Antônio Francisco Lisboa (His given name) was the illegitimate son of Manoel Francisco Lisboa and an African slave, Isabel. He was born in Ouro Preto, located in the mountains of Minas Gerais, and was one of the first famous native born architects to Brazil. As a young boy Aleijadinho was believed to have been influenced greatly by his father, who was a practicing carpenter and architect. Portuguese artist, João Gomes Batista, was responsible for introducing Aleijadinho the theory of design.
It was Said that he was crippled with leprosy, but Aleijadinho’s illness did not show up in records until 1777. The artist literally had to be carried into the main chapel of the sanctuary of Nossa Senhora das Mercês e Perdões which he was in charge of designing. He was dubbed the nickname ‘Little Cripple’. He eventually began to lose fingers, and even his feet. Even so he was determined to keep designing.
Among his greatest works were the twelve apostles at the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus of Matosinhos. Twelve enormous statues carved out of soapstone were carved between 1800 and 1805. Although the sculptures themselves were asymmetrical in shape, he organized them in a way that gave the illusion of symmetrically.
After this massive project he became less active as it neared the end of his life. Nonetheless He was still able to complete some works during those last few years, such as his sculptures for the Church at Congonhas, which is now declared a world heritage site.