Braga may be mainly known by the names of Archbishops’ City or Portuguese Rome, but Baroque Capital is another of its most important titles.
With origins in Rome, Baroque arose in the 15th century and lasted until the mid of the 18th century, being present all over Europe and also on the old Portuguese and Spanish colonies of South America. This style is characterized by the predominance of curvilinear shapes and warm colors, by the usage of oval plants, by the taste for theatrical effects and, generally, by its monumentality, magnificence, by its almost theatrical aura.
In Braga, it’s possible to trace an itinerary of spots where these characteristics are clear. Walk with us through the streets of the city and find the presence of unmistakable baroque elements on many of its buildings and monuments:
Arco da Porta Nova
Baroque shows itself right on what was one of the city’s entrances and which is, nowadays, one of its symbols. Arco da Porta Nova is a work by André Soares, which dates back to 1772, and its style is quite visible on the image of Our Lady of Nazaré and in the columns present on the side of Rua D. Diogo de Sousa.
Sé de Braga
Pretty close, Sé de Braga, which unites a great mix of architectonic styles, shows splendid Baroque characteristics. When entering the Cathedral, it’s impossible not to notice the huge pipe organs, decorated with detail using gold carving, and the paintings on the ceiling. In this area of the Cathedral reigns, without doubt, the rococo style and its pomp, full of dramatic effects.
Holy Cross Church
Built on 17th century, Holy Cross Church – Igreja de Santa Cruz, in Portuguese – is another monument where Baroque prevails. Although its interior has been demolished and, therefore, is quite out of character, the front of this church has been kept intact. Here we can observe the taste for the details, curvilinear shapes and sumptuousness, very typical in the style.
Raio Palace is the highest expression of Baroque in Braga. Projected by André Soares, it’s a unique building that only could belong to this style. The passion for curvilineal shapes and theatricality are obvious on the carefully decorated front. The blue ‘azulejos’, those, which make quite an impression on photos, were added later by the second owner of the house, which can now be visited.
Congregados Church is another one of André Soares’ works and it’s considered to be one of its most emotional projects. Its construction started in the 16th century but was only finished in the 60’s of the 20th century. However, its monumentality and the careful ornamentation of the front leaves no doubt: the church belongs to Baroque style.
Biscainhos Palace was the house for a noble family from Braga, in the 17th and 18th centuries. Its L shape is quite curious and it shows Baroque’s concern with keeping the harmony between the building and the street. The garden of this palace, now museum, is an example of the beauty of the green zones created by Baroque style, deserving a calm visit.
Monastery of Tibães
Outside the old city walls, we find more manifestations of Barroco in Monastery of Tibães. The church, the lobby and other areas of this old masculine convent date back to the 17th century and reveal Baroque’s traces, although the complex is much older. The abundance of gold carving in the church is an unmistakable sign of this architectonic style.
Escadório do Bom Jesus do Monte
Also out of the historical center, there is another baroque monument which is perhaps the most spectacular of all. Escadório do Bom Jesus do Monte – the stair leading to the sanctuary – combine perfectly the typical monumentality of the Baroque with a stunning natural landscape. The search for beauty and the importance given to detail don’t go unnoticed even by those who are more distracted.