A very important trading centre since recorded times and was given the name "Bracara Augusta" by the Romans in c.296 BC.
During the 5th Century it was the capital of Suevian Kingdom but in 456 it was captured by Theodore II who later converted to Catholicism.
The Moors took possession in about 730 and then later in 1040 Fernando I of Castile eventually liberated the city from these occupiers.
In the 12th Century, Braga gained importance during the reign of King Dom Afonso Henriques.
In 1505, Dom Diogo de Sousa became the Archbishop and his enlightened view gave an impulse to the city in many ways including architecture and urban planning. It quickly became a spiritual centre and the home for the Catholic Church and equally for the wealthy landowners of that time.
Splendid and architecturally interesting buildings still remain to record this period. Its habitual turbulent inhabitants were used in 1926 by General Gomes da Costa in an attempt to overthrow the Democratic regime with the result that led shortly afterwards to the beginning of the regime of Salazar.
In last century in 1975, the then Archbishop of Braga in the post revolutionary period, instigated an attack on the local Communist headquarters by a mob of local citizens who by this act decisively stated the political attitude of the church.
As still the home of Portugal’s Bishops there are many churches and the Antigo Paço Episcopal is a fine reminder of the past. The façade of this Archbishop's Palace dates from the 14th Century with changes in both the 17th and 18th Centuries.
Unfortunately, a fire in the 18th Century destroyed much of its fine interior and it is now used to house books and clerical records. At present there is an intensive project to exhibit the Roman remains within the City that are believed to be of a considerable size, and considered among the largest in the Iberian Peninsular.
The 14th Century Torre de Menagem that stands in the City’s square is all that remains of the original fortifications. The much altered and extended 12th Century Cathedral was built on the site of an older church destroyed in the 6th Century.
Today, it also acts as the home of a prestigious collection of Portugal’s religious statues, garments and other treasures. Amongst other important religious relics is the Cross used at the first mass celebrated in Brazil by Saint Francis Xavier.
Another building of note is the 16th Century Palácio dos Biscainhos that was originally an aristocratic lavish home with ornate interesting gardens. On display within the palace is a museum of Portuguese period furniture and many other ethnographic items.
The Senhora do Sameiro is the third most visited pilgrim location in Portugal .In one of the minor streets close to the 17th Century Baroque Church Santa Cruz is the ornate and blue tiled façade of the building known as Palácio do Raio.
On the overlooking forested slope to the east of the town is one of Portugal’s most famous tourist attraction, Igreja de Bom Jesus de Monte.
Construction of this building was in 1776 and it's impressive Baroque staircase is symbolic of the Fourteen Stations of the Cross that lead the many visitors upwards to the Church.
Ornately carved figures and wall-fountains and Chapels decorate the steps according to the various stages of Christ’s last journey. If daunted by the climb there is a primitive funicular railway dating from 1882 that still runs-up alongside the steps and this will take the visitor to the top.
A unusual museum named Museu da Imagem to be found at Campo das Hortas that contains 120.000 old glass photo negatives. The area around Braga is also famous for its wine, melons and other fruits.
Some 4 kilometres to the northwest of Braga is a simple and at the same time most interesting Chapel of São Frutuoso de Montélios.
This chapel is one of the few remaining pre-Romanesque buildings still standing in Portugal. Originally built about the 7th Century and later destroyed by the Moors, it was then reconstructed on the same site in the 11th Century.
Directly to the north of Braga is the Spa of Caldelas. near to this town and in the direction of Outeiro is a interesting 14th Century building
To the east is the town of Póvoa de Lanhosa, which is crowned with a castle on a massive rock that is believed to have existed as a building in a different form over 2000 years ago.
Today it is a ruin and hides in its past history many tragic deeds. One particular macabre drama that is recorded is when one of its owner, Rodrigo Gonçalves Pereira, upon discovering the infidelity of his wife he promptly set fire to the interior of the castle burning all the humans and livestock including his wife.
To the west of this town is the 11th Century Benedictine Mosteiro de Tibães that was rebuilt in the 19th Century and is at present undergoing further interior construction.
To the northeast is the access road to the southern part of the Gerêz Nature Reserve of 72.000 hectares and its small Spa town of Caldas de Gerêz. For any nature lover this Reserve is worthy of a visit.
The sanctuary of São Bento da Porta Aperta in this park is the second most famous location for pilgrims in Portugal with over 2.5 million visitors a year.
To the south of Braga is the town of Guimarães and the first official capital of Portugal. Also to the south is the town of Arnoso is a 12th Century Church.
Placed between Braga and the coast is the rural town of Barcelos which is well know for its pottery.
This was the home of the unique 19th Century peasant artist Rosa Ramalho. Her glazed ceramic primitive figures steeped in her imaginative pagan creativity are now only to be found in museums or private collections.
It is also from this town that the legend of the "Galo de Barcelos” originated and this gaily-painted ceramic cock can be found in most tourist shops. Various versions abound about its origin but they all have the same ending in that a supposedly cooked cock suddenly stood up on its plate and crowed thus saving the life of a condemned criminal who had foretold this strange event.
Within this town the Archaeological Museum is housed in the previous 15th century Palace of the Conde de Barcelos. Slightly to the north of Barcelos is the Spa Eirógo. Further west at the coast there is the popular holiday beach town of Esposende.
To the south of Barcelos is the the town of Furia with its medieval ruined castle whose stones were used in the 18th Century to build the the Convento de Bom Jesus.
To the south east of Braga is one of the most important archaeological sites in Portugal named Citânia de Briteiros. It is located 15 kilometres north of Guimarães. It is an Iron Age settlement with about 150 original stone dwellings that were first excavated in the 19th Century.
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