It was on April 21, 1960 that the then President Juscelino Kubistchek, proud of his greatest achievement, inaugurated Brasilia as the capital of Brazil and seat of government of the Federal District. Alongside his name shone those of architects Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer, and structural engineer Joaquim Cardozo who, "with ingenuity and art", brought to the heart of the country what was most daring in the world of architecture and civil construction. But did you know that centuries earlier others had already glimpsed this dream? Pull up a chair, and I'll tell you …
Mapa do Brasil Mostrando posição do Distrito Federal DemarcadoArquivo Público do Distrito Federal - ArPDF
Having overcome the danger, united the Empire and established the overseas capital, the invaders still remained to fight. So, our story begins back then, in the colonial period ...
Comissão de Estudos da Nova Capital (1895) by Henrique MorizeArquivo Público do Distrito Federal - ArPDF
It was that controversial figure, the Marquis of Pombal, who saw the need to protect the colony's capital from potential naval attack. The Marquis then suggested that a capital city be built in the interior of Brazil.
Ponte sobre o Rio das Almas - Pirenópolis, 1892. (1892) by Henrique MorizeArquivo Público do Distrito Federal - ArPDF
Proclamation of the Republic
On November 15, 1889, a new spirit swept over the world, and a Republic was proclaimed in Brazil. With it, the determination to move the capital to the interior was written into law. Article 3 of the 1891 Constitution reads: "An area of 14,400 square kilometers on the central plateau of the Republic, which will be demarcated in due course to establish a future federal capital, belongs to the Union."
Membros da Comissão Exploradora do Planalto Central do Brasi no observatório provisório do vértice Sudoeste - Goiás, 1892. (1892) by Luiz CrulsArquivo Público do Distrito Federal - ArPDF
And it had more on the subject! In its sole paragraph it stated that "after the change of capital city, the present Federal District shall be constituted a State” In its sole paragraph it stated that "after the change of capital city, the present Federal District shall be constituted a State". The determination in the Constitution was imperative and then, President Floriano Peixoto ordered the creation of a committee of scientists to explore and demarcate, in the Central Plateau, an area that would receive the Republic’s new capital.
Nomeação de Luiz Cruls para Chefe da Comissão de Estudos da Nova Capital da União (1894)Arquivo Público do Distrito Federal - ArPDF
First Cruls Commission
Authorized by Congress, the COMMISSION TO EXPLORE THE CENTRAL PLATEAU OF BRAZIL, under the leadership of the engineer, astronomer, and director of the Astronomical Observatory of Rio de Janeiro, the Belgian Louis Ferdinand Cruls, set out in June 1892 towards the heart of Brazil.
Acampamento nas cabeceiras do Rio Pindaíba - Goiás, 1892. (1892) by Henrique MorizeArquivo Público do Distrito Federal - ArPDF
In addition to Cruls, 21 other members, including astronomers, physicians, geologists, pharmacists, botanists and military personnel, walked the trails opened by the Viscount of Porto Seguro.
Vista de Uberaba.Arquivo Público do Distrito Federal - ArPDF
Arrival in Uberaba
The wistful and melancholy whistle of a steam train announced the arrival of the Commission at Uberaba, in the Triângulo Mineiro, the end of the railway line of a journey that, from this point on, would be covered on horseback, for more than 14 thousand kilometers, lasting 8 months.
Comissão Exploradora do Planalto Central do Brasi acampando junto a Santa Luzia - Goiás, 1892. (1892) by Henrique MorizeArquivo Público do Distrito Federal - ArPDF
The nearly 10 tons of luggage, more than 200 logs of wood were borne on the backs of mules as the Commission moved through: Pirenópolis, Santa Luzia (today Luziânia) and Formosa.
Membros da Comissão Exploradora do Planalto Central do Brasi acampando na Lagoa Feia - Formosa - Goiás, 1892. (1892) by Henrique MorizeArquivo Público do Distrito Federal - ArPDF
Separated into two groups, the objective of the Commission was to mark the intended quadrilateral of 14,400 square kilometers. Cruls followed the first group towards the city of Formosa, via the Serra do Urbano or Serra das Divisões, heading north through the watersheds.
Entrada da cidade de Formosa - Goiás, 1892. (1892) by Henrique MorizeArquivo Público do Distrito Federal - ArPDF
The other, led by astronomer Henrique Morize, also bound for Formosa, went south, via Corumbá, Santa Luzia and Mestre d'Armas.
Membros da Comissão Exploradora do Planalto Central no alto dos Pirineus - Goiás, 1892. (1892) by Henrique MorizeArquivo Público do Distrito Federal - ArPDF
Towards the apexes
From Formosa, the Commission was divided into 4 classes, one for each vertex of the quadrilateral to be demarcated on the ground, inserting the region of the Pirineus, as well as the headwaters of the rivers which formed the basins of the great watercourses.
Comissão Exploradora do Planalto Central do Brasi acampando às margens do Rio Paranaíba, 1892. (1892) by Henrique MorizeArquivo Público do Distrito Federal - ArPDF
Guided by the stars, the sun and the moon, after collecting several data, measurements and surveys, the first expedition delimited the Cruls quadrilateral, an area of 160 by 90 kilometers, the cradle of the headwaters of the Amazon, São Francisco, and Paraná basins.
Comissão de Estudos da Nova Capital (1895)Arquivo Público do Distrito Federal - ArPDF
Back in Rio de Janeiro, Cruls and his fellow travelers showed, at the Posts and Telegraph headquarters, what they had collected from the Plateau: maps, photographs, soil samples, fauna and flora, everything that had caught their attention and confirmed the reasons for transferring the capital to a region from where progress would spread throughout the country.
