I’m back with yet another series of photographs from my three week father/daughter trip to Portugal back in December 2022 – January 2023 (and yes, I know we’re in August now but these photographs didn’t edit themselves, you know?). So without further delay, let’s continue our exploration of Braga with a look inside the Sé de Braga, the first Portuguese cathedral, erected several decades before the founding of the country(!)
In my last post, we arrived in Braga from Porto and visited the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga, inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019. On our second day in Braga, we braved the light rain and took a short walk from the lovely Hotel Dona Sofia to the Sé de Braga (Cathedral of Braga), a Roman Catholic church that was consecrated in 1089(!)
Construction of the cathedral lasted until the middle of the 13th century. It influenced many other churches and monasteries in Portugal in that period. In later times the cathedral was greatly modified, so that today it is a mix of Romanesque, Gothic, Moorish, Manueline and baroque styles.
The cathedral was the most important religious site in Iberia (before the founding of Santiago de Compostela and the reconquest of Toledo from Muslim hands) and due to its long history and artistic significance, is also one of the most important buildings in the country. The cathedral has been classified as a National Monument since 1910.
The main chapel is roofed with stone rib vaulting and its walls are decorated with a 14th-century statue of the Virgin Mary (Nossa Senhora de Braga). It was rebuilt in 1509 under Archbishop Diogo de Sousa by basque architect João de Castilho.
The tomb of Archbishop D. Diogo de Sousa, who was Bishop of Porto from 1496 to 1505 and then Archbishop of Braga from that date until his death, outside the Chapel of Piety.
The other chapels of the apse are decorated in baroque or neoclassical styles. The chapel of Saint Peter of Rates is particularly interesting, being decorated with typical blue-white tiles that tell the life of the saint. The author of the tiles is António de Oliveira Bernardes, one of the main 18th century-Portuguese tile painter.
A high choir, one of the most remarkable sights I’ve ever seen inside a cathedral, is beautifully decorated with a painted ceiling and sculptured gilt wood (talha dourada) choir stalls executed around 1737 by Miguel Francisco da Silva. In front of the high choir there are two gilt wood 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.
Organ and ceiling of the High Choir; in the middle a depiction of the marriage of the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph.
I wasn’t able to get a whole lot of exterior shots due to the rain but the interior of the Sé de Braga was one of the most impressive cathedrals I’ve ever been in. It’s really wonderful inside and a must-see attraction in Portugal (makes for a nice day trip from Porto as it’s just under an hour’s drive north). And don’t forget to also check out Braga’s most visited site, the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte.