Sunday, 31 July 2016 – Day 46 – Tour to Braga and Guimaraes, North of Porto

Sunday, 31 July 2016 – Day 46 – Tour to Braga and Guimaraes –  North of Porto

After breakfast, I was picked up by Daniel, who was to be our guide for today. There were three others on this tour, Mark from Philippines and two French ladies (sorry didn’t catch their names as English was limited). We set off for Braga – one of the oldest Portuguese cities and one of the oldest Christian cities in the world.  This does mean that the majority of the attractions are of a religious nature. Braga is a city filled with many ornate churches and beautiful baroque architecture. Of course we did not visit or see many of them but we did visit/saw the major sights.

Braga, the capital of the Minho region, is considered the third most important Portuguese city. Internationally famous as a popular tourist destination, Braga attracts visitors for its monuments.  Probably the main religious centre in the country, Braga is known for its baroque churches, magnificent 18th century houses, elaborate gardens, cuisine and the animated social and cultural life and squares. Braga is an ancient city that has been the religious centre of Portugal since 1070 when founded  in the Roman era as “Bracara Augusta” as the name indicates, founded by Augustus.

Braga was Portugal’s first city; when Portugal was founded there was only one city on the whole of its territory and that was Braga. The remains of ancient settlements in Braga are thousands of years old and are proven to date back to the Bronze Age. At the end of the 20th Century, Braga undertook great development and became the third city of the country, a status that it still holds today. 

There is so much history around this area and I will not even endeavour to try and condense it down for fear of putting the wrong information here – I am afraid I am not a historian.

As I mentioned in my previous writings, I found it difficult to try and listen to the interesting facts given by our guides – very knowledgeable folk – take in the beautiful scenery and take photos.

 Our first stop in Braga was Nossa Senhora do Sameiro Imaculada Conceigas (Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sameiro). Construction was commenced on 14 July 1863 on the domed church. There is a picture of Our Lady of Sameiro in the main altar of the Sanctuary. The sculpture was carved in Rome and was blessed by Pope Pius IX. It holds a beautiful and valuable crown weighing 2.5 kilograms of solid bright gold.  .

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Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sameiro

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Our next stop was Bom Jesus do Monte, The church is 7km from the centre of Braga.  Bom Jesus do Monte is a Portuguese sanctuary in Tenões, outside the city of Braga, in northern Portugal. Its name means Good Jesus of the Mount.

We saw the Bom Jesus hydraulic funicular – the oldest one in the world moving by water counterbalancing  built in 1882. The funicular track  is 274 metres (899 ft) long and descends 116 metres (381 ft). down the long zigzag pattern stairway so as to enjoy both ways to get to the top.

Bom Jesú S Do Monte: #17045

The Sanctuary started being built in 1722 – the site offers tranquility, beautiful architecture and panoramic views out across the city of Braga and to the beaches of  Viana do Castelo and Esposende.

 

View to city of Braga

View to city of Braga

We had time to take in the beautiful view before going down the 600 odd steps – vertical drop of 116 metres and divided into three sections.

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A leisurely walk down the 600 steps

At the bottom of the steps is the statue of Longuinhos

Statue of Longuinhos - man on horse

Statue of Longuinhos – man on horse

The most impressive church is the Sé Cathedral of Braga, which has several styles, from Roman to Baroque. The Se, the oldest cathedral in Portugal.

Image result for se cathedral bragaSe Cathedral of Braga

It was the Bishop D Pedro (1070-1093) who initiated the construction of the current building of the Braga Cathedral. It features two towers on the facade. The iron gate dates back to the 15th Century.  When we entered the Cathedral, there was a baptism taking place. We heard about the list of Archbishops buried in the Cathedral and the last Archbishop to be buried here was Eurico Dias Nogueira, who was born on 6 March 1923 and died on 19 May 2014 at the age of 91 years.

Before moving on, Daniel told us the story of the Rooster of Portugal as Barcelos is about 16kms west of where we were in Braga. 

The Barcelos Rooster is considered to be the unofficial symbol of Portugal. You can find this emblem in many forms in every local shop and especially gift shops. This national symbol is mostly found in its typical ceramic form as well as embroidered on towels and aprons. Other souvenirs include key-chains, paperweights and other popular tourism gifts. The Barcelos Rooster is always vividly coloured, and is said to be the embodiment of the famous Portuguese love of life.

