Fodor's Expert Review Igreja de São Francisco
One of the most impressive churches in Salvador, the Church of St. Francis was built in the 18th century on the site of an earlier church that was burned down during the Dutch invasion in the early 1600s. The ceiling was painted in 1774 by José Joaquim da Rocha, who founded Brazil's first art school. The ornate cedar-and-rosewood interior is covered with images of mermaids and other fanciful creatures bathed in gold leaf. Guides say that there's as much as a ton of gold here, but restoration experts maintain there's much less. At the end of Sunday morning Mass, which begins at 8 am, the lights are switched off so you can catch the wondrous subtlety of the gold leaf under natural light. Mass is held Tuesday through Saturday beginning at 7:15 am.