History and intrigue abound at the Cultural Navy Museum in Rio de Janeiro

The Cultural Nave Museum, originally built as the headquarters for the Brazilian Customs Service, is a small turquoise castle afloat on its own separate island in the bay. Designer Adolpho Del-Vecchio employed the use of the Gothic Revival architecture which was, at the time, popular in Europe. The castle’s tower has a squared shape and a clock displays the time on four sounds so as to make it visible to ships located anywhere in the harbor.

The building was inaugurated on April 27th, 1889. In November of that year, the castle hosted the final ball of the Brazilian emperor, merely days before the announcement of the Republic. The castle has long since been seen as an example of the extravagance of Brazil’s royalty. The Brazilian Navy used the island and the building between 1913 and 1998 before it housed the Cultural Navy Museum which was dedicated to the Brazilian Navy.

On display in the Cultural Navy Museum there are several under-water relics. Including coins, Delft blue china and jewelry from the wreck of the Nossa Senhoro do Rosario in 1648. Also there are numerous ship models such as a full-size replica of the royal barge and other small scale models ranging from the Golden Hind to early Brazilian sailing rafts.

The museum also houses a large collection of historical naval documents in what was formally the Navy Library but over 10 years of development has become the Navy Documents Center. Outside the museum, the Riachuelo, a submarine from the 1970s, and the Bauru, a World War II destroyer, are docked. Tourists are invited to take self-guided tours of the ships.

A tour of the museum will take approximately two and a half hours. Tour goers travel to the island by boat on the weekdays. Transportation to the Cultural Navy Museum on the weekends is by bus along the causeway. The Navy itself, offers a separate boat tour to four small islands at which aircraft carriers, destroyers and many other military vessels are docked. The tour to these islands, Ilha Fiscal, Ilha das Cobras, Ilha dos Enxadas, and Ilha Villagagnon, takes about an hour and a half and takes place on a World War I tugboat. Tours run 12pm to 5pm.
Another maritime museum that is a nice compliment to the Cultural Navy Museum is the Rio de Janeiro Naval and Ocenograpic Museum. This museum contains the history of the Brazilian Navy including maps, models of ships, and numerous documents pertaining to the history of the navy and oceanography.

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