Blog WHS Visits

WHS #734: Bom Jesus do Monte

Bom Jesus do Monte is a Catholic shrine located just outside the pleasant Northern Portuguese city of Braga. It is located on top of a hill, the route to it is shaped by a zigzagging staircase that symbolizes the way taken by Christ on the day of his crucifixion. The entire complex is built of granite and is decorated with fountains, statues and other ornaments. The shrine is visible in the far distance from Braga's central square, but it lies some 6 km away.

At half past eight in the morning I put my rental car in the free parking lot at the bottom of the hill on which the sanctuary is located. From there you can walk up, almost 600 steps have to be climbed on the long wide staircase. I didn't see any other tourists yet, but there were lots of local joggers around for whom this climb apparently fits perfectly into their daily or weekly sports routine. This lower part runs through a forest and is therefore pleasantly shaded. A chapel can be found in every hairpin bend, containing somewhat primitive portrayals of scenes from the last days of the life of Christ.

After about 300 steps I reached the first main plateau, from where you have a wide view over the city of Braga and you are at the foot of the most beautiful part of the stairs to the sanctuary. Unfortunately, early in the morning is not the best time to take pictures of the church and its zigzag stairs from here: the sun rises from right behind the church. Continuing upwards I noticed the locals alternating between the left and right staircases on every intermediate plateau. Those plateaus have a fountain each. The most beautiful I found those that symbolize the human senses: the water flows from ears, eyes, nose, mouth and hands.

When you finally arrive at the top, you are in front of the church which is located in a landscaped park with flowers. Like the chapels along the way, the church itself has a Baroque interior, with a busy spectacle of soldiers and other protagonists from the Crucifixion displayed at the altar. As beautiful as I found the granite fountains and statues outside, this setup seemed so primitive.

I was the only visitor in the church: the rest of the dozens of people present on site were only there for the sporting aspect and ran down again quickly after catching their breath. There is also a funicular that you can take to bridge the 116m difference in altitude between the city and the sanctuary. But I walked down as well, enjoying the views and statues some more.

In all I spent only about one hour at the site (which has free entry by the way), including the walks up and down. It's not really a unique WHS - you can also find such recreated sacred mountains in Italy, Poland and Brazil for example - but it looked monumental and impressive enough to me to justify inscription.

Els - 26 July 2020

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