From Switzerland to Sé de Braga

Coming from Porto, I decided do go through Braga to another stage of “Caminhos de Santiago”. I am from Valais, born and raised in Sion, Switzerland. I have two children, Adeline and Fernand, both students in their twenties. Madeleine, my wife, did not want to join me, she chose to spend her holidays in our cottage to closely monitor the crop of apricot and needed to hire some people to help.


My name is Jean-Luc, I'm 52, I am an architect. I have been planning to walk one of Compostela’s paths. I like to know other places and cultures. I'm interested in architecture, painting, sculpture, arts in general, but especially appreciate literature.


Braga surprised me. It's a beautiful city with an enviable historical and architectural heritage to its size. Caesar Augustus founded it more than 2,000 years ago for commercial strategy as I have been told. Today the city lives up to that original impulse and I was able to prove. I leave a brief note of the places I visited, places that have registered indelibly in my memory.



1. Franco Oculista


I arrived at Avenida da Liberdade in the morning, under a warm sun, after a soothing sleep in a hotel unit in the city gates.  I had to take the path to Real, then head for Frossos and Merelim toward Prado, from which I would go to Ponte de Lima for a distance of 36 km. One of the lenses of my sunglasses broke free of the frames, so I went to the avenue to find an optical. Luckily, I found the Franco Oculista. It is a modern shop, very nice. I was so well attended that I ended up buying a pair of sunglasses. After all, mine were already old and needed to be replaced. I asked for suggestions, places to visit nearby. They suggested me the Fonte do Ídolo.

2. Fonte do Ídolo 


I followed the instructions they gave me to reach the Fonte do Ídolo, a sanctuary dedicated to the goddess Nabia, that have been built in the first century. The monument is a picture with one meter tall inscribed on a vertical surface with three meters wide. The statue is degraded enough, which does not allow telling whether it is a male or female figure, but only of a character holding an object in its hand, perhaps a cornucopia. The Fonte do Ídolo is an important monument of Braga and even Portugal, in what concerns heritage and science.

3. Theatro Circo


After leaving the Fonte do Ídolo, going up the Avenida da Liberdade, I noticed the beauty of Theatro Circo, on my left, and I could not resist photographing it. If the façade was impressive, the inside left me dazzled by the good colours of gold and purple of the rooms. During the guided tour, I learned that the Theatro Circo is celebrating a century of existence, it was opened on 21st  of April 1915. I regretted having to follow my plan to get at Ponte de Lima that day, but I would have enjoyed the great cultural proposal that the beautiful home of arts and shows offered for that day.

4. Igreja dos Congregados


I went up the Avenida da Liberdade to the top, where is the Tourist Office. Inside I found a beautiful photograph of a church; they told me that was Igreja dos Congregados, a hundred meters away, walking down Avenida Central. I visited it. It is a baroque temple of rare beauty; it began to be built in the late 17th century designed by the architect André Soares, who became an emblematic figure of European Rococo.


5. Livraria 100.ª PÁgina


20 meters from the Igreja dos Congregados I found a unique bookstore, in Rolão House. A beautiful example of civil architecture of Baroque style, designed by the architect André Soares, built in the mid-eighteenth century. At 100ª página Book Store I found a book about Braga in French. It's amazing the amount of books that are distributed by shelves that grow up to the ceiling. The access to the higher shelves is achieved through a metal ladder which is supported on the racking structure. There are books for all tastes: poetry, fiction, essays, art, children's literature, magazines and comics, among others. It has a lovely courtyard where I had lunch one of the light meals from the cafeteria menu.




I left the 100th page book store and returned to the top of Avenida da Liberdade through the Avenida Central  gardens where I entertained myself with a fun ritual practice carried out by freshmen at the University of Minho. Reaching the fountain, I could watch the Arcad, in Praça da República, and I could not resist taking a series of photographs for future memory.




