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Bragança

bragancaOn a hillock above Bragança, the small and remote capital, stands a pristine circle of walls enclosing a medieval village that rises to a massive keep and castle. Seemingly untouched by the centuries, this extraordinary Citadel – along with the fine local museum – is the principal reason for a visit to the town. The twelfth-century council chamber, the Domus Municipalis, stands in the heart of the citadel; very few Romanesque civic buildings have survived anywhere in Europe, and no other has this pentagonal form. Next to it is the church of Santa Maria, with its eighteenth-century barrel-vaulted, painted ceiling – a feature common to several churches in Bragança. Towering above these two is the Castle which the Portuguese royal family rejected as a residence in favor of their vast estate in the Alentejo. At its side a curious pillory rises from the back of a prehistoric granite pig, or porca, thought to have been a fertility idol of a prehistoric cult. Celtic-inspired medieval tombstones rub shoulders with a menagerie of porcas in the gardens of Museu do Abade de Bacal, between the citadel and cathedral in Rua Abílio Beca. Inside, a collection of sacred art and the watercolours of Alberto Souza are the highlights, along with displays of local costumes.

Information courtesy of Travelnow and Rough City Guides Lda.