The twin-towered Sé, or cathedral – properly, the Catedral de Santa Maria de Braga – stands opposite the Archbishop’s Palace. It’s a rambling structure founded in 1070 on the site of a Moorish mosque after the Christian Reconquest, though only the original main door (at the top of Rua Dom Paio Mendes) survives in its sculpted, Romanesque form. Everything else is a hotchpotch of often-conflicting styles – Braga’s cathedral is no one’s real favourite – although Archbishop Dom Diogo de Sousa (1505–1532) did at least have the foresight to commission architect-of-the-day João de Castilho to work on various aspects of the interior and exterior. You can walk into the cathedral for free, but you’ll have to buy tickets at the desk to see the most interesting parts.
Tesouro–Museu da Sé
Hardly surprisingly, the most domineering cathedral in Portugal also has the richest treasury in the country, containing representative chalices, crosses, goblets, coffers, vestments, paintings and ceramics from across the centuries. It is, dare we say, a bit on the dull side, and the only light relief comes from the displayed shoes of the diminutive Archbishop Dom Rodrigo de Maura Teles (1704–1728), who stood a mighty 1m 20cm tall. He commissioned 22 monuments during his term of office, among them the fabulous shrine at Bom Jesus.
Coro Alto and Capela dos Reis
A separate ticket gives you a guided tour of the main chapels and choir, led by an attendant with giant comedy keys, opening and closing vast ancient doors as you go. First up is the Baroque Coro Alto, with its majestic carved seats, gilded organ and imposing archbishop’s throne – the latter surmounted by a grand eighteenth-century clock stopped at a symbolic three o’clock (the supposed hour of Christ’s death). Then it’s on to the fourteenth-century Capela dos Reis (Kings’ Chapel), which is where ecclesiastical and royal power finally collide in Braga. The chapel contains the diminutive tombs of Henry of Burgundy and his wife Teresa of León – not only were they the founders of Braga cathedral, but also the parents of Afonso Henriques, first king of Portugal. You’ll also be invited to look into the sarcophagus containing the supposedly mummified body of Archbishop Lourenço, though it’s tricky to discern much through the clouded glass. Two other chapels are also on the tour – a gilded Baroque monstrosity dedicated to the first archbishop of Braga, now the city’s patron saint, and a more sober affair with faded eighteenth-century frescoes and a painted ceiling.