Ornaments from the 19th Century are back to the Port Region
Four statues of Greek gods (Minerva, Mercury, Ceres and Mars), which ornamented the Imperatriz Wharf, were restored
The arrival of the Greek gods is a sign the Jardim do Valongo, in the Center of the city, is almost ready to open its doors again to the population of Rio. The four statues of Minerva, Mercury, Ceres and Mars are already at the site from which they left at the end of last century. “It was a special day when they brought back the four statues that decorated this garden,” celebrates the undersecretary of Historical Heritage, Washington Fajardo.
It is the final chapter of the Rio saga for these Greek gods. “These statues have a very interesting history. They used to decorate the Imperatriz Wharf, built in 1843 to receive Empress Teresa Cristina, who was arriving in Rio de Janeiro to marry Dom Pedro II. It is a festive wharf, which was built over the Valongo Wharf, which was the wharf of slavery,” says Fajardo. Over time, both constructions were leveled. “In the period of the Republic, in 1906, when this garden was concluded, the existing wharf was leveled again to build the Municipal Square, looking much as it does today,” continues the undersecretary.
That is when the original statues in Carrera Marble left the Imperatriz Wharf and went to Jardim do Valongo, where they remained until the end of the century. “I think that was the period of greatest degradation of this area and the statues were vandalized. That’s why the decision was made to remove the originals and put them in the Municipal Palace. They were perfect replicas in reinforced mortar coated in marble powder. They are identical to the original statues and were only waiting for the moment to go back to Jardim do Valongo,” underscores Fajardo.
Now, facing Camerino Street, they are duly in place, powerfully highlighting the area’s revitalization. Washington Fajardo celebrates. “Today, the recovery of Jardim do Valongo is a reality. And soon the population will be able to once again enjoy this space and appreciate this fantastic garden, visiting the Guard House. And there is the restoration of the public restroom, right down there.”
The revitalization of the area and the statues is the most visible sign of a concept that has filled City Hall’s activities. “It is very important at this moment, looking to the future, for this reconstruction and requalification of the city, for the memory and cultural heritage to appear in such a powerful manner, being recovered and rehabilitated,” boasts Fajardo.
For the undersecretary, the return of the statues is representative of the recovery of the principle that beauty and the quality of the public space are fundamental. “That is what motivated putting the garden on top of a containment work in the past. This is a value that goes through time, but at a given moment it is lost through degradation of the entire area,” laments Fajardo, who says the region began a site that concentrated street people and drug consumption,” the evils of crack were present here,” he says.
But the new times bring news from the past. As the undersecretary makes a point of underscoring. “Bringing these statues back here again is emblematic of the function beauty has in the quality of the public space. The statues clearly show that today the Port is the heart of the city of Rio de Janeiro. In a way, we hope Minerva, Mercury, Ceres and Mars come to bless it; that the Greek gods come and bless this recovery.”