Braga is Portugal’s most important religious centre, it’s also one of the country’s oldest and most fought-over towns, probably first founded by the Iron Age Bracari people before falling to the Romans, after which its history was one of conquest and reconquest. By the time Portugal was established as an independent country in the eleventh century Braga was already an important bishopric, and it’s remained at the heart of national religious life ever since.
Braga is Portugal’s third-largest city. It has wide shopping streets; ancient, narrow, pedestrianised lanes; lively cafes; excellent restaurants, urban art, and, thirty five churches! The chiming of bells accompanied me on an early morning walk to explore the city before breakfast. It is also quite flat. The city centre is almost fully pedestrianised, with lots of green spaces, where orange trees are laden with fruit and the leaves on trees are changing colour, indicating autumn is here.
The Biscainhos Museum is housed in the Palace of Biscainhos, home of the Counts of Bertiandos, founded in the 17th century and transformed in the first half of the 18th century. The Palace, the baroque gardens and their collections reveal the daily life of the 17th century nobility and the other inhabitants of the space such as chaplains and servants.
The dominant style is Baroque, with its ornate designs and intricate plaster work, there’s a wide variety of paintings, azulejos and other artworks from this period. The house originally built as a manor house for Portuguese aristocracy, remained in the same family for some 300 years before being purchased by the state in 1963.
The buildings were reopened to the public as the Biscainhos Palace and Museum in 1978 following a period of reorganisation and renovation. Exhibits include furniture from across the country and further afield in Europe and the colonies, as well as porcelain, carpets from Arraiolos, pottery, glassware and silverware from throughout Portugal, and clocks, watches and textiles.