Visiting Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga, Portugal

Bom Jesus do Monte Stairs
Ready to climb?

How many people have ever secretly thought that European churches all start to resemble one another after awhile?

I’ll admit that I’ve skipped a cathedral or two in my travels, preferring instead to check out the local food market or sip a coffee at a quiet café. Not that there is anything wrong with this; we all travel differently and I feel very lucky to know exactly what I enjoy when traveling. But, every now and then something you might not usually do or see surprises you, and you rejoice that you were able to give it a chance. This is what happened to me in Braga, Portugal, at the incredible sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte.

Bom Jesus do Monte Church
The impressive church from afar.

Surprisingly, our visit to Bom Jesus do Monte wasn’t supposed to be included on our TBU Porto trip to Braga. But, luckily, our guide Marta noticed this oversight and told our bus driver to make his way up the hill, pushing up our schedule for the day.

Thank goodness for Marta! Bom Jesus do Monte is far from your typical church or cathedral. It is actually classified as a sanctuary, and is enormous– it’s also the most photographed church in Portugal. It is known for its intricate zig zag Baroque style staircase (about 600 stairs in total) that lead up 381 feet to the main basilica. A popular place for a pilgrimage, penitents normally climb the stairs on their knees while reflecting on the Passion of the Christ that is depicted by various statues along the way. We didn’t see anyone repenting to that degree while visiting, but even climbing 600 stairs by foot is quite the penance in my opinion!

Bom Jesus do Monte Stairs
The 600 stairs of Bom Jesus do Monte!
Christ at Bom Jesus do Monte
Another Christ scene on the way up the stairs.

But the exercise is well worth it and you absolutely must go up (or down) by foot if possible.  The details that await you on each platform are beautiful and made me wish I had a historian or art expert with me to explain their significance. Among fountains, statues, and scenes of Christ, you could spend the day just climbing the staircase! If walking is too difficult , the site is accessible by car, and also by funicular– the first one on the entire Iberian Peninsula.

Statues at Bom Jesus do Monte
Dark statues at Bom Jesus do Monte.
Sculpture at Bom Jesus do Monte.
A sculpture on the stairs of Bom Jesus do Monte.
Creepy statue Bom Jesus do Monte.
Water pouring through the ears of a sculpture representing the Passion of the Christ.
Crying statue Bom Jesus do Monte
The creepiest sculpture in Braga!
Bom Jesus do Monte Funicular
The oldest funicular (cable car) on the Iberian Peninsula!

The stairs are fantastic, but the church and its surroundings are also quite impressive, not to mention the incredible view of Braga from the top of the staircase. The church is surrounded by lovely gardens, perfect for reflection and rest after the challenging climb. Brightly colored flowers contrast the dark granite and white plaster of the church, and add a lively element to the visit.

Bom Jesus do Monte Gardens
Some of the decorative gardens at Bom Jesus do Monte.
Bom Jesus do Monte Flowers
A gorgeous flower at the top of the hill.
View from Bom Jesus do Monte
The city of Braga from above.
Flowers at Bom Jesus do Monte
More gorgeous flowers!
Flowers in front of Bom Jesus do Monte
The lovely flower garden in front of the church.
Grounds of Bom Jesus do Monte
The gorgeous grounds of Bom Jesus do Monte..
View at Bom Jesus do Monte
Another view from the top.

I wouldn’t miss a trip to Bom Jesus do Monte Sanctuary while visiting Northern Portugal. It is honestly one of the most unique and beautiful holy buildings that I have ever seen. Climbing the stairs is also a fantastic workout after overindulging in delicious Portuguese food and wine!

Bom Jesus do Monte staircase
The incredible staircase from an angle.

Have you ever visited an incredible holy building like Bom Jesus do Monte? Where?

If you’re planning your own trip to this amazing city, here are some great places to stay in Braga!

Visiting Lisbon too?

Don’t miss these top posts all about the Portuguese capital!

Comments

  1. No mention of the paranormal cache just above the entrance to the Cathedral. A must-see! A side road on the right leads down from the top of the mountain– one-way, coming down – but those in the know cheekily reverse up 10-20 yards up, switch off, put the gears in neutral, and release the handbrake – and wait.
    Not for long – the car slowly moves UP the hill – bringing the hair on your neck out stiff. No kidding. I have been several times, each time as sceptical as before, each time amazed. On one occasion, it had rained earlier, and water was running down the verge, in the opposite direction to the unpowered cars. Even been there when a kiddie got out of the car, placed a football on the road in front of the car. Guess what? it went down the hill, and the car went up. Spooky!
    Shall be re-visiting some time in the next couple of weeks. Can’t wait, as I’ll be with a coachload of tourists, who will no doubt witness the jawdropping phenomenum, by all accounts one that has baffled the worlds top geologists and scientists.

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