Enter the park through an 18th. century portico flanked by two 18th. century pyramids. The park has a wood, gardens, several artificial lakes (the largest of which is suitable for rowing), tennis courts, a children’s play park, restaurants and squares.
The beautiful sanctuary lies in the outskirts of Braga and consists of a church on top of a hill which is reached by climbing a colossal stairway built into the hillside. There are seventeen flights of stairs which zigzag backwards and forwards across the hill. On either side, the tops of lines of stately trees can be seen. The stairway is decorated with different features, including vases, statues and fountains. There is one unusual fountain, the pelican fountain, which stands on the penultimate level.
The façade of the church has a Late Renaissance portico flanked by two monolithic columns on either side. The entablature bears statues of the four evangelists.
The whole is a beautiful example of a work in which the natural landscape and the skills of man are perfectly balanced.
The best of all walks is up the stairway, but it needs to be taken slowly and carefully, given that it is a 116 metre climb. Alternatively, there is a lift which runs through the trees. Perhaps the best option is to go up by lift and come down by the stairs.
The Portuguese will often describe something as being "older than Braga Cathedral", and the Cathedral is indeed very old, at least one thousand years old, in fact.
The building has Romanesque origins. The façade has been altered many times and is a composite of centuries of work. The lower part of the building features a Renaissance galilee with ribbed vaulting that decoratively reinforces the entrance. The roof of the galilee has a Manueline dome. The openings above the façade were altered in the 18th. century to incorporate classical pediments. The chimes of twenty three bells can still sometimes be heard from the two bell towers.
The church has three naves and a ground plan in the shape of a Latin cross. The interior contains two lavishly carved Baroque organs, so beautiful that they are music to the eyes … In front of them are two pulpits that look like carved gilt wooden chalices rising to the columns above. This vaulted chancel has a square ground plan and is illuminated by three large ogival windows, lending a medieval atmosphere to the surroundings, enhanced by the heavy granite columns.
The Capela dos Reis (Chapel of the Kings) is a Gothic chapel in which the parents of King Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, are buried.
You should also visit the tomb of D. Gonçalo Pereira in the Capela da Glória (Chapel of Glory). The carved stone coffin has a life-size statue of the archbishop, guarded by stone lions with smaller figures carved around its sides.
The elegant, finely decorated cloisters are a more recent addition and date from the 19th. century.
The Igreja da Misericórdia (Misericórdia Church) with its Renaissance façade is also incorporated into the edifice. In the interior there is a large carved altarpiece and the sacristy contains chests and coffers.
This monastery belonged to the Benedictine order but had been abandoned and left almost in ruins before it became a success story for heritage renovation work.
The church is one of the grandest in the country and a hallmark of international Baroque art. The surface of its enormous façade is reminiscent of Jesuit architecture, with its two large bell-towers covered by onion domes.
The interior, however, is sumptuous. The church has a squared stone vault. Each of the side chapels is a masterpiece of carving, with their twisted columns and perfect arches reflecting an indescribable myriad of shapes. The orgy of gilt-work and decorative rococo stonework in the chancel is quite astounding – the apotheosis of the Baroque.
The cloister has a slender colonnade with Ionic capitals and the walls are covered with blue and white decorative tiles of great artistic merit. The cloisters form part of the monastery building. There are many other areas to visit and some that are not yet open to the public. The outdoor garden area covers approximately 40 hectares.