The high temperature of summer sun felt in my body made me walk in the shade, leaning against the shops of the Capelistas’ Street. In front of “Armazém dos terceiros” a fashion show was running, organized by the ACB – Braga’s Commercial Association, showing some proposals for Fall-Winter. I entered the store, blessed by air conditioning, and bought a scarf for the neck and a fresh blue polo shirt. I could not help notice the excellent value of the products exhibited in the two floors of the Store.



Continuei pela Rua dos Capelistas, mas parei na montra do Best Of Living, uma loja de decoração com uma oferta moderna e original de produtos para o lar. Lembrei-me da minha mulher, da remodelação que ela estava a fazer em casa, e por isso entrei no estabelecimento. Fiquei seduzido com o que vi. Peguei no telemóvel, entrei na net, digitei o endereço do I SHOP Braga e encomendei uma bela peça em cerâmica que representa um par de jovens a dançar, agarrados um ao outro, o que me fez lembrar o dia em que a conheci a minha mulher num baile na Universidade. Sei que ela vai gostar da surpresa.



I continued walking, crossed the Praça Conde de Agrolongo , and turned in the Rua dos Biscainhos. I stopped in front of the Store Arte Sacra Mário Pereira, from which stood out a carved Christ that caught my attention. Braga is rich in offering religious products. The town is nicknamed the City of Archbishops, such was the importance of some of them in the region and in the country, including for the founding of the nation, for over nine hundred years. The store Arte Sacra Mario Pereira is specialized in Catholic sacred art, has beautiful pieces of various materials to decorate the home or simply to serve as a collection of objects.



In front of Sacred Art shop is located the Museu dos Biscainhos. Turned in a museum in 1978 belonged to a Portuguese noble family, the Bertiandos’ Counts. I visited the beautiful palace garden and the permanent exhibition of paintings, tiles, ceramics, glass, furniture, textiles, carving sculpture, engraving and jewelry from the seventeenth century to the first quarter of the nineteenth century.




After visiting the Museu dos Biscainhos, I sat on the terrace of the Tíbias de Braga Pastry, decorated with three beautiful olive trees. Tasted a delicious hazelnut cream tibia; they told me that was made according to a handmade recipe, cooked with cream on the stove. The Candy display of the counter is a temptation for the palate.




After the sweet, savored as an appetizer for lunch, I visited the Image Museum, right next to the “Arco da Porta Nova “, a cultural space dedicated exclusively to photography. As I am art lover, I took some time to appreciate the photography Archive of the Museum, with beautiful photographs about family, perhaps from the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. I also saw a contemporary photography exhibition, signed by a young French author.




The “Arco da Porta Nova” was one of the gates of the old city wall, sent open by Archbishop Diogo de Sousa in 1512 , and that remained so without wood cover, because the time was not of wars and the city was expanding beyond the walls . I discovered that the Portuguese use the expression "Are you from Braga? " When someone forgets to close a door, a delightful story that made me smile with satisfaction.




I walked by Avenida São Miguel o Anjo, in the continuity of Rua dos Biscainhos, and cut left by Rua Dom Paio Mendes, as intended to visit the famous Cathedral of Braga. I was impressed with the exterior view of the cathedral. I decided to sit on the terrace of Dona Petisca, a space dedicated to the sale and tasting of products with protected origin designation and wines with controlled origin protection. I ordered a cheese board and sausages, with Douro white wine. I stayed there for about an hour savoring the snacks and the wine before the visit to the Cathedral.



After eating something, I tried to feed the spirit and visit the cathedral. With two towers on the façade, typical of the great cathedrals of the Portuguese Romanesque, its construction began in the third quarter of the 11th century. Over time, it has undergone several changes, some small, some of significant importance. I appreciated above all the stalls and choir organs, exceptional works of gilt and the fresco titled Nuptials of the Virgin. The bodies of the two organs consist of a magnificent profusion of elements such as sculptured figures, satyrs and dolphins. It took me nearly two hours in the cathedral, which made me postpone for the next day the return to the Caminhos de Santiago. Maybe I go to Theatro Circo at night.



Percurso mapa