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Photograph: Confraria do Bom Jesus do Monte
© Confraria do Bom Jesus do Monte


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Name of Monument:
Bom Jesus de Braga Sanctuary
Also known as:
Bom Jesus do Monte
Location:
Braga, Portugal
Date:
Founded in the 15th century; Baroque works carried out 1723–1811
Denomination / Type of monument:
Religious architecture (pilgrimage sanctuary, Sacro Monte)
Artists:
Architects (attributed): Manuel Pinto de Vila Lobos (?–1734), André Soares (1720–1769), Carlos Amarante (1748–1815); master masons: António Ferreira Lopes ; woodcarvers: Elias Gomes dos Santos, João Bernardo da Silva, João Álvares Bezerra, João Martins Coelho; sculptors: António de Campos Peixoto, António José Pereira, António Monteiro, António Pinto, Domingos António, Domingos Ferreira, Evangelista Vieira, Félix António and others; painters: Pedro Alexandrino de Carvalho, and others whose dates are unknown.
Patron(s):
D. Jorge da Costa, Archbishop of Braga (1493–1498); D. Rodrigo de Moura Teles (1644–1728); Archbishop of Braga (1704–1728); D. Gaspar de Bragança (1716-1789); Archbishop of Braga (1758–1789).
History:
The Bom Jesus de Braga Sanctuary dates to 1494 and was the brainchild of the influential Archbishop of Braga, Jorge da Costa, in reaction to the country's impulse for popular devotion.

It was in the 17th century, however, that the Bom Jesus Church was first established as a pilgrimage sanctuary of the Sacro Monte (Way of the Cross) type. In 1629 a hermit – Pedro do Rosário – was nominated, the church was reconstructed, and the Passos da Cruz chapels were set up. These features were the basis for the devotional nature of the site, founded on “Baroque” principles at a time when pilgrimages, which had been held since the end of the 15th century, were undergoing change.

The ongoing repairs, especially those of the 18th century, turn this ensemble into one of the world's best known Baroque buildings.

In 1723 Rodrigo de Moura Teles, Archbishop of Braga, decided to renovate the whole sanctuary. He scheduled in the Bom Jesus programme as part of his overall political agenda and saw it as a long-term priority. He commissioned a monumental Baroque stairway leading up to a portico entrance, which led into the new elliptically shaped church. The elaborate iconographic program includes a series of sculptures depicting both Christian and ancient pagan allegories.
Description:
A grandiose staircase leads up to the church. Flanked by dense vegetation, it is subdivided into three stairways with terraces dedicated to the five senses and five virtues. The Moses Terrace is at the top with access to the church.
The entrance to the staircase combines a monumental porch and a rounded gateway. At the top of the gate is the coat of arms of one of the main organisers of the last stage of the program: the Archbishop of Braga, Rodrigo de Moura Teles.
There are two fountains either side of the stairway. Each is crowned with an inscription, one of which explains that we are in the presence of “JERUSALEM SANCTA RESTAURADA E REEDIFICADA NO ANNO DE 1723” (Sanctified Jerusalem Renovated and Rebuilt in the Year of 1723).
On both sides at the upper level before the main stairway, there are two great quadrangular chapels with eye-windows.
A series of stairs, each composed of 39 flights of steps, leads to the intermediate and main terraces. The stairs zigzag up the hill interrupted by terraces, each of which has a central, hexagonal or octagonal shaped chapel, as well as a fountain. Each chapel is identified by an inscription retelling an episode from the Passion of Christ along with associated sculptures; while bas-relief Roman Gods with their attributes, furnish the backs of the fountains, in some cases there is an inscription.
The Stairway of the Five Senses was built from 1725 onwards. Its allegorical theme conveys individual redemption, promoting a notion that evil becomes good by controlling the instincts (the senses) and by appreciation of the spirit instead of the physical and carnal. The six fountains – sculpted in granite with rocaille details – are located on the central axis of the ensemble, installed against an ornamental Baroque background. Allegorical figures, each representing one of the five senses, crown the fountains.
The Stairway of the Virtues follows immediately after that of the five senses. It was built in the second half of the 18th century under Archbishop Gaspar de Bragança. The overall sculptural theme is identical to the others (a central figure flanked by two others) although the half-fountains are embedded in great central niches at the back of the stairs. Then, finally, one reaches the church. Construction began in 1784 and ended in 1811, it has a Neo-Classical façade and two bell towers.
How monument was dated:
Historical evidence and Stylistic analysis

