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São Frutuoso - medieval chapel in Braga

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
I spent a few days in and around Braga in northern Portugal this week and discovered an amazing medieval chapel that should be more well known than it is - for example, it is not even mentioned in the Lonely Planet Portugal guidebook that I have (the 2014 9th edition). So here’s my attempt to hype it up!

São Frutuoso is a funerary chapel that was built in AD 660 by the eponymous bishop of Braga, north of the historic centre of town. It was later modified in the high Middle Ages and experts debate whether the dominant architectural features date from the original Visigothic building or the Mozarabic modification. In any case, the remaining original aspects make it the most important pre-Romanesque Christian building in Portugal.

24C71BFC-07A7-4A7A-8B8A-AAE9A401F953.jpeg

It’s a small chapel on a Greek cross floorplan with eight of 22 columns extant (six of the eight with their medieval capitals). It’s wonderfully atmospheric and to be there all by ourselves for about 45 minutes was incredible and easily the highlight of Braga for me. The Bom Jesus sanctuary nearby is much more famous but not nearly as interesting for me as an amateur medievalist.

85D19747-B2B2-400F-ADE0-B905541F7A82.jpeg

I put São Frutuoso in the same category as Wamba on the Camino de Madrid, given the Visigothic-Mozarabic architectural features of both structures. Wamba is more impressive because of its ossuary and frescoes, but São Frutuoso is still wonderful in its own right.

Braga, the third largest city in Portugal, is not on the main CP but easily reachable by train from Porto. It’s also the starting point for an alternative CP known as the Braga Way. We saw quite a few camino arrows, including at São Frutuoso.
 
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peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
This is beautiful. I have been in Braga two or three times and never heard or saw anything about it. :( @jungleboy, I’m wondering if the “Braga way” is really the Caminho Portugues Interior? I’ve never heard it referred to in that way, but there is a subforum here with a fair amount of info. It is on my list for when I am looking for a short, untraveled caminho.

What are your walking plans/hopes for this year if any?


BTW, have you heard of or been to Sao Pedro de Balsemao — it’s near Lamego. After two or three failed attempts to find it (not while walking), we finally found it in a trip in 2015. If I can figure out how to upload a photo or two, I will, but I know you don’t like seeing photos ahead of your visit so the pressure is off!
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
Braga has been important in history. It was the capital of Gallaecia, that included the current Galicia, for more than 300 years.

Yes. It's interesting how Portugal has come to be wholly associated with the Roman province of Lusitania as though the borders of both are nearly identical, but (very roughly) there is actually only about two-thirds correlation (with maybe 40% of Lusitania being outside Portugal, and about 20-25% of Portugal being in Gallaecia). And since the capital of Lusitania was Mérida in modern Spain, that makes Braga the only Roman provincial capital in modern Portugal.

I'm not sure where I got this map from but it's interesting to contemplate!

IMG_0086.PNG
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
This is beautiful. I have been in Braga two or three times and never heard or saw anything about it. :(

Thought you’d like it! It's on the outskirts of Braga, 25 minutes walk north-west from the cathedral, so it's a bit off the beaten track.

@jungleboy, I’m wondering if the “Braga way” is really the Caminho Portugues Interior?

It doesn't seem like it based on the maps I've seen (e.g. this one) as the Interior is further east. A quick search didn't yield much information about whatever camino it is that goes through Braga but we saw a lot of signs and arrows!

What are your walking plans/hopes for this year if any?

The pre-COVID plan was Olvidado-Invierno. The new plan is hopefully the Portuguese from Lisbon in September. It makes too much sense not to!

BTW, have you heard of or been to Sao Pedro de Balsemao — it’s near Lamego.

Yes, I've been there! I liked it but São Frutuoso retains more of its original form. São Pedro de Balsemão has a couple of Visigothic capitals but everything else is pretty clearly much later.
 
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VNwalking

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São Frutuoso is a funerary chapel that was built in AD 660 by the eponymous bishop of Braga, north of the historic centre of town. It was later modified in the high Middle Ages and experts debate whether the dominant architectural features date from the original Visigothic building or the Mozarabic modification. In any case, the remaining original aspects make it the most important pre-Romanesque Christian building in Portugal.
São Frutuoso in the same category as Wamba on the Camino de Madrid, given the Visigothic-Mozarabic architectural features of both structures. Wamba is more impressive because of its ossuary and frescoes, but São Frutuoso is still wonderful in its own right.
I learned something today, @jungleboy, thank you.
Wow...it's beautiful! I did not know there was anything this old in Portugal.
(And now I have to go look up Wamba....)
 

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
Yes. It's interesting how Portugal has come to be wholly associated with the Roman province of Lusitania as though the borders of both are nearly identical, but (very roughly) there is actually only about two-thirds correlation (with maybe 40% of Lusitania being outside Portugal, and about 20-25% of Portugal being in Gallaecia). And since the capital of Lusitania was Mérida in modern Spain, that makes Braga the only Roman provincial capital in modern Portugal.

I'm not sure where I got this map from but it's interesting to contemplate!

View attachment 77763
And after the fall of the Roman Empire, Braga was the capital of the independent Swabian kingdom for 180 years.
There are things in common between Galicia and northern Portugal: similar language, vegetables (berzas, grelos), horreos, lack of interest in bullfights, and more.
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
There are things in common between Galicia and northern Portugal: similar language, vegetables (berzas, grelos), horreos, lack of interest in bullfights, and more.

Also architectural style and materials. We saw a lot of grey stone and white buildings in Braga and Guimarães like in Galicia that you don’t see in Lisbon.
 

pelerine

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Norte 10, Primitivo 13, Plata 14+15, Salvador 16, Torres 17, Portugues 18, Mozarabe 19
Yes, I've been there! I liked it but São Frutuoso retains more of its original form. São Pedro de Balsemão has a couple of Visigothic capitals but everything else is pretty clearly much later.

