The adventure of being Portuguese #Braga
Walking around northern Portugal, I had in mind several cities that I had heard good reviews of (Porto, Guimaraes, Aveiro) – Braga was one of them. The only problem we had was the unfavorable weather conditions but that didn’t stop us from seeing the main sights here.
I knew a few things about Braga – it is located 53 km from Porto, the fifth largest city in the country and it houses the oldest cathedral. It is considered the religious center of Portugal and there are reports that this part of Europe has been inhabited since the Neolithic, which undoubtedly affected the history and culture of this area.
But what is Braga nowadays? Take a walk with me on our one-day rain adventure.
Through the streets of Braga
With a thousand-year history, Braga is distinguished by its well-preserved Baroque architecture, numerous Gothic churches and beautiful squares. That is why it is an interesting tourist destination that has a culture and history. In this way, Braga easily gives birth to that typical mixture of past and present, which turns it into a charming city.
I mentioned above that Braga is considered the religious center of Portugal and for good reason, it is believed that there are more than 90 religious structures in the city, which to this day function as churches, cathedrals, museums and even as educational centers.
It is a curious fact that in 2012 Braga was declared the European Youth Capital of Europe, exactly six years before Cascais.
But let’s pay attention to the main attractions of the city, as you might guess they are religious temples that impress with their bold and unique architecture.
Bom Jesus do Monte
I admit that I missed one or two cathedrals in my travels, preferring instead to visit a museum or just to wander aimlessly through the streets of the city. But from time to time something we don’t usually visit or see surprises us and we are glad that we managed to give it a chance. This happened to me in Braga in the amazing sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte.
Bom Jesus do Monte is far from the typical church or cathedral. In fact, it is classified as a sanctuary and is huge – it is the most photographed church in Portugal. It is famous for its intricate zigzag stairs (577 in number) in Baroque style, which lead to the main church.
Some interesting facts about the place:
Its name means Good Jesus from the mountain.
It is located higher than Braga.
The giant baroque staircase is 116 meters high.
In the 14th century there was already a chapel here, but the current sanctuary dates from the 18th century.
The three fountains on a zigzag staircase represent the 3 Christian virtues: Faith, Hope and Love.
The church was built next to a small basilica.
From the church you have great views of the region.
While the beautiful staircase is the most impressive part of Bom Jesus, the church at the top of the hill is also worth a visit. Especially after climbing more than 500 steps to get there. Built in 1784 and 1834, it is a great example of neoclassical style. The accent of the church is the main altar, depicting the scene of the crucifixion.
Sé de Braga
In Braga, they use a popular saying that is something like: “Older than Braga Cathedral” and it is not used by accident! This is the oldest cathedral in the country.
Built between 1070 and 1093 on the ruins of a Roman temple, the Sé de Braga has undergone many changes over the years. Today’s style is a mixture of Gothic and Baroque. Inside there is a museum with a collection of relics and other historical artifacts.
Sé Catedral is one of the most visited monuments in the city of Braga and has been classified as a national monument since 1910. It is considered the center of episcopal radiation and one of the most important Romanesque temples in the country. This monument houses the famous tombs of Henry of Burgundy, Count of Portugal, and his wife Teresa de Leon, parents of D. Afonso Enriquez, founder and first king of Portugal. The tombs can be visited in the chapel of the kings.
The church last underwent the most serious renovations between 1996 and 1998. At that time, the foundations and the durability of the structure from various weather conditions improved significantly. In this way, the citizens of the city and the visitors can admire for a long time this truly impressive, from a historical point of view, cultural and significant monument.
Arco da Porta Nova
The arch was built in 1512 by order of Archbishop D. Diogo de Souza. Because there had been no wars for years, the arch had no doors to close at night, unlike other city gates. This was the first city gate, which did not lead to a road, but to a square and a fountain.
The arch was renovated in 1722, giving it the look that can be seen today. The facade facing the city shows the image of the Virgin Mary of Nazareth.
The place has an interesting Portuguese belief: since this is the first gate that has no door, it is said that the people who do not close the door behind them are from Braga.
I visited Braga with little expectations, and left it with a lot of new knowledge and impressions. And it is at such moments that I remind myself that there are never bad destinations, only unvisited ones. I hope that with this article I have shown you a different and curious side of tourism and I have motivated you one day to visit this treasure of Portugal.