (Aleam). Nowadays, the building houses administrations of some municipal public agencies. In the entrance hall, there is a small exhibition about the Legislative Power open to the public.

The Rio Branco Palace, in Manaus. (Reproduction)