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The church of the See
The Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, where the Cathedral was installed in mid-eighteenth century 1.


On September 22, 1767, in a modest house in Rua da Vala, Rio de Janeiro, a boy was born to a couple of free half-breed, the housewife Victoria Maria da Cruz and the tailor Apolinário Nunes Garcia 2.

Victoria was daughter of Joana Gonçalves, a slave of Simão Barbosa Gonçalves 3. She was born in Cachoeira do Campo, parish of São Gonçalo do Monte, in the province of Minas Gerais, and was baptized in 1739. At age 10, she traveled along with her mother's lord to Rio de Janeiro. Apolinário was son of Ana Correa do Desterro, also slave. Born in Campos dos Goytacazes, a city northeast of Rio de Janeiro 4, he was baptized in 1743, in the Church of Our Lady of the Perpetual Help, on Ilha do Governador, nowadays a neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. Victoria and Apolinario were married in 1762, in the church of Saint Rita, downtown Rio de Janeiro. He was single and she was already widow of Lieutenant Raimundo Pereira de Abreu. Their marriage certificate states they were children of "incognito father", an indication that they may have been children of their mothers' lords.

The boy, who was born on the day of St. Maurice, was baptized José Maurício Nunes Garcia, on December 20, 1767, at the Cathedral of the city, the present church of Our Lady of the Rosary.

There is little documented information about Nunes Garcia's childhood and youth; the first biographers and contemporaries, Januário da Cunha Barbosa (1780–1846) 5 and Manuel de Araújo Porto-Alegre (1806–1879) 6, record some facts about this phase of the life of the priest-composer.

Cunha Barbosa, a companion in the priesthood and a friend, provides, in a concise obituary 7, published a few days after the death of Nunes Garcia, first-hand information on his ancestry, the school curriculum, and the early exercise of the profession. According to him, an aunt, whose name was unknown, lived with the family 8. After Apolinário's death, in 1773, his mother and aunt raised the boy and, upon noticing his precocious musical talent, sent him to music class of composer Salvador José de Almeida e Faria, a renowned music teacher at the time 9. To complement the boy's education, they made him attend the "Aulas Régias", the public education of the time, lessons in Latin Grammar, Rational and Moral Philosophy, History, Rhetoric, Geography, French, Italian, English and Greek. The disciplines he attended with the best results deserved mention to the professors: Latin Grammar with Father Elias, Rational and Moral Philosophy, with Dr. Goulão 10. and Rhetoric with poet Manuel Inácio da Silva Alvarenga 11. It is also known that he did not do well in learning English and Greek.

Learning music was so fast that at the age of twelve Nunes Garcia helped with the household expenses with what he earned as a music teacher, according to the testimony of a pupil, Bonifácio Gonçalves 12. It was no wonder. According to Porto-Alegre, the boy "since his earliest childhood", in addition to having a "beautiful voice"; had "a prodigious memory [...] for faithfully reproducing everything he heard performed", and "improvised melodies and played the viola and harpsichord without ever having learned to" 13.

The Church of Saint Rita
(To obtain a description of some places, move the mouse over the figure)
The church of Saint Rita, downtown Rio de Janeiro, where Nunes Garcia's parents got married 14.

1 ENDER, Thomas. Viagem pelo Brasil nas Aquarelas de Thomas Ender [A Trip to Brazil in Thomas Ender's Watercolors]. Presented by Robert Wagner and Júlio Bandeira. Petrópolis: Kappa, 2000. v. 2, p. 433.

2 According to Dr. José Maurício Nunes Garcia Jr., grandson of Apolinário, his grandfather's job was field master, indicating a military past before becoming tailor. GARCIA Jr., José Maurício. Apontamentos Biográficos [Biographical Notes] / José Maurício Nunes Garcia Jr. / (com notas de [with notes of] FRANCISCO CURT LANGE). In MURICY, José Cândido de Andrade et alii. Estudos Mauricianos. Rio de Janeiro: INM/FUNARTE/PRÓ-MEMUS, 1983. p. 15.

3 Musicologist Francisco Curt Lange found the alleged baptism record of Vitória Maria da Cruz and published it in Barroco magazine, Belo Horizonte: Imprensa Universitária da UFMG, 1981, n. 11, pp. 91-94. Although authentic, it records the baptism of another child with the same name. The autenticity was contested by Cleofe Person de Mattos, in MATTOS, Cleofe Person de. José Maurício Nunes Garcia - Biografia. Rio de Janeiro: Ed. Fundação Biblioteca Nacional, 1997, p. 205.

4 GARCIA Jr., op. cit., 1983. p. 15.

5 Januário da Cunha Barbosa (Rio de Janeiro, Aug. 10, 1780 - Feb. 22, 1846) [...] was regal preacher of the Royal Chapel, professor of philosophy and founder of the Brazilian Historical [and Geographical] Institute (1838). Tribune speaker, he became involved in the movement for the Brazilian independence, was arrested in 1822 and exiled for political reasons. He returned to Brazil in 1823, achieving compensations, such as the direction of the National Library and several medals. MATTOS, op. cit., 1997. p. 213.

6 Manuel de Araújo Porto-Alegre - baron of Santo Ângelo - (Rio Pardo (RS) 21.11.1806 - Lisbon 29.12.1879) [...] Man of culture, speaker at the Historical Institute, laureate painter - student of Debret - professor and director of the School of Fine Arts, a member of international organizations and consul of Brazil in Berlin and Lisbon, where he died. He was awarded the medals of the Order of the Rose and the Order of Christ. MATTOS, op. cit., 1997. p. 213.

7 CUNHA BARBOSA, Januário da. Nicrologia [Obituary]. Jornal da Imprensa Imperial Nacional. Rio de Janeiro, p. 402-4, 30 abr. 1830. In MURICY, op. cit., 1983, p. 23.

8 MATTOS, not finding notarial documentation to prove that Vitória had a sister, maintains that it was this aunt not by kinship, but by affinity. It cannot be ruled out that she could have been also a domestic servant.

9 Music teacher, manufacturer of musical instruments. Born in 1732 in Cachoeira do Campo, Minas Gerais, he died in Rio de Janeiro on April 12, 1799. He had a marital life with Felicia de Almeida e Faria, with whom he had two children: Augusto de Almeida Procopio and Clementina Calista Ermuta de Almeida. Depending on the master´s birthplace, much has been written about the influence of the music style of Minas Gerais in Nunes Garcia. The publication of Faria´s inventory by Nireu Cavalcanti in 2004 (until it disappears, the original was in the National Archives, packet 313, n. 5614) weakens this thesis, since it contains mostly European compositions, and no one written by a mineiro. CAVALCANTI, Nireu. O Rio de Janeiro Setecentista: a Vida e a Construção da Cidade da Invasão Francesa até a Chegada da Corte [Rio de Janeiro in Eighteenth Century: the Life and the Construction of the City from the French Invasion to the Court Arrival]. Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar Editor, 2004. p. 415.

10 Agostinho Corrêa da Silva Goulão, graduated at the University of Coimbra, he arrived in Rio de Janeiro in 1789. He held the chair of Rational and Moral Philosophy (Perereca, p. 774). In September 1822 he was elected Constituent of the province of Rio de Janeiro. MATTOS, op. cit., 1997. p. 215.

11 Manuel Inacio da Silva Alvarenga (Vila Rica, 1749 - Rio de Janeiro, 1814), one of the main Brazilian Arcadian poets, studied mathematics and canon law at the University of Coimbra in Portugal, between 1773 and 1776. Back in Brazil, he took part in the Roman Arcadia at Villa Rica, under the pseudonym Alcindo Palmireno. In the 1780s he was professor of Rhetoric and Poetics in Rio de Janeiro. In 1786, he was founder and secretary of the Literary Society, which led him to prison between 1794 and 1797, accused of conspiracy against the government; he was released for clemence of Queen Mary I. In 1813-14 he contributed to O Patriota, the first printed culture magazine in Brazil. His published books were: O Desertor (1774), O Templo de Netuno (1777), A Gruta Americana (1779), Às Artes (1778), and the most famous, Glaura (1799). Poesia Ibero-Americana. Access: Feb. 15, 2015.

12 The student witnessed in the da genere process, to have had music lessons from the composer for twelve years. Nunes Garcia was 24 years old at the time. MATTOS, op. cit., 1997. p. 40.

13 PORTO-ALEGRE, Manuel de Araújo. Apontamentos Sobre a Vida e as Obras do Padre José Maurício Nunes Garcia [Notes on the Life and Works of Father José Maurício Nunes Garcia]. In MURICY, op. cit., 1983, p. 23.

14 HILDEBRANDT, Eduard. O Brasil de Eduard Hildebrandt [Eduard Hildebrandt's Brazil]. Foreword by Gilberto Ferrez. Rio de Janeiro: Record, 1991. p. 41.

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