This is not a blog about History. This is a blog about Architecture, if anything. But there are moments in which History and Architecture mix up in a way that it gets impossible to mention one without referring to the other. That said, it is mandatory to remember the story of the construction of the Rio de Janeiro Archiepiscopal Diocese´s headquarters, both designed by the great architect Morales de los Rios.[1]

But Why both? Well, let´s begin from the beginning…

On December 11th, 1905, a Brazilian citizen received an unprecedented distinction: first Cardinal of South America. His name: Joaquim Arcoverde de Albuquerque Cavalcanti.[2] Today brazilians refer to him as Cardinal Arcoverde, a man that has gathered a great amount of power at his time. When the Central Avenue[3] was designed, in 1904, a lot beside present Cinelândia was reserved to receive the Rio de Janeiro Archiepiscopal Diocese (Mitra Arquiepiscopal do Rio de Janeiro), and the expected new building was supposed to match the ecclesiastic position of its occupant. To design it, the Central Avenue Construction Commission – responsible for the erection of all buildings of the avenue – invited one of the most prominent architects of the time, the Sevillian-born and carioca by adoption Adolfo Morales de los Rios. In the building´s original design, the eclectic architect sought inspiration in the “roman style of Renaissance´s pontifical buildings”, according to his son, the historian and architect himself Morales de los Rios Filho.[4]

The construction was on its way when the commission received the news informing that the Cardinal had changed his mind and had no intention to occupy the new building, and more, that his intention was to build his residence in a farther site – the neighborhood of Gloria…[5]

The project of establishing Rio Diocese in Downtown had come to an end. The building was then bought by the Federal Government, and after some functional adaptations it became the Supreme Federal Court (Supremo Tribunal Federal) headquarters, inaugurated on April 3rd, 1909.[6]

We can see below the photography of the building façade´s original plan view – without the future modifications to receive the Supreme Court -, done by the great carioca photographer Marc Ferrez (1843-1923) and entitled “Avenida Central – 8 de março de 1903 – 15 de novembro de 1906” (Central Avenue – March 8th, 1903 – November 15th, 1906).[7]

In my opinion, it is not reasonable to state – like some historians do – that Cardinal Arcoverde has disliked the building design. If that were the case, he would never have invited the same architect Morales de los Rios to design his new palace, now to be located on a lot much bigger than its precedent, a palace that was baptized under his own name, Joaquim.

Let us forget about these historic reminiscences for a while. This a blog about Architecture, after all, remember?

The Majestic Saint Joachim Palace, on 446, Gloria Street, on the corner of Benjamin Constant Street, was finally built in the same place where the Meriti Palace (Palacete Meriti) stood until 1912. [8] The works went until 1918.

Finally, we arrive to the object that really interests us here: the bronze sculpture[9] positioned on the tympanum of the palace´s main pediment, where we can see the Cardinal Arcoverde´s coat of arms, kept by two cherubs, seen above.[10]

The sculpture was executed by Italian sculptor and engraver Aurelio Mistruzzi (Villaorba, 1880 – Rome, 1960), as confirmed by the signature put beside the angel foot, to the right of the observer.

Cardinal Arcoverde´s coat of arms can also be seen on the bell tower faces of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church of the Ancient See (Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Monte do Carmo da Antiga Sé), at Primeiro de Março Street. It lies there since the temple disfiguring restorations between 1905 and 1913, promoted by the cardinal and carried out by the Italian architect Raphael Rebecchi.

That´s all for today.

[1] Adolfo Morales de los Rios y Garcia de Pimentel, according to his son, the historian Morales de los Rios Filho, in his book about the father.


[3] The avenue was rebaptized as Rio Branco Avenue on December 21st, 1912, after Barão do Rio Branco´s death.

[4] Morales de los Rios Filho, Adolfo. Adolfo Morales de los Rios. Figura, Vida e Obra. Rio de Janeiro: Editor Borsoi, 1959, page 182.

[5] According to the historian Brasil Gerson, the cardinal judged “inappropriate for him to live in a place so deeply located in the heart of the city”.

[6] The building, which houses presently the Centro Cultural Justiça Federal, has already been the subject of a post here, at The Supreme Court occupied it until brazilian Federal District transfer to Brasília, in 1960.

[7] To build his fantastic “Album da Avenida Central” (Central Avenue Album), Ferrez has photographed the plan views of all the façade designs approved in a contest with this goal, as well as he photographed all erected buildings. In the building here studied, considering the imbroglio created after Cardinal Arcoverde´s negative, the book was published without the erected building´s proper picture, and the destination page ended empty…

[8] About Meriti Palace, please consult

[9] I thank my new friend Dominique Perchet, whose incredible work of research can be found at and, for identifying the material employed in the sculpture.

[10] For a complete coat of arms´ description, please consult the addresses and

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