Dessert Deception at the Basílica São Bento

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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.

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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.

About bornagainbrazilian

Having relocated from New York City to Sao Paulo, Brazil, I'm an expat attempting to broaden my horizons and adjust some of my American ways to be "born again" a Brazilian.
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13 Responses to Dessert Deception at the Basílica São Bento

  1. Karina says:

    Oh dear, I’m so sorry to say that, but there is a company that make this brunch event there, they hire those famous chefs and charge a lot for you to eat there. I have a friend who works with events and she showed me the portfolio from Multipla.
    They used to have this small ‘lojinha’ there, inside the church, on the left side. Maybe, as they can make more profit with those brunches, they don’t open the lojinha on brunch days, I don’t know. It’s been a while since I went there, but next time I’m going to ask.
    I know that they opened a store at Jardim Paulista, and they also sell online, here: http://padariadomosteiro.com.br/LojaVirtual/

  2. Wow. This is a serious business. Thanks for the link!

  3. Ick ick ick ick. No good feeling here.

  4. anna says:

    the Brunch at Mosteiro de São Bento costs 140 reais for all you can eat pastries , breads , salty dishes , desserts, drinks. It is held once or twice a month on sundays (the brunch money is donated to a NGO helping poor children at a slum in SP)
    http://www.mosteiro.org.br/index.php?pg=Brunch.php
    * you need to book in advance (11) 2440-7837 *

    or you can try their bakery at 2 locations (you pay a la carte / like others SP padarias):
    – from monday to friday 7AM – 5PM:
    Padaria do Mosteiro de São Bento Sao Paulo
    Largo de Sao Bento, s/n Centro
    – from monday to saturday 9AM – 630PM
    Barao de Capanema, 416 Jd. Paulista ,Sao Paulo
    (11) 3063-0522

  5. anna says:

    “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! ”

    i think 140 is for 2012 , maybe 170 is the new price for 2013 for BRUNCH once a month.
    if you just want to try the cake or bread you can go to the bakery during the week.

  6. Andrew Francis says:

    I think the cakes are actually made by the monks but to imagine them roaming the Largo trying to hawk their wares sounds a bit of artistic license by the guidebook writers.🙂
    Things might’ve changed but Largo Sao Bento isn’t that bad. It’s actually the nicer part of the old center. Plenty of offices and the Stock Exchange close by. If you think that’s scary, you should avoid crossing the Viaduto Sta Ifigenia – the other side is much worse.
    By the way, I assume to you went to the 10am mass no the 8:30 one, right?

    • Part of it is my own interpretation of how it might be. Again, I missed the mark. The area may be bustling with business people during the week, but on Sunday, there are a bunch of crackheads sleeping in front of the church. We went to the 10am.

      • Andrew Francis says:

        Yeah, that’s not very pleasant but I guess that’s the point of the church in the first place: to help those in need. In fact, judging by the news, they were probably a few of the many homeless addicts displaced after the government decided to “expel” them from Cracolandia (the other side of the Viaduto I was talking about).
        The monastery’s website says that the 10am mass should include Gregorian chant and organ music (and that’s the one I’ve been to a few times) so I assume they changed plans because of the holiday. Maybe the monks had a hangover after enjoying too many blocos de Carnaval? No, of course not…🙂

  7. Great post, although sad no cake.

  8. anna says:

    have you been to the Basílica de Nossa Senhora do Carmo? its my fav catholic church for weddings n SP. its worth a visit🙂
    address: Rua Martiniano de Carvalho, 114, Bela Vista, São Paulo, SP
    Basílica Nossa Senhora do Carmo, SP - São Paulo Brasil
    Basílica Nossa Senhora do Carmo, SP - São Paulo Brasil

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