Both Braga and Guimarães are on the the Camino de Torres. I spent the night in both towns, but did not see either of the chapels. Pity. I doubt whether I will go that way again. Am getting on and have so many plans...

But thank you for the photos, jungleboy! Look forward to see your photos, Laurie!
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
As @jungleboy says, there isn’t much left of Visigothic origin or construction at Sao Pedro de Balsemao. Some of the stones had been taken from the ruins of a Roman villa, others are Visigothic. And there is a bishop buried there from the 15th century. The exterior was all re-done centuries later. So it is kind of a hodge podge, and frankly not as aesthetically pleasing as other hodge podges going back to the 7th century. The man standing in front was an employee who opens the church and takes people around. He told us there are virtually no visitors, though. Since Portuguese place names are sometimes as confusing as those in Galicia, we had just about given up looking for it, when we saw a tiny sign pointing us down a path along a river. We were able to find a place to leave the car and walk for about a half hour to get there.
 

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Peaceable Projects Inc. is a U.S.-based non-profit group that brings the vast resources of the wide world together with the ongoing needs of the people who live, work, and travel on the Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail network in Spain.
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josephmcclain

Active Member
I spent a few days in and around Braga in northern Portugal this week and discovered an amazing medieval chapel that should be more well known than it is - for example, it is not even mentioned in the Lonely Planet Portugal guidebook that I have (the 2014 9th edition). So here’s my attempt to hype it up!

São Frutuoso is a funerary chapel that was built in AD 660 by the eponymous bishop of Braga, north of the historic centre of town. It was later modified in the high Middle Ages and experts debate whether the dominant architectural features date from the original Visigothic building or the Mozarabic modification. In any case, the remaining original aspects make it the most important pre-Romanesque Christian building in Portugal.


It’s a small chapel on a Greek cross floorplan with eight of 22 columns extant (six of the eight with their medieval capitals). It’s wonderfully atmospheric and to be there all by ourselves for about 45 minutes was incredible and easily the highlight of Braga for me. The Bom Jesus sanctuary nearby is much more famous but not nearly as interesting for me as an amateur medievalist.


I put São Frutuoso in the same category as Wamba on the Camino de Madrid, given the Visigothic-Mozarabic architectural features of both structures. Wamba is more impressive because of its ossuary and frescoes, but São Frutuoso is still wonderful in its own right.

Braga, the third largest city in Portugal, is not on the main CP but easily reachable by train from Porto. It’s also the starting point for an alternative CP known as the Braga Way. We saw quite a few camino arrows, including at São Frutuoso.
I spent a few days in and around Braga in northern Portugal this week and discovered an amazing medieval chapel that should be more well known than it is - for example, it is not even mentioned in the Lonely Planet Portugal guidebook that I have (the 2014 9th edition). So here’s my attempt to hype it up!

São Frutuoso is a funerary chapel that was built in AD 660 by the eponymous bishop of Braga, north of the historic centre of town. It was later modified in the high Middle Ages and experts debate whether the dominant architectural features date from the original Visigothic building or the Mozarabic modification. In any case, the remaining original aspects make it the most important pre-Romanesque Christian building in Portugal.


It’s a small chapel on a Greek cross floorplan with eight of 22 columns extant (six of the eight with their medieval capitals). It’s wonderfully atmospheric and to be there all by ourselves for about 45 minutes was incredible and easily the highlight of Braga for me. The Bom Jesus sanctuary nearby is much more famous but not nearly as interesting for me as an amateur medievalist.


I put São Frutuoso in the same category as Wamba on the Camino de Madrid, given the Visigothic-Mozarabic architectural features of both structures. Wamba is more impressive because of its ossuary and frescoes, but São Frutuoso is still wonderful in its own right.

Braga, the third largest city in Portugal, is not on the main CP but easily reachable by train from Porto. It’s also the starting point for an alternative CP known as the Braga Way. We saw quite a few camino arrows, including at São Frutuoso.
This is amazing. So glad to know about it. Structures of this period fascinate me. I was supposed to be in Braga in April/May. But no!
 

Zac123

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Soon
This is beautiful. I have been in Braga two or three times and never heard or saw anything about it. :( @jungleboy, I’m wondering if the “Braga way” is really the Caminho Portugues Interior? I’ve never heard it referred to in that way, but there is a subforum here with a fair amount of info. It is on my list for when I am looking for a short, untraveled caminho.

What are your walking plans/hopes for this year if any?


BTW, have you heard of or been to Sao Pedro de Balsemao — it’s near Lamego. After two or three failed attempts to find it (not while walking), we finally found it in a trip in 2015. If I can figure out how to upload a photo or two, I will, but I know you don’t like seeing photos ahead of your visit so the pressure is off!



 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
In the process of looking for some other Portugal pictures, I came across these and thought of you. There aren’t too many Romanesque churches in Portugal, but I see I visited this one in 2008, not that I remember too much about it. :p The name is Sao Pedro Águias and it’s easy to visit on a trip to the Douro. We were staying in a beautiful place near Pinhao the year we went here.
 

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Zac123

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Soon
????There aren’t too many Romanesque churches in Portugal??????


ROTAS DO ROMÂNICO PORTUGUÊS​

 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Ahem! And wow! I stand corrected. I am so glad I made that statement, because otherwise I would never have seen this online gold mine! Thank you, thank you, zac123!

I have traveled around Portugal a lot, and it has frequently been my experience that the churches I see described in the guidebooks as Romanesque have been significantly altered and really have not much of a romanesque feel. These are great resources, and I hope to put them to use in 2021. Se deus quiser.
 
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