Pirenópolis  is famed for having one of the most original and spectacular religious pageants in Brazil : As Cavalhadas features horsemen, dressed to represent medieval Moors and Christians, who re-create a battle fought by Charlemagne during the Crusades.
The elaborate costumes are astonishingly sumptuous—the Christian cavalheiros (knights) wear scarlet, the Moors blue, and a third, more surreal group of characters, the Mascarados, wear fantastic masks fashioned out of papier-mâché. The pageantry lasts for three days and includes parades, tournaments, and a mock battle in which the Moors (of course) are vanquished and later converted to Christianity.
Of Portuguese origin, dating back to the Middle Ages, Cavalhadas have been played out in Pirenópolis since 1826 as part of a larger popular and religious festival, the Festa do Divino Espírito Santo, which begins 50 days after Easter. Leading up to the Cavalhadas are numerous celebrations ranging from parades and masked balls to fireworks displays.
If you miss the main event, you can at least get a dose of the festivities by visiting the Museu das Cavalhadas (Rua Direita 39, tel. 62/3331-1166, 10 a.m.–noon and 2–5 p.m. daily, R$2), which has a splendid collection of costumes, accessories, and photographs.