The Cathedral Tour (North)
Located well at the top of the city, and classified as World Heritage by UNESCO, it is one of the most beautiful portuguese cathedrals. The Oporto Cathedral was built during the 12th century in romanesque style and, besides its later interventions, these traits are still visible. Its interior is completely lined in golden carvings, a keepsake from the baroque era, which was also responsible for the crowning of the towers that are probably the most well known characteristic of this building. The Nasoni galilee and the gothic cloister deserve special attention, as well as its collection of tiles. With a peculiar and wonderful view of Oporto’s historical centre and the Douro River, there is no better way to start this tour.
This cathedral certainly isn’t the largest or the most magnificent example in this collection, but it’s a great reason to visit the portuguese Venice – the beautiful city of Aveiro. The Aveiro Cathedral, which initially was the St. Domingos Church, dates back to the 14th century, which was also the time when the convent with the same name was founded, but not much is left from that era. During the 18th century it underwent profound changes, which although transformed its previous aesthetic, also created an excellent example of baroque architecture and ornamentation. Located in the heart of the city and very close to the “Ria” (drowned river valley), it is a mandatory stop.
On route to Portugal’s deepest inland, we reach the province of Beira Alta’s most important city. Its Cathedral was built during the 12th century, in romanesque style, but posterior interventions have made it quite eclectic (architectonically speaking): a discreet gothic intervention doted it with three naves, a renaissance cloister, the mannerism-style restoration of the facade and, of course, the interior decoration, a result of the baroque period. A perfect opportunity to visit a genuine encyclopedia of styles, each one more beautiful than the other.
When this cathedral was built, the Guarda region was the stage of constant conflicts due to its proximity with Spain (at that time an enemy). And that was exactly what originated this fantastic cathedral’s physiognomy, which looks more like a fortress than a religious building. Topped by two octagonal embattled towers, this solid rock structure is quite loyal to its original construction, which dates back to the 14th century. Its ample interior is a reminder of french gothic and the largest intervention was the manueline-style portal. If you have the opportunity, be sure to climb up to the roof and from atop Portugal’s highest city, take in the fantastic view.
Old Miranda do Douro Cathedral
The fact that Miranda do Douro was situated on the border and all the instability that this situation caused lead the Bishop to choose the safety of Bragança instead, which in the long run meant that the diocese decided to transfer its see to that location. Because of this decision, the Church no longer benefits from the status of Cathedral, but is still worthwhile a visit. Built halfway through the 16th century, its history is the same as that of the diocese: prosperous and majestic in the beginning, decadent after the move. However, the grandiosity of the building is still intact and has resisted the wear of time. More than that, its fantastic localization – once a terrible disadvantage, today a rare privilege – is reason enough to visit it. The unique beauty of the natural border that divides Miranda do Douro and Spain, as well as the view over the Alto Douro region is indescribable: you have to see it for yourself!
Bragança’s Future Cathedral
Portugal’s newest cathedral will be erected on the country’s north-eastern extremity. Amidst buildings which are hundreds of years old, Bragança will soon witness the birth of the country’s first contemporary cathedral. Although it is not yet complete, it is already worthy of a visit. In a place characterized by history and the passing of the years, its bold and avant-garde lines are definitely a breath of modernism. Although the cathedral is reason enough to visit Bragança, once there, you should also take advantage of everything else the city has to offer, such as the beautiful Bragança castle.
Viana do Castelo Cathedral
In a city where the Santa Luzia Sanctuary outshines everything else, the Viana do Castelo Cathedral is often forgotten… and unjustly so! This magnificent example of romanesque-gothic architecture was edified during the 15th century and was apparently inspired by the Tui Cathedral, located on the border with Valença do Minho. It is a discreet but interesting cathedral, despite its small dimensions. On the way, take the time to visit the Santa Luzia Sanctuary – situated on the mountain with the same name, it is the city’s greatest religious symbol. From there, you may also enjoy a wonderful view of the city, the Atlantic Ocean and the Lima River’s estuary.
In case you don’t know, the origin of the expression “older than Braga’s Cathedral” is due to the fact that it is, without a doubt, the country’s oldest cathedral. Its activity never ceased and it never lost its status, which makes it almost one thousand years old! Located in the heart of the “city of the archbishops” (as Braga is also known), the Braga Cathedral was built in pure baroque style, despite the constant expansions, alterations and restorations it underwent over time. Each intervention brought with it the current style and today, the result is an eclectic concentration of architectonic styles: a baroque structure, proceeded by a fantastic gothic galilee, not to mention the profound baroque remodelling, a manueline chapel and a renaissance chapel. The interior, covered in golden carvings and the wood ceiling are other aspects that should be highlighted, simply because they are what makes this, one of the country’s main cathedrals. Nonetheless, Braga – which has been Portugal’s religious capital for many centuries – has many other points of interest, especially in what concerns baroque religious architecture. Be sure to visit the Bom Jesus Church and the Sameiro Basilica, which is the most important Marian sanctuary right after Fátima.
Vila Real Cathedral
The St. Domingos Church is the best example of gothic architecture in the northern region of the Trás-os-Montes province. Although it only dates back to the mid-15th century, it still possesses many romanesque elements and is composed of three naves, having originally integrated a Dominican convent (which was meanwhile extinct). Hopefully, the fact that it was recently elevated to the status of Cathedral (with the creation of the diocese in 1992), will finally bring it the visibility it has long deserved.
Of all the cities presented on this tour, Lamego is probably the least known, especially in what concerns tourist circuits. And unjustly so, we say! Once up the Douro River you’ll find this quiet city that, besides offering the region’s most typical handcraft and gastronomy, is surrounded by the hills and vineyards that produce some of the world’s best wine. You should also visit the Nossa Senhora dos Remédios Sanctuary which, together with its baroque staircase, is one of the city and the region’s main attractions. But, above all, you’ll find one of Portugal’s most forgotten, and simultaneously most beautiful, cathedrals. Its construction, in romanesque style, began in the mid-12th century, but only the tower remains from that time period. The actual building, with three naves, is a mixture of the architectonic styles that swept the country. With a large number of manueline elements, its ceiling with baroque paintings and the beautiful altar, of the same style and with its golden carvings, are also worthy of attention. Don’t leave without visiting the mannerist cloister and observing the romanesque tower, one of the loveliest in the country.