Bragança is a typically-Portuguese city, full of history and heritage, located in