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Photo Essay: The Sanctuary of Bom Jesús do Monte

The second day of our “Grapes and Sailors” post-TBU-conference tour was a marathon. Between dawn and dusk, we visited four historic towns in the province of Minho, which made for an exhausting but memorable day. For me, the most unforgettable leg of the tour was the first church we visited in the town of Braga.

The view of the sanctuary after having descended a few levels.

The view of the sanctuary after having descended a few levels.

I think I can speak for our entire group when I say that I am extremely happy that our guide, Marta, added the Sanctuary of Bom Jesús do Monte to our itinerary. This church is a site of pilgrimage for many Portuguese faithful, who climb up 600 stairs that represent the ascent into heaven.

The church of Bom Jesus.

Some of the many colourful gardens around the church grounds.

We cheated a bit compared to the majority of the visitors there — rather than taking the traditional pilgrimage path, we actually started at the top of the stairs — where we were greeted with a stunning view of the city of Braga — and walked down. It certainly seemed easier than the uphill climb if the red faces of the people passing us were anything to judge by. Even they were having an easy time of it compared to the pilgrims that converge on the church during the week before Easter, who climb up the stairs on their hands and knees.

Some of the many stairs that pilgrims have to climb to get to Bom Jesús.

Some of the many stairs that pilgrims have to climb to get to Bom Jesús.

The sanctuary of Bom Jesús — built between 1722 and 1811 — and its grounds were certainly the most heavenly I’ve ever been on. I couldn’t believe the eye for detail that had clearly been used in all of the sculptures, and even in the immaculate, colourful gardens. I especially liked the fake cave nestled just behind the church, full of stalactites and stalagmites that even dripped water as they would in a real cave. It made for some very interesting photo opportunities, although not as interesting as the statues of people with water coming out of their eyes and ears!

The Gazebo and the Cave
The stairs up to the gazebo.

One of these interesting fountains was found on each landing. I didn’t see the pattern between them until I’d descended a few levels, but it turns out that the three closest to the top represent the virtues, the next five represent the senses, and the next represents the wounds of Christ.

A statue with water coming out of its nose.
...and out of his ears.
How creepy is this? There's water coming out of her eyes!

How creepy is this? There's water coming out of her eyes!

In the "cave."

In the "cave."

The funicular "elevator" that runs the length of the stairway.

The funicular "elevator" that runs the length of the stairway.

Starting on my way down the stairs.
One of the many fountains on the walk up to the church.
The stairs and Braga beyond.

The stairs and Braga beyond.

Some of the many switchbacks on the walk up to the church.
A guardhouse?
The view from near the halfway point on the way down.

These were just some of many stops along the way that kept us from getting back to the bus nearly as quickly as Marta would have liked. However, I think we were all happy cutting a bit of time from our tour of the rest of Braga to see this amazing sanctuary. In a land that seems to have churches around every corner, Bom Jesús was truly a standout.

When you travel to Europe, do you visit any of the many churches or do you avoid them? Have you ever seen any as ornate as Bom Jesús?

I visited Bom Jesús as a guest of Turismo Portugal, but all opinions here are my own.

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4 Responses to Photo Essay: The Sanctuary of Bom Jesús do Monte

  1. Deborah October 2, 2012 at 8:57 am Reply

    Gorgeous pictures. I was in Portugal years ago (1995) and your picture of the ‘elevator’ brought back some memories!!!

    Deb

    • Kristin October 2, 2012 at 10:04 pm Reply

      Thanks Deb! Did you ride one of the elevators? We were so confused when our guide kept telling us about the elevator going up the hill — our mental images definitely did not match what we actually saw (which I probably would have labeled a ‘cable car’ or something to that effect).

  2. Heather October 4, 2012 at 4:58 am Reply

    I had to move quickly past the crying girl…that IS creepy!

    • Kristin October 4, 2012 at 5:22 pm Reply

      I agree — it really is! I don’t remember it being nearly as creepy in real life, but it almost gave me the shivers looking at it. I completely missed the one with water coming out of its mouth — apparently that one was disgusting in real life and in photos!

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