Mapa dos Itinerários LevantadosArquivo Público do Distrito Federal - ArPDF
In 1893, a partial report of this commission was presented to the government and published in the Government Gazette. The following year, the "Complete Report" or "Cruls Report", as it became known, was made public.
Acampamento da Comissão de Estudos da Nova Capital da União.Arquivo Público do Distrito Federal - ArPDF
Almost two years after the first trip, in 1894, Floriano Peixoto called Cruls again for his second mission, to head the Commission for the Study of the New Capital of the Union. Like the 1st, this came to be called simply the 2nd Cruls Commission.
Rio das Almas, tendo ao fundo a Igreja Nª Sª do Rosário, Pirenópolis.Arquivo Público do Distrito Federal - ArPDF
Having determined the Quadrilateral for the new Federal District, the researchers were now to indicate a specific site for the construction of the capital. The President wanted to know more about the climate, water supply, topography and the nature of the land.
Vista de Goiás.Arquivo Público do Distrito Federal - ArPDF
He also wanted a meteorological station established, with a telegraphic connection to the nearest network and to know about rail or river connections that might link this hardly-known region to the large urban centers of the time.
Membros da Comissão Exploradora do Planalto Central do Brasi chegando em Catalão - Goiás, 1892. (1892) by Henrique MorizeArquivo Público do Distrito Federal - ArPDF
For this second Commission, Cruls invited a Frenchman, Auguste Glaziou, botanical and civil engineer, responsible for the transformation of several parks in the city of Rio de Janeiro and director of the private parks and gardens of Emperor Pedro II.
Serra dos Pirineus,1892. (1892) by Henrique MorizeArquivo Público do Distrito Federal - ArPDF
The rock formation, fauna and flora all provoked surprise and delight in Glaziou, who in turn defended the recreation of a lake that he said must have existed in the region millions of years ago. This lake is the mirror of the sky above Brasilia.
Apuração do diamantenas minas da localidade de Água-Suja,1892. (1892) by Henrique MorizeArquivo Público do Distrito Federal - ArPDF
Unfortunately, the field work of this 2nd Commission was suspended due to lack of resources. Under the government of Prudente de Morais, due to lack of funds, at the end of 1895 the researchers had to rush back to Rio de Janeiro. They lacked the money even to return the equipment!
Comissão Exploradora do Planalto Central do Brasi acampando no Vértice Sudoeste (S.W) - Goiás, 1892. (1892) by Luiz CrulsArquivo Público do Distrito Federal - ArPDF
The soldiers who were part of this second expedition had to stay encamped to store their equipment until an emergency budget for transportation back to Rio was approved. So, this second commission did not complete its report, and only a partial one was published in 1896, with information on the railroad connection.
Comissão de Estudos da Nova Capital (1895) by Antonio Alves de MoraesArquivo Público do Distrito Federal - ArPDF
The New Capital
Different places were proposed for the construction of the new capital: the Descoberto river valley or between the rivers Gama and Torto. The technical competence of the results of the Study Commission of the New Capital of the Union was later confirmed when, in the mid-1950s, through analysis of aerial photographs, another commission for this purpose, led by Marshal José Pessoa, confirmed the choice of one of the suggested sites, where, in fact, Brasilia was actually built: between the rivers Gama and Torto.
"Say what you will, Brasilia is a miracle. When I first went there, the whole thing was deserted as far as the eye could see. There was only a straight, red trail descending from the top of the cross to the Alvorada, which was beginning to emerge from it foundations, lost in the distance. Just the savannah, the huge sky, and an idea in my head. The sky is still there, but the idea rose from the ground as if by magic, and the city is now spreading and becoming denser."
Diário de Hastímphilo de Moura (1892) by Hastímphilo de MouraArquivo Público do Distrito Federal - ArPDF
But, another fantastic document, the travel diaries of the Comissão Exploradora do Planalto Central do Brasil, written in the field by one of the participants, the soldier Hastimphilo de Moura, has incredible accounts of the first expedition! Love letters, fights, celebrations, tears... yearnings... Worthy of a movie script! And this is the story that we, from the Public Archive of the Federal District, are preparing to tell soon, through the issue of these as yet unpublished diaries.
Did you know?
Nomeação de 1º Astrônomo do Imperial Observatório do Rio de Janeiro (1881)Arquivo Público do Distrito Federal - ArPDF
Chess with the Emperor
Luiz Cruls was also an excellent chess player! One of Dom Pedro II's favorite opponents! A close personal friend of the Emperor, Cruls, then director of the Imperial Observatory in Rio de Janeiro, would send by messenger from there, his chess moves. Dom Pedro II would received the message, move a piece on the palace chessboard and return a message informing Cruls of the latest imperial move. For those who think chess is a game of endless matches, imagine one as slow as that!
Membros da Comissão Exploradora do Planalto Central do Brasil, 1892. (1892) by Henrique MorizeArquivo Público do Distrito Federal - ArPDF
The 1884 Washington Conference
Luiz Cruls represented Brazil at the Washington Conference of 1884. At this event, 25 nations met, establishing on October 22 that "the meridian passing through the center of the Greenwich observatory meridian instrument" be adopted "as the fundamental meridian for longitudes." Cruls, guided by Emperor Pedro II, abstained from the vote.
Certificado de Sepultura de Luiz Cruls (1908-08-10)Arquivo Público do Distrito Federal - ArPDF
The Death of Cruls
In 1901, Cruls headed the Brazil-Bolivia Joint Commission. During this expedition, which also lasted seven months, Cruls contracted a series of diseases, including malaria, which, seven years later, led to his death. Many members of the expedition never returned. But Cruls's legacy, especially in astronomy, means his is one of the great names of his time.
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