Bom Jesus do Monte: Braga Portugal’s Catholic Shrine

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Santuário Bom Jesus do Monte sits high atop a forested mountain outside of Braga, Portugal.. This Catholic shrine was commissioned by the Archbishop of Braga so the faithful could walk the Stations of the Cross for penance and contemplation.Bom Jesus do Monte wasn't on our radar at all until our tour guide suggested a detour. She thought we would like it, and we did.
Catholic shrine Bom Jesus do Monte, Braga, Portugal

Why this Catholic shrine is different

Having been completed only two centuries ago the Shrine of Good Jesus of the Mountain is new by Portuguese standards. It hasn't been the site of any miracles or visitations, but it's a popular pilgrimmage site anyway.

What makes it worth visiting is the Sacred Way, a magnificent baroque staircase that zigzags up the mountain to the shrine. Each year during Holy Week penitents climb the staircase on their hands and knees. Since we didn't fall into that category, we took the easy route – driving up – so we could experience the church and the dramatic view of the surrounding countryside.

View of Braga

It's worth spending time to enjoy the tree-covered area surrounding the cathedral. It's peaceful in its own right and there are quiet nooks where you can sit and enjoy a bit of solitude.

The infamous Bom Jesus do Monte Staircase

With such a dramatic staircase, it's no surprise that this is the most photographed Catholic shrine in Portugal.

Braga Catholic Shrine

A handful in our group bought tickets to ride the water-powered funicular to the bottom (oldest in the world) but those of us with strong knees chose instead to descend the marble staircase on foot.

Braga Catholic Shrine

We wanted to see its terraced gardens and allegorical fountains close up.

Braga Catholic Shrine

There are eight fountains – one on each landing – and each is an allegory for something: the wounds of Christ, the five senses, the three virtues. And of course, since it is a Catholic shrine after all, there are statues and chapels for each Station of the Cross along the way.

As our guide Marta promised, Bom Jesus was worth the effort, even though we didn't walk down all 600 steps.

Braga Catholic Shrine

Braga Catholic Shrine

We stopped to take an ice cream break halfway down the staircase, mostly because we were exhausted. When our bus met us there, everyone's knees were most grateful.

We caught up with the funicular-riders at the bottom of the hill and returned to Braga in time for dinner.

Have you ever visited a Catholic shrine or another religious sanctuary? Share your experiences below.

Our visit to Bom Jesus do Monte was an unplanned part of a post-conference blog trip offered by Visit Portugal and North Tourism Bureau. Special thanks to our guide Marta, who did everything she could to make our trip memorable. All opinions are our own.

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Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to over 50 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages has inspired her to create As We Saw It with her husband Dan, a professional photographer. Her goal is to make travel easier for others and to offer a brief escape to another land.

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