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Sao Francisco de Penitencia Church

In a city as oversized and grandiose as Rio de Janeiro, it’s surprising that a small, historic church is one of its most mesmerizing sights. Located in the city’s pulsing downtown, this church is best known for a gold interior that will silence the staunchest of critics. Even travelers who aren’t into architecture can appreciate the intricate beauty, where every fold and interior detail is brilliantly covered in gold. This is also one of the oldest churches found anywhere in Brazil, and is a shining example of Baroque style in the middle of modern Rio. Critics say that the opulent church runs contrary to the beliefs of its namesake, since Saint Francis of Assisi would never have commissioned a church that’s drizzled in gold. Regardless of historical accuracy, however, the fact remains this historic church is a brilliant sight to behold—from the altar made of jacaranda, to stones specifically imported from Portugal that line the chapel vestibules.