From Palace to Museum: a brief history of the Museum of the Republic

Discover the history of the Palácio do Catete and its Historic Garden

Catete and Flamengo Beach View from Gloria (1840 - 1845) by MullerMuseu Imperial

"Catete", the thick bush path

This is how the Tupi named this region which, during the Portuguese occupation, linked the political and administrative center to the mills and forts to the south. Crossed by the Carioca River, Catete became a place of residence for the nobility during the colonial and imperial times.

"Baron and Baroness of Nova Friburgo". "Baron and Baroness of Nova Friburgo". (1867) by Emil BauchMuseu da República

The new baron on the block

In the 1850s, one of the lands on the way to Catete was purchased by the Portuguese Baron of Nova Friburgo to build his residence there. One of the richest men in Brazil during the Second Reign (1840-1889), the baron made his fortune in the slave and coffee trade.

"Baron and Baroness of Nova Friburgo". "Baron and Baroness of Nova Friburgo". (1867) by Emil BauchMuseu da República

The Palace of Largo do Valdetaro

The building was designed by the German Gustav Waehneldt. As every noble house at the time used to have a garden around it, the Baron's was designed by Frenchman Auguste Glaziou. The Palace was to be built facing Largo do Valdetaro, where there was a public water source.

Receipt of payment for workers employed in the construction of Palácio Nova Friburgo (1863-04-04)Museu da República

The imperial court won its greatest palace. Who raised it?

The works of the palace and the garden took place from 1858 to 1868. Hundreds of skilled workers and artisans were employed in them, including many Portuguese and slaves for hire. In the museum archives it is possible to find the payment receipts of these workers.

Main staircaseMuseu da República

A classic of neoclassical in Brazil

The building has its architecture and decoration based on the Palaces of Venice and Florence (Italy) and on the European neoclassical style, marked by symmetry and inspiration from Antiquity and the Renaissance. Because of the Baron, it came to be called "Palácio de Nova Friburgo".

Retrato do Conselheiro Francisco de Paula Mayrink by Franco Sá BorisMuseu do Ipiranga

From Palace to Hotel... almost

The property was completed in 1868, but the Baron and Baroness died within two years. The heirs hardly used the property of Catete, which was eventually sold in 1889 to councilor Francisco Mayrink, who intended to build a luxury hotel there. But the venture failed.

Noble Hall. (1896/1897)Museu da República

In 1889, came the Republic

Councilor Mayrink ended up selling the Palace to the Union, to pay off a mortgage. Between 1896 and 1897, the property underwent a series of renovations in order to house the new headquarters of the Presidency of the Republic, which until then occupied the Itamaraty Palace.

A republican touch in the house of the nobility

Architect Aarão Reis was responsible for adapting the interior of the Palace to the needs of the presidential service. There was the installation of electric light, generated by a private power plant. Walls and ceilings were decorated with the coat of arms of the Republic.

Artificial cave (1896/1897) by Paul VillonMuseu da República

Nature recreated

Some of the most characteristic elements of the Garden date from this renovation, such as the artificial grotto and lake, the ornamental cast iron sculptures and the cement bridges that imitate the textures of trees. The landscaping was done by Frenchman Paul Villon, disciple of Glaziou.

Main entrance to the Palácio do Catete, under the Presidency (Década de 1980) by Ivan Wasth RodriguesMuseu da República

An always busy palace

The first occupant of the Palace was Vice President Manuel Vitorino, as the incumbent Prudente de Moraes was on sick leave. From 1897 to 1960, 18 Presidents entered and left Catete during four republican constitutional regimes: those of 1891, 1934, 1937 and 1946.

"Allegory to the Constitution of the Estado Novo" (1937/1945) by Carlos OswaldMuseu da República

Republican historical and artistic heritage

In 1938, during the Getúlio Vargas government, the Palace and Garden were listed at the federal level by the newly created National Historical and Artistic Heritage Service. As elected president or dictator, Vargas held the Palace for 19 years in total (1930 to 1945, 1951 to 1954).

Hydraulic floor, sculptures and main staircase (1858/1868) by Carl Friedrich Gustav Waehneldt (project)Museu da República

Stairway to power

For six decades, the Palácio do Catete was synonymous with the national government in the popular imagination and "climbing its stairs" wasthe ultimate symbol of political triumph. From there came decisions, agreements and crisis whose effects have driven the country's destinies to this day.

Commemorative medal for the inauguration of the Museum of the Republic (1960) by Casa da Moeda do Rio de JaneiroMuseu da República

A new museum for the old capital

On April 21, 1960, the federal capital of Brazil would be transferred from the city of Rio de Janeiro to the brand new Brasília. Before leaving, then-president Juscelino Kubitschek signed a decree transforming the Palácio do Catete into a Museum of the Republic.

The house of the lived and dreamed Republics

The Museum of the Republic was inaugurated on November 15, 1960. Its mission is to preserve and communicate historical, material and immaterial heritage, relating to the memory of the republican regime and the various forms of conception and realization of the ideal of the Republic in Brazil.

Museum of the Republic's Historical GardenMuseu da República

The "res publica" in Latin means "thing of the people"

For over 60 years, the Museu da República has pursued its vocation as a public good, opening to the people the halls and lawns that were once exclusive to the few, offering culture, education and leisure to the citizens of Catete and of many other neighborhoods in Brazil and the world.

Credits: Story

Museu da República /IBRAM/SECULT
Director - Mario Chagas
Technical Coordination - Daniela Matera do M. Lins
Communication Sector - Henrique Milen

Texts and editing: Paulo Celso Corrêa

ALMEIDA, Cícero Antônio de. "Catete: memórias de um palácio". Rio de Janeiro: Museu da República, 1994.
RODRIGUES, Marcus Vinícius Macri. "Um palácio quase romano: o Palácio do Catete e a invenção de uma tradição clássica nos trópicos". Rio de Janeiro: Museu da República, 2017.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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