Date: 06OCT (Thursday). FATIMA – BRAGA – SANTIAGO (Day 4)
6AM was our wakeup call and at 7AM was our breakfast and luggage out because at 9AM we drove north to Braga, Portugal. Braga is 245 kilometers from Fatima. Braga is one of the oldest in Portugal. It was built more than 2,000 years ago and is called “Bracara Augusta” in the sense that it was founded by Augustus. It was located on one of the main Roman roads in the Iberian Peninsula; the administrative seat of the Empire, and later on given the status of capital of the Roman province of Gallaecia by Emperor Caracalla. The Diocese of Braga is also the oldest in Portugal and, in the Middle Ages the city even competed with Santiago de Compostela in power and importance.
The Cathedral of Braga is also the oldest in Portugal and was built in the 12th century by the parents of Portugal’s first King, D. Henrique and D. Teresa, who are buried there. Braga is to this day one of the country’s main religious centers, having the Holy Week Celebrations and the São João Festival as the highlights in its liturgical and tourist calendar.
We were already prepared for the long travel to Braga and the bus was already in motion but the driver, Joaquin, told us we would not leave yet and waited for two minutes because, according to the computer, it was not yet time for the bus to move and leave Fatima. After 2 minutes, at 9AM, we departed Fatima bound for Braga.
While on our way to Braga, we prayed the Morning Prayer which was led by our group. After the Morning Prayer, Monty, our tour leader from the Philippines, distributed Bible bullets and I got this one: “Be steadfast in prayer and even spend the night praying….” (Col. 4:2). When I read this Bible text, I said to myself that I will use this as my introduction to my homily because I was assigned as the Mass celebrant and the gospel is about perseverance in prayer (Luke 11:5-13).
Then we proceeded in the recitation of the Holy Rosary (Luminous Mysteries) and still ledby our group. After more than an hour of travel, we stopped at an autogrill and had a 20-minute toilet break. After using its toilet, I bought something worth 5,50 Euro like bread and juice. At 10:40AM we left this restaurant and made our way to Braga.
Braga is Portugal’s religious capital. Pious and brooding, Braga’s ecclesiastical clout is underpinned by a rich collection of churches, chapels, and monasteries, so many in fact that it’s often referred to as the “Portuguese Rome.” It is a city and a municipality in the northwestern Portuguese district of Braga, in the historical and cultural Minho Province. The city has 137,000 inhabitants, and the municipality, which includes 37 civil parishes has a resident population of 181,494 inhabitants (2011), representing the seventh largest municipality in Portugal (by population). Its area is 183.40 km². Its agglomerated urban area extends from the Cávado River to the Este River. Under the Roman Empire, known as Bracara Augusta, the settlement was centre of the province of Gallaecia. Braga is a major hub for inland Northern Portugal.
We arrived at Bom Gesu do Monte (the Good Jesus) at around 12:35PM (Portugal time). Philippines is seven hours advanced with Portugal for our Mass which I presided. The Mass started at 12:45PM. The focus of my homily was about perseverance in prayer. The Mass ended at 1:10PM. Our Braga tour guide explained to us about Braga and then, had some photos. We left the Church at around 1:55PM bound for Santiago de Compostela. The distance from Braga, Portugal to Santiago de Compostela, Spain is 189.1 kilometers or more or less three hours of travel.
The Santuário Bom Jesús do Monte (Shrine of Good Jesus of the Mountain) is a hilltop Catholic pilgrimage site. In 1722 the Archbishop of Braga commissioned the construction of a Sacred Way, so the faithful could walk the Stations of the Cross for penance and contemplation. It was completed in 1811. Although it has no associations with any visions or saints, it has been a popular place of pilgrimage ever since.
Made of dark granite covered in bright white plaster, the Sacred Way is a Baroque double staircase with several switchbacks. The numerous landings and the grounds of the sanctuary are filled with interesting gardens, grottoes, small chapels, sculptures, and allegorical fountains. The church is surrounded by lovely gardens, perfect for reflection and rest with brightly colored flowers. The first fountain symbolizes the wounds of Christ, the next five the senses, and the final three the virtues, and other aspects of the Catholic faith provide visitors with a physical representation of the history of the Catholic Church.
The Baroque basilica at the top is 400 meters above sea level and provides visitors with a sweeping view of Braga. I would miss Bom Gesu do Monte Sanctuary. It is honestly one of the most unique and beautiful holy buildings that I have ever seen. Climbing the stairs (about 600 stairs in total) is also a fantastic 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 the tour guide explained 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. We didn’t climb the stairs.
Bom Gesu is popular place for a pilgrimage. According to our tour guide, 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, that’s my opinion!
After more than one hour of travel from Braga on our way to Santiago de Compostela, at
3:30PM, we stopped at an autogrill named Barcelos for our light lunch; left the autogrill at 4:20PM. We passed by beautiful panoramic views. Then we arrived at our hotel in Santiago de Compostela, Hesperia Pelegrino, at around 6:20PM; checked in at this hotel and had our dinner at 7:15PM.
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