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Braga

Braga

Braga was founded by the Romans in 279 BC. Braga was a bishopric before being occupied by the Moors. It was re-conquered early in the eleventh century and by the end of the century its archbishops were pressing for recognition as “Primate of the Spains,” a title they disputed with Toledo over the following six centuries. It is still Portugal’s religious capital and the scene of spectacular Easter celebrations with torch-lit processions and weirdly hooded penitents.

You won’t be able to miss the Archbishop’s Palace, a great fortress-like building, right at the center of the old town. In medieval times it covered a tenth of the city and today easily accommodates the municipal library and various faculties of the university. Nearby is the Sé deBraga, which like the palace encompasses Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles. It was founded in 1070 and its south doorway is a survival from this earliest building. Its most striking element, however, is the intricate ornamentation of the roofline, executed by Joao de Castilho (later the architect of Lisbon’s Jerónimos Monastery). A guided tour of the interior takes you through three Gothic chapels, of which the outstanding specimen is the Capela dos Reis (King’s Chapel). The Capela dos Reis was built to house the tombs of Henry of Burgundy and his wife Teresa, the cathedral’s founders and the parents of Afonso Henriques, founder of the kingdom. Beyond the chapels is the cathedral museum – one of the richest collections in Portugal, but displayed like a junk shop.