For awhile I’ve wanted to attend a mass at the basílica in the college of São Bento. Travel books, and the college’s own website, have described the 10am Sunday mass as one that included a Gregorian chant performed by monks. These publications also lured me with the promise of delicious monastery-baked cakes sold outside the church by the brothers themselves.
So yesterday we went to attend the worship. First know that the church is in the pretty sketchy area of Largo São Bento, near 25 de Março. You definitely want to keep your guard up when walking around the area. Second, this is not the most beautiful church in São Paulo. Not that it isn’t lovely in that churchy way, but other holy Catholic places, such as Catedral da Sé (also in the shady part of town) and Igreja Nossa Senhora do Brasil in Jardim Paulista are more more attractive from an architectural perspective.
There were no monks waiting outside with baked goods when we arrived. I figured they needed to save their energy for the chanting and anticipated that our opportunity to make purchases would be the prize at the end.
Inside the place was packed. This being a holiday weekend, I can imagine that on a regular Sunday it might be even more crowded. We found a seat for our daughter and we stood and waited for the amazing Gregorian chanting to begin. (Ok, so here you might be questioning our motives in this place intended for worship. But I spent many years attending Catholic school, as did my husband, and it’s not a lot to ask for a little chant and cake in return.) However, the chanting did not occur. The monks did your typical church singing, but no chanting. All right, we didn’t stay until the very end of the ceremony. So perhaps the chanting was the grand finale. My husband did inquire about the cakes and was told that the monks only sell the cakes on the 24th of the month and, to get inside the annex where these items would be offered, it costs R$170 per person! This was definitely not how the travel guides described the experience.
I’m really curious about the false promotion. Has anyone had the full chant/cake experience at the Basílica São Bento? Where did we go wrong?
For more sights in São Paulo, check out American Exbrat in São Paulo: Advice, Stories Tips and Tricks for Surviving South America’s Largest City.