A Unesco World Heritage Site since 2019, the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte (Good Jesus of the Mount) in Braga is undoubtedly one of the most emblematic tourist sites in Portugal.
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Want to know more about Braga’s history? Captain Ulysses warmly recommends this free tour of the city to visit Braga with a passionate guide. You’re free to choose how much you wish to tip the tour guide at the end of the tour!
Want to know more about Braga’s top landmarks & monuments? Be sure to check out the Captain’s Guide to Braga.
A short history of the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte
According to legend, in the 14th century, a cross appeared in the sky above Mount Espinho following a battle between Christians and Moors. A first chapel was thereforevbuilt on top of the hill in 1373 to commemorate this “miracle”.
But the construction of the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte as we know it today did not begin until a few centuries later, in 1722, under the auspices of Archbishop Rodrigo de Moura Telles. He ordered the construction of the first flight of stairs (the Via Crucis, the Way of the Cross), then the second, the Staircase of the Five Senses. In the 1720s, a baroque church was built at the top of the stairs.
At the end of the 18th century, Archbishop Gaspar de Braganza ordered the construction of a third and final flight of stairs: the Staircase of the Virtues. The baroque church was demolished and replaced by a new neo-classical church consecrated in 1834.
In the 19th century, the area around Bom Jesus was converted into a park. A hydraulic funicular (the first in the Iberian Peninsula) was inaugurated in 1882 to facilitate access to the top of the hill.
A century and a half later, in 2019, the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte was registered as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Visiting the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte
The staircase, the sacred way of Bom Jesus
The Via Sacra of the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte is comprised of a set of three flights of stairs (577 steps in total) leading to the basilica, at the top of Mount Espinho. They symbolize the passage from earth to heaven: pilgrims are encouraged to climb the stairs on their knees and purify themselves in the fountains that line the Sacred Way of Bom Jesus.
The Via Crucis, the Way of the Cross (or Portico Stairway): punctuated by chapels decorated with terra cota statues representing the Passion of Christ, the Portico Stairway is the oldest portion of the Sacred Way of Bom Jesus. Longer and not as steep as the other two flights of stairs, it winds through the shade of the trees in Bom Jesus Park.
The Staircase of the Five Senses: the Staircase of the Five Senses forms with the Staircase of the Virtues (from which it is separated by a small landing), the majestic baroque zigzag staircase leading to the top of the hill. Each of the five senses (sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch) is represented by a fountain.
The Staircase of Virtues: last flight of stairs before reaching the top. The Staircase of Virtues is dedicated to the three theological virtues: Faith, Hope and Charity. As in the Staircase of the Five Senses, each of the virtues is represented in the form of a fountain.
The Court of Moses (Terreiro de Moisés): at the top of Mount Espinho, the Via Sacra leads to a vast esplanade at the foot of the Basilica of Bom Jesus, the Court of Moses. It is home to the famous Pelican fountain as well as an equestrian statue of Saint Longinus and two chapels.
The Court of the Evangelists (Terreiro dos Evangelistas): located behind the Basilica of Bom Jesus, the Court of the Evangelists, built in the 1760s, features five octagonal chapels (attributed to the architect André Soares) and four baroque fountains topped by statues of the Evangelists.
The funicular of Bom Jesus
Inaugurated in 1882, the funicular of Bom Jesus is the oldest funicular in the Iberian Peninsula. 274 meters / 900 ft long with a difference in altitude of 116 meters / 380 it (i.e. a slope of more than 30%), it can get to the top of Mount Espinho in about 3 minutes. It consists of two cabins: one goes up when the other goes down.
The funicular of Bom Jesus has the particularity of drawing its driving force from water.
The Basilica of Bom Jesus do Monte
If the highlight of the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte is indeed the Via Sacra, the basilica is nevertheless worth visiting. Designed by the architect Carlos Amarante, it is one of the oldest neo-classical buildings in Portugal.
Inside, don’t miss the 18th century paintings of Pedro Alexandrino and the organ dating from 1798 (which is admittedly not as stunning as the sumptuous organ of the Cathedral of Braga).
The park of Bom Jesus
After visiting the basilica, take some time to stroll in the lovely park of Bom Jesus. You’ll find a fake devotional cave as well as three luxury hotels: Hotel do Templo, Hotel do Elevador and Hotel do Parque. They’re perfect pied-à-terres if you want to spend the night near the sanctuary. Find out more here.
📍 Getting to Bom Jesus: Bom Jesus do Monte is located 6 kilometers / 4 miles from the center of Braga. You can drive to the sanctuary, take city bus (line 2 from Avenida da Liberdade) or take a hop-on ho-off tourist bus which stops near all the city’s top tourist attractions.
⏱ Opening hours: the Basilica is open daily from 8am to 7pm in summer and 8am to 6pm in winter. The funicular runs every day from 8:55 am to 7:55 pm in summer, from 8:55 am to 12:55 pm and from 1:55 pm to 5:55 pm in winter.
💵 Admission: visiting the sanctuary is free. Funicular tickets are available at the price of €1.50 (one way) / €2.50 (return)
👉 Find the perfect place to stay in Northern Portugal!
Looking for tips and recommendations? Here are all the Captain’s suggestions in Braga!
🛏️ Accommodation: to book your accommodation in Guimarães, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends Booking.com. From youth hostels to luxury boutique hotels: there’s plenty to choose from.
The Captain particularly recommends:
– hostels: inBraga Hostel / Fonte Branca Guest House – Sé
– budget hotels: Páteo de Janes / Old City Guest House
– mid-range hotels: Domus 26 Guesthouse / Hotel Moon & Sun Braga
– more exclusive hotels: Melia Braga Hotel & Spa / Burgus Tribute & Design Hotel
📍 Getting to Braga: To get to Braga, there are several options:
– the car (if you plan to rent a car in Portugal, Captain Ulysses can only recommend Rentalcars, on which you’ll be able to compare the offers of countless rental companies including Avis, Budget, Europcar, Sixt…)
– train or bus (several trips per day from Porto or Guimaraes)
– day tours (Captain Ulysses recommends this excursion to Braga and Guimarães from Porto)
🚌 Local transportation: Braga is a small city that is very easy to explore on foot. That said, if you can’t/won’t walk, you can also opt for the hop-on hop-off tourist bus tour.
✈️ Flights and trains: the closest airport to Braga is Porto. To book your flights, Captain Ulysses highly recommends Skyscanner. You’ll be able to compare countless offers to find the best deal. If your dates are flexible, you can also compare prices over several months to find the cheapest flights possible.