Braga, Portugal. November 2019

Braga’s cathedral, Sé de Braga, the oldest in Portugal, was begun when the archdiocese was restored in 1070 and completed in the following century. The cathedral was commissioned by Count Henry of Burgundy and was built on the site of an old Romanesque building, a former Moorish mosque. Henry and his wife, Teresa, were to become the parents of the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, and the tombs of this important couple are in the Capela dos Reis (Kings’ Chapel).

It’s a sprawling complex made up of the differing architectural styles of Romanesque, Manueline and Baroque, features include a Manueline carved altarpiece, and a tall chapel with azulejos telling the story of Braga’s first bishop. For me the star of this building is the stunning twin baroque organs held up by satyrs and mermen. One of the organs is still played and comprises of 2400 pipes. We were fortunate to hear the organ being played as there was a special ceremony taking place during our visit.

We had a guided tour which took us to the chapels, the azulejo covered Capela de São Geraldo, dates from the 12th century, but has been reworked over the years. The 14th-century Capela da Glória, whose interior was painted in Moorish geometric motifs in the 16th century, was a complete contrast to the ostentatious décor of the São Geraldo chapel and other parts of the cathedral. There’s a large crack in the wall, just seen in the second photo below, which is believed to have been caused by the earthquake in 1755 in Lisbon, over 200 miles away. The tour also included a visit upstairs to the gilded choir stalls which also provided a closer view of the organs.

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