Located in the heart of the city’s historic center, Braga Cathedral (Sé de Braga in Portuguese) is the oldest cathedral in the country. It is also one of the most emblematic religious buildings of the Iberian Peninsula.
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👍 The Captain’s tip 👍
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 Cathedral of Braga
The Diocese of Braga
Braga belongs to the very closed club of the oldest dioceses of the Iberian Peninsula! Created in the 3rd century BC, the diocese of Braga became the “headquarters” of the Christianization of the Province of Galicia in the following centuries. The Bishopric of Braga was created in the middle of the1st century AD.
In the 4th and the 5th century AD, the Roman Empire fell apart and Braga fell into the hands of the Suevi, Germanic invaders from Eastern Europe. For a century and a half, the missionaries of Braga lead a great evangelization campaign of the Suevi people, who converted to Catholicism in the middle of the 5th century.
But the Visigoths and the Moors also wanted their share of the cake. They, on the other hand, were little inclined to lend an attentive ear to the evangelists. Under their domination, Braga declined and lost its bishopric… until the 11th century.
In 1071, the city was retaken by the Christians. The bishopric was re-established and then promoted to the rank of archbishopric less than half a century later.
The Archbishopric of Braga enjoyed great power over the north of the Iberian Peninsula and even had the attentive ear of the pope. In the 11th century, the Archbishop of Braga played a key role in the fight for Portuguese independence when he obtained the approval of Pope Alexander III.
The Cathedral of Braga
The construction of the Cathedral of Braga (Sé de Braga) began in the 1070s, when the city had just returned to Christian hands. Some historians believe that the building was built on the ruins of an ancient Roman temple.
Inspired by the Romanesque architecture of the Abbey of Cluny in Burgundy, the cathedral was consecrated in 1089, while the work was not yet completed.
During the following centuries, the Cathedral of Braga was modified and enlarged many times over: this explains why the building is so much o an architectural patchwork.
Visiting the Cathedral of Braga
The key word is “mix of genres”. The Cathedral of Braga blends Romanesque, Gothic, Moorish, Manueline and Baroque influences.
The exterior of the Cathedral of Braga
Although the exterior of the Cathedral has been extensively remodeled since its construction, some original elements are still visible on the west façade, including bas-reliefs that could be scenes from the Roman de Renart.
The Manueline towers (designed by the Portuguese architect João de Castilho) and the beautiful wrought iron gate are also worth seeing.
The interior of the Cathedral of Braga
The cathedral is well-known for its wealth of decorative elements. Among these, don’t miss:
- In the apse, a Manueline statue of the Virgin Mary suckling Jesus
- The bronze tomb of the Infante D. Afonso, dating from the 15th century
- The main chapel with its ribbed vault and its statue of the Virgin Mary dating from the 14th century
- The chapel of São Pedro de Rates, first bishop of Braga, entirely covered withtiles
- The coro alto(the gallery) covered with talha dourada (gilding) and its absolutely sumptuous baroque organs, which rank high on the list of the most beautiful organs in the world
The adjacent chapels
Several chapels adjacent to the cathedral were built in the Middle Ages.
- The Capela dos Reis (Chapel of the Kings) where you’ll find the tombs of Henry of Burgundy and Teresa of Castile, parents Alfonso I, the 1st king of Portugal.
- The Capela da Glória (Chapel of Glory), built in the 14th century and decorated with Mudejar frescoes, where you’ll find the tomb of Archbishop Gonçalvo Perreira
- The Capela de São Geraldo (Chapel of Saint Geraldo), dating from the 12th century and covered with azulejos
The treasury of the Cathedral
On site, you’ll find a small museum exhibiting the treasury of the cathedral, among which a variety of liturgical objects, including the 16th century Manueline chalice of Archbishop Diogo de Sousa, the 12th century chalice of St. Gerald and a statue of the Virgin Mary attributed to the French sculptor Nicolas Chanterène.
📍 Location: the Cathedral of Braga is located in the heart of the historic center and very easily accessible on foot. That said, if you don’t want to/can’t walk, you can also embark on a hop-on hop-off bus tour.
⏱️ Opening hours : the cathedral is open daily from 9:30am-12:30pm and 2:30pm-5:30pm (6:30pm in summer).
🎟️ Admission: entrance tickets to the Cathedral are €2. You will have to pay an additional €3 to access the Cathedral’s treasury and €2 to access the adjacent chapels and the Coro Alto.
👉 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
🎟️ Activities : To book your tickets, tourist activities and excursions in Braga and more generally in Portugal, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends the booking platforms GetYourGuide and Civitatis.
📍 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.
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