In the 19th century, the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus was considered the largest pilgrimage center in Portugal. It lost some popularity because of the Apparitions of Fátima in 1917.
The baroque church at the Bom Jesus do Monte Sanctuary was built in 1725. It was later demolished and replaced by a new church in a neoclassic design. I thought it had more simple and beautiful lines. I preferred it to the opulence of the Se.
In 2015 the church received basilica status by Pope Francis – a big achievement for a small church. UNESCO inscribed Bom Jesus as a World Heritage Site in 2019.
There is a funicular/lift located to the left of the stairs, so you don’t have to walk up the baroque staircase if you either can’t or just prefer not to. It was pouring with rain so we knew we would take the funicular up and down. We were the only people mad enough to be out in the pouring rain so we had the funicular all to ourselves. The funicular is an interesting experience. It is water powered and is the oldest operating funicular in the Iberian peninsula. It was commissioned in 1882.
This location, historically viewed as a sacred mountain, has been a place of pilgrimage since at least the 14th century. The stairs, 573 in total, can be divided into 3 parts: The Portico Stairway, the 5 Senses Stairway, and the 3 Virtues Stairway. A separate fountain represents each one of the 5 senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch) making up the “5 Senses Stairway”. Some pilgrims in fact climb all the stairs on their knees. I just can’t imagine that!
As I said we thought it too dangerous to climb the stairs in the pouring rain so we took the funicular up and down.
This picture from Wikipedia shows the stairs:
The interior of Bom Jesus, with a Latin cross plan, consists of a large central nave with a small chapel at each end: the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament and the Chapel of the Relics.
The Chapel of the Relics houses the tomb of St. Clement, a Roman soldier from the 3rd century AD, who was martyred.
The vast majority of the decoration of the Basilica depicts episodes from the life (and death) of Jesus Christ – in particular the Miracles and the Passion – whether through pictures, panels, or statues.
Cheryl and Paul
Our friends Cheryl and Paul were in Portugal staying in Porto and especially came through to Braga for a night to see us. We met them in 2021 when we housesat for them in Grünstadt. They joined us at Bom Jesus. By the time they arrived I was sitting quietly in the Sanctuary and a catholic mass was being held. Although it was in Portuguese I recognised many parts of the mass from my school Catholic masses.
Cheryl and I sat for a while enjoying the peace and the environment. Paul and Adu visited the shop and tried to stay out of the drizzle. Later we drove back to the centre of Braga.
That evening we had a long catch-up and shared wine in their apartment and then went out to dinner. The Christmas tree and lights of Braga were due to be switched on on the 1st December, but we luckily got a quick test show and were able to see them.
We had a lovely time together and will definitely see them again in 2023.
We enjoyed our time in Northern Portugal and will happily return to explore more of Portugal.