Glittering like an emerald in the sea, Fiscal Island in Rio de
Janeiro seems to have simply been dropped into Guanabara Bay. Roughly
a kilometer from shore, Fiscal Island, once known as Rat’s
Island, was entrusted to the Finance Ministry of Rio in the 19th
century. It was in 1881 that construction began on what was to be
a customhouse on the tiny island. The building that actually evolved
and remains standing today, covers virtually every square inch of
the island, leaving only enough room for a row of majestic palms
around it’s foundation.
Now known as the Fiscal Island Castle, the building was initially
to be somewhat nondescript, a plain governmental cracker box, if
you will. Enter Emperor Dom Pedro II and those plans were immediately
scrapped. Amazed by the view of the bay from the tiny island also
known as Ilha Fiscal, Dom Pedro insisted that any building placed
on the island must be a ”dazzling jewel” befitting what
he considered to be a ”delicate jewel box.” Designer
Adolpho Jose Del Vecchio set to work immediately and the resulting
castle, inspired by the French buildings of the 14th century emerged
seven and a half years later. Del Vecchio was awarded a Gold Medal
for his design at the Escola Imperial de Belas Artes (Imperial Fine
Arts School) Exhibition.
Built with the labor of slaves and the Portuguese, the Castle was
finished and inaugurated in 1889. Dom Pedro II himself, boarded
the famous Galeota Imperial to make the trip across the Bay for
the inauguration. Also known as the Imperial Gallery, the boat is
currently on display in the Espaco Cultural da Marinha in Rio de
One of Rio’s most popular tourist attractions, the bright
green castle is now home to the Naval museum and it’s artifacts
take up almost every square inch of the building. Among the attractions
are both temporary and permanent exhibits detailing the history
of Fiscal Island and the Navy of Brazil. Delicately carved stonework
by Antonio Teixeira highlights the interior and exterior, while
the floor of the castle’s turrent boasts over ten different
types of hardwood, a beautiful mosiac by Moreira de Carvalho. Also
worthy of your attention are the columns, festoons, and arches of
the building – most definitely reminiscent of the empire of
Brazil. The murals by Frederico Steckel which adorn the walls and
the tower clock will surely both amaze and delight.
Earning it’s own place in the history books of Brazil, the
Fiscal Island Castle was the scene of what is known as the ”Last
Ball of the Empire.” It was here in the Castle, that the last
ball was hosted by the Brazilian Empire in November of 1889. A tribute
to the empire includes the likenesses of both Dom Pedro II and Princess
Isabil in the stained glass windows of the castle.
In 2001, the castle was extensively renovated during a bid to become
one of the tourist landmarks of Rio de Janeiro. During this renovation,
the turret’s painted dome, walls and floor were all restored.
The exterior of the Castle was also returned to it’s original
sparkling green. Fiscal Island is a must see for any tourists to
Brazil and a tour of the castle takes about 2 ½ hours. If
you visit Ilha Fiscal on a weekday, you’ll be able board a
boat to get to the island. Weekend visitors are taken to the castle
on board a bus that travels the nearby causeway. You can board the
boat at the Espaco Cultural da Marinha.
Guided tours are available from Thursday thru Sunday beginning
at 1 pm, 2:30 pm and 4 pm. To reach the Castle by phone, you can
call (21) 2233-9165. You may also want to include a separate boat
tour of the Navy’s other four small islands in your visit.
It lasts approximately 90 minutes and includes visits to Ilha Fiscal,
Ilha das Cobras, Ilha dos Enxadas, and Ilha Villagagnon aboard a
World War I-era tugboat.