Braga Cathedral (Portuguese: Sé de Braga) is one of the most important monuments in the historic city of Braga. Due to its long history and artistic significance, the Sé is also one of the most important buildings in all of Portugal.
The Diocese of Braga (then called Bracara Augusta) dates from the 3rd century AD. It is one of the oldest on the Iberian peninsula and was the headquarters for the Christian missionary effort in Gallaecia (Northwestern Iberia).
After Roman power was dissolved by invading Germanic tribes, Braga became the capital of the Suebi Kingdom (409 to 584). Bishop Martin of Dumio, a great religious figure of the time, converted the Suebi to Catholicism around 550. The importance of Braga diminished during Visigoth times and after the arrival of the Arabs (716) it lost its status as a bishopric.
The bishopric of Braga was restored around 1071 after the city was back into Christian hands, and Bishop Pedro soon began work on a cathedral. It was consecrated in 1089, when only the eastern chapels were finished.
In 1107, Count Henri de Bourgogne (Henry of Burgundy) and Bishop Geraldo de Moissac managed to convince the Pope to turn Braga into a powerful archbishopric, with authority over much of the surrounding area. Construction on the cathedral was then resumed under Henri de Bourgogne and Dona Teresa, and continued throughout the 12th century.
What to See
The 12th-century Romanesque Cathedral of Braga influenced many other churches and monasteries in Portugal in that period.
The west facade is austere and powerful, with twin crown towers and a large Romanesque (rounded) arch flanked by two smaller Gothic (pointed) ones. A niche between the towers contains a larger-than-life statue of the Virgin and Child. Later elements can be seen in the middle part of the facade.
The interior - with three aisles, a transept and five eastern chapels - is dark but richly decorated. Under a carved baldachin in the apse is a Manueline statue of Our Lady of the Milk nursing the infant Jesus. The statue is in the Manueline style but is somehow pious and restrained.
A high choir was added near the entrance in the Baroque period. It is beautifully decorated, with a painted ceiling and sculptured gilt wood (talha dourada) choir stalls executed in a Neogothic style around 1737 by Miguel Francisco da Silva.
In front of the high choir are two huge 18th-century gilded organs, carved by renowned sculptor Marceliano de Araújo in the 1730s, heavily decorated with baroque and fantastic motifs. These are among the most impressive gilt wood works in Portugal.
The main chapel at the east end is roofed with stone rib vaulting and its walls are decorated with a 14th-century statue of the Virgin Mary (Nossa Senhora de Braga). During the remodelling of the chapel, Archbishop Diogo de Sousa also commissioned a stone altar, but most of it has been lost. The part still preserved is used as altar table and has beautiful reliefs of Christ and the Apostles.
The other chapels of the apse are decorated in baroque or neoclassical styles. The Chapel of Saint Peter of Rates is particularly interesting for its 18th-century painted tiles (by António de Oliveira Bernardes) depicting the life of the saint. In the Capela da Glória (1330) is the rich effigy tomb of Archbishop Dom Gonçalo Pereira, carved by order of the prelate.
Upstairs, the Cathedral Treasury and Museum of Sacred Art contains Braga's most precious works of art. Displays include elaborately carved choir stalls from the 18th century, embroidered vestments from the 16th to the 18th centuries, a 14th-century statue of the Virgin, and a Gothic chalice from the same period.
Quick Facts on Braga Cathedral
|Names:||Braga Cathedral; Sé|
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|Coordinates:||41.549985° N, 8.427275° W (view on Google Maps)|
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Map of Braga Cathedral
Below is a location map and aerial view of Braga Cathedral. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.
- Frommer's Portugal, 19th Edition
- Braga Cathedral - Wikipedia
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