|The Braga Cathedral, the oldest archdiocese in Portugal, is the most important monument of this city. Indeed, this is its crowing glory. The current building dates to the 12th century and was built on the wishes of Henrique and Teresa, parents of the first king of Portugal Afonso Henriques. Their tombs are to be found inside.
The work was overseen by Paio Mendes, who counted on the support of Saint Giraldo and Maurício Brudino, prelates at the Cluny Monastery (France), for guidance on the structural specifications necessary for the church to become a centre for pilgrimage.
The exterior retains its imposing Roman design even if also displaying artistic characteristics picked up over the centuries.
Of particular note, there is the southern entranceway (termed the Gateway of the Sun) and the main door, both Romanic in style, the porch over the church entrance added during the 15th century, and the two unusual Baroque bell towers. On the outside of the main chapel there is the excellent 16th century statue depicting Our Lady of Leite (Milk), attributed to Nicolau de Chanterenne. The statue forms part of the cityïs coat of arms.
Inside, there are three separately spaced naves designed so as to facilitate the flow of pilgrims but later subject to substantial alteration.
In the 16th century, under archbishop Diogo de Sousa, sculptor João de Castilho rebuilt the main chapel.
In the 18th century, the Baroque style, still in fashion, directly influenced the Cathedral in the decoration of the altars with gold-leafed carvings and the huge organ in the main chapel. In the nave to the right, there is the Gothic-Flemish shaped 15th century tomb of the son of king João I, Prince Afonso.
To complete any visit, the cloisters are a must. They house the Museum of the Cathedral, the Kingïs Chapel with the tombs of Teresa and Henrique, the Chapel of our Lady of Piety where Diogo de Sousa is buried and the Chapel of Glory with its centrepiece the tomb of Gonçalo Pereira, a masterpiece of Portuguese craftsmanship of this type.