 

View Details

 
 
Fountain of the Five Holy Wounds

The Stairway of the Five Senses, Bom Jesus de Braga Sanctuary (Bom Jesus do Monte)

c. 1725

Unknown artist

The motto for the theme of the senses is given by the first fountain, which refers precisely to the Suffering of Christ, and presents the symbolism that summarises the Via Crucis: The Five Holy Wounds Fountain. The fountain tablet presents in relief the instruments of the Passion of Christ.
 
 
General view of the Stairway of the Five Senses and the Fountain of Vision and of Taste

The Stairway of the Five Senses, Bom Jesus de Braga Sanctuary (Bom Jesus do Monte)

c. 1725

Unknown artist

This stairway continues the theme of the hierarchy of the five senses, as if revealing in the ascending course the degree of corporeity that should be attributed to each of the senses. The mythological figures found at the axis of the fountain were re-“Christianised” by order of the Censorial Court in 1774 having previously been considered “indecorous” due to their proximity to the biblical figures. The figures – whose original denominations are well known – were maintained and only the inscriptions were changed.
 
 
Examples of Via Crucis chapels: Chapel of the Flagellation and the Mercury Fountain; Chapel of the Crucifixion and the interior of the Chapel of the Falls

The Stairway of the Five Senses, Bom Jesus de Braga (Bom Jesus do Monte)

1723–1725

Unknown artist

The Stairway of the Five Senses leads up to the Crucifixion Chapel. On the way up are other chapels one of which, the Chapel of the Flagellation, reinforces the Suffering of Christ or the Via Crucis as an element of purification.
 
 
Bom Jesus Church

Façade of the church in the Neo-Classical style, Bom Jesus de Braga (Bom Jesus do Monte)

1784–1811

Carlos Amarante (1748–1815)

At ground level there are two sculptural figures of the prophets, Jeremiah and Isaiah. Over the cornice, on the upper section, are the four evangelists.
 
 
Interior

Bom Jesus Church, Bom Jesus de Braga Sanctuary (Bom Jesus do Monte)

c. 1684–1711

Carlos Amarante (1748–1815) and others

General view of the interior of the church. There is a huge representation of Calvary with life-size figures at the main altar.
  Selected bibliography:
Aranha, M., Epitome da vida e virtudes do Excelentissimo Senhor D. Rodrigo de Moura Telles, Arcebispo de Braga, Lisbon, 1743.
Vieira, M. A., Descripção do Prodigioso Augusto Sanctuario do Bom Jesus do Monte da Cidade de Braga, antigamente nomeado de Santa Cruz, Lisbon, 1793.
Massara, M., Santuário do Bom Jesus do Monte – fenómeno tardo-barroco em Portugal [MA dissertation], 2 vols, Lisbon, 1982.
Pereira, J. F., Retórica da Fé: simbolismo e decoração no Escadório dos Cinco Sentidos, Claro-Escuro, Revista de Estudos Barrocos, No. 1, November 1988, Lisbon.
Bezerra, J. A. X. Subsídios para uma outra "leitura" do Bom Jesus do Monte – Santuário de Peregrinação, Braga, 2002.
Citation of this web page:
Paulo Pereira "Bom Jesus de Braga Sanctuary" in Discover Baroque Art. Place: Museum With No Frontiers, 2014. http://www.discoverbaroqueart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;BAR;pt;Mon11;33;en
Prepared by: Paulo Pereira
Translation by: Lili Cavalheiro, Cristina Correia
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: PT 33