The legend takes place in 15th century Barcelos. Its citizens had become upset by an unsolved crime that was so terrible that it had the citizens in an alarming state. An impoverished pilgrim had been passing through Barcelos, which was a neighbouring city to his in order to fulfill a promise he made during a Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Despite his explanation for being in Barcelos, he was still arrested and condemned to hang. He refused to go quietly and asked to be taken in front of the judge who sentenced him to death. The authorities granted his wish, and brought him to the magistrate’s house while he was having a banquet with friends. He affirmed his innocence, and swore the proof of his innocence by pointing to a cooked rooster and said that the rooster would crow at the hour of his hanging as proof. The statement caused a large amount of laughter and mockery. The judge ignored the statement of innocence, but still set aside the rooster and refusing to eat it. When the time for judgement came, the pilgrim went to the gallows to accept his punishment. As he was being hanged, the roasted rooster appeared and stood up on the table in front of the crowd and crowed just as the pilgrim predicted. The judged realised the mistake he had made and rushed to save the pilgrim. The cord was not correctly tightened and was able to easily be saved from his death sentence. Later, the pilgrim would return to Barcelos. He sculpted a cross in honour of the Virgin Mary and St. James, who he felt was responsible for saving him with the miracle of the rooster. Today, this cross is referred to as the Cross of the Lord of the Rooster. This statue is still in existence in the Archeological Museum of Barcelos.

Whichever telling of the legend that you hear, the Barcelos Rooster is a common sight while visiting Portugal, with numerous souvenir choices emblazoned with its symbol.

Barcelos Rooster- Galo de Barcelos

After being at the Se Cathedral our next stop was for lunch and then it was into the van for a 20 minute drive to the historic city of Guimaraes,  which is regarded as the birth place of Portugal.

Lunch

Lunch

 Along the way, there were lots of vineyards,  and corn, pines, eucalyptus and oleanders.
The Guimarães city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001: and, as one would expect, there are plenty of historic sites and tales. Beyond the monuments and museums, Guimarães has a contemporary edge and a thriving modern culture and economy that are partially explained by its generally youthful population. Home to Minho University, about half of its over 52,000 residents are under 30, making Guimarães one of the youngest cities in Europe. Its designation in 2012 was a European Capital of Culture.
Our first stop was at the Castelo de Guimarães at the top of the city. Towering over the city centre, the 10th-century castle was an excellent position to protect the area from the attacks of the Moors, Normans, and Vikings. The first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques (1111-1135), was born in the castle. Afonso fought many battles. He conquered the ruling Moors in 1139 effectively gaining independence for the region and leading to the creation of a Portuguese national identity. Following the momentous victory, Afonso was declared king by his troops.

Coming to the statue honoring King Afonso Henriques, it was pointed out that the top of the sword is missing and it is said that a drunken student broke off a piece of the sword one night and brandishing it overhead ran naked through Guimarães proclaiming, “I am the King!”

Statue of King Afonso Henriques and the Castelo de Guimarães on a walking tour of Guimarães.

Statue of King Afonso Henriques and the Castelo de Guimarães

 After leaving the Castelo de Guimaraes we came to the 15th-century Paco do Duques, formerly the residence of dukes.  With advancing years and abandonment, this house was rebuilt between 1937 and 1959, becoming a museum and now houses collections of 17th and 18th century tapestries, porcelain and other period treasures. The top floor is maintained as a residence for the president of Portugal when he visits Guimarães.   This manor house has been classified as a National Monument.

Image result for paco dos duques guimaraes Palace of Dukes

We then had a short stop at  the 12th Century Igreja de S. Miguel do Castelo, a Romanesque church where according to tradition King Afonso Henriques was baptised. It has served as a royal chapel and parochial church.  This church is classified as a National Monument.

Igreja de S. Miguel do Castelo

After a short drive, we had a wonderful, relaxing walk along the alleyways and through archways around the historic centre and along the way we passed many architectural testimonies with great value. One minute we were walking along the narrow alleyways and then with great surprise, opened out onto  Praça de S. Tiago (St. James Square).

Rua de Santa MariaOne of the first open streets of the city of Guimarães,

 

Image result for lar de santa estefania guimaraes   Larde Santa Estifania in Guimaraes , a religious institution that works as a childrens home.

One of the richest monasteries of Guimarães, the Convent of Santa Clara was built in the sixteenth century by Canon Master Collegiate School of Our Lady of Oliveira, Baltasar de Andrade. Currently houses the City Hall of Guimarães.

Convent of Santa Clara

Convent of Santa Clara

We continued on through another lovely archway to Largo da Oliveira (Olive Square). The square was a hive of activity with a roaring trade done by the local cafes. Nearby was the Nossa Senhora Da Oliveria Church.  This building declared a National Monument is represented by the union of styles, from the Gothic reconstruction, Manueline features classical chapel, plasterwork of the largest and side chapels in the neoclassical style.

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Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira

Nossa Senhora Da Oliveira Church

 I enjoyed a welcome cool drink at a well patronised cafe as it had become quite warm before it was time for Daniel to pick us up and then it was back to Porto.

 

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On the Oliveira Square, Portugal

We had a good run back to Porto arriving about 6.10pm.  Said goodbye to Mark and the French ladies and arrived back at my hotel about 6.30 after a very interesting day – full of so much historical information, saw many beautiful buildings and countryside. I walked down to a nearby cafe for something to eat and drink. Nearby, was a soup kitchen with a long line of recipients. Pigeons were pecking at the remnants of bread – I was watching them when one of the people asked me whether I wanted something to eat. I diplomatically declined and headed back to my hotel and had a relatively early night.

 

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