Metropolitan Cathedral of São Paulo or Catedral da Sé, is the cathedral of the Archdiocese of São Paulo, Brazil. It is located in Praça da Sé, in the Central Zone of the municipality of São Paulo.
Since 2007, the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Archdiocese has been Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer. Its construction, in neo-Gothic style, started in 1913 and ended about 40 years later. The construction was ready for the 400th anniversary of the city’s founding. The remains of the chief Tibiriçá and the Jesuit priests Manuel da Nóbrega and José de Anchieta are in the crypt of the cathedral.
Despite having a Renaissance – style dome, the Metropolitan Cathedral of São Paulo is considered the fourth largest neo – Gothic temple in the world. The cathedral is the main temple of the parish of Nossa Senhora da Assunção de São Paulo, created on August 10, 1591.
The history of the Cathedral of São Paulo goes back in time to 1589, when it was decided that a main church (the Matriz) would be built in the small village of São Paulo. This church, located on the site of the present cathedral, was only finished around 1616. São Paulo became seat of a diocese in 1745, and the old church was demolished and substituted by a new one, built in Baroque style, which was finished around 1764. This modest church would be the Cathedral of São Paulo until 1911, when it was demolished.
The present cathedral was built under Duarte Leopoldo e Silva, the first archbishop of São Paulo. Construction began in 1913 on the site of the demolished colonial cathedral following the project of German architect Maximilian Emil Hehl, who designed a Neo-Gothic structure. Work proceeded slowly and the inauguration of the new Cathedral happened only in 1954, with the towers still unfinished, but in time for the celebration of São Paulo’s Fourth Centenary. The towers would only be completed in 1967.
After a long period of decay, the Cathedral underwent a complete renovation between 2000 and 2002. Apart from repairing the building, many pinnacles over the nave and towers were completed. The original 1912 construction plans were found inside the building, allowing for a faithful restoration.
The history of the Cathedral of São Paulo begins in 1589, when it was decided that a main church (Matriz) would be built in the small village of São Paulo de Piratininga. This church, located where the Anchieta Monument is today, a sculpture by Heitor Usai in Praça da Sé, was completed around 1616. São Paulo became the seat of the diocese in 1745, and from that date, the old church was demolished and replaced by a new one, built in the Baroque style, completed around 1764. This modest church would be the cathedral of São Paulo until 1911, when it was demolished.
The current cathedral was built at the initiative of Dom Duarte Leopoldo e Silva, the first archbishop of São Paulo. Work began in 1913 on the site of the demolished colonial cathedral. The architect responsible was the German Maximilian Emil Hehl, who designed a huge church in an eclectic style, for having several elements of different styles, such as the dome and the ogival arch, but which clearly dominates the neo-Gothic, inspired by the great medieval European cathedrals.
All mosaics, sculptures and furniture that make up the church were brought by ship from Italy. However, due to the world wars, there was great difficulty in completing the work. Thus, the inauguration of the new cathedral took place only in 1954, with the towers still unfinished, but in time for the celebration of the fourth centenary of São Paulo, on January 25th. The towers were inaugurated on November 15, 1969. The works were initially performed by Alexandre Albuquerque, and, from 1940, by Luís Inácio de Anhaia Melo.
After a long period of deterioration, the cathedral was completely renovated between 2000 and 2002. In order to repair the building, many spiers on the nave and towers were completed. The original plans, dating from 1912, were found inside the building itself, allowing a restoration faithful to the original design.
The restoration included repairs to the stained glass windows, revitalization of the bells, maintenance of the hydraulic and electrical networks, resolution of problems that threatened the structure – such as cracks and infiltrations – and washing and painting of the building. Restored, the cathedral gained 14 new turrets, foreseen in the original 1912 project of Maximilian Emil Hehl. In 2002, it reopened its doors after works that consumed R $ 19.5 million.
The Cathedral is the largest Catholic church in the city of São Paulo and second largest after the Pentecostal Templo de Salomão: 111 metres long, 46 metres wide, with the two flanking towers reaching a height of 92 metres. Its site area is 5,300 square meters, and its floor area is 6,700 square meters. The Cathedral is a Latin cross church with a five-aisled nave and a dome that reaches 30 metres over the crossing. Although the building in general is Neo-Gothic, the dome is inspired by the Renaissance dome of the Cathedral of Florence. It is located in the Praça da Sé, or “Cathedral Square”.
The Cathedral has a total capacity for 8,000 people. More than 800 tons of rare marble were used in its completion. The inner capitals are decorated with sculpted Brazilian produce as coffee branches, pineapples, and native animals such as tatus –armadillos.
The crypt, located below the main altar, is very large and can be considered a subterranean church in its own right. It is decorated with marble sculptures by Francisco Leopoldo e Silva depicting the history of Job and St Jerome.
The crypt has the tombs of all bishops and archbishops of São Paulo. Of special note are the bronze tombs of two important historical figures: Father Diogo Feijó and the cacique Tibiriçá. Feijó was regent of Brazil during the infancy of Emperor Pedro II. Tibiriçá was the cacique (chieftain) of the Guaianás tribe who, in the 16th century, welcomed the first Jesuits to the Piratininga Plateau and whose aid made the foundation of São Paulo possible.
In 2004, the human remains of Bartolomeu de Gusmão (1685–1724), a Jesuit from the former Portuguese colony of Brazil and innovator of lighter-than-air airship design, were transferred to the crypt.
The cathedral’s organ, built in 1954 by the Italian firm Balbiani & Rossi, is one of the largest in Latin America. It has five keyboards, 329 stops, 120 registers, and 12,000 pipes, the mouths of which display hand-engraved reliefs in Gothic style.
The east tower contains a carillon of 61 bells, cast by the Petit & Fritsen bellfoundry of the Netherlands and installed in 1959. It is the largest and heaviest carillon in Central and South America.
The windows frames were made in granite, by a stonework company called Palici-Baccaro, founded by family members of Italian immigrants in the 1940s, having as partners Angelo Palici and João Baccaro, located at Oratório street, near Fernando Falcão street, region of the Mooca, São Paulo, Brazil, that later would give origin to Baccaro Marbles and Granites, traditional company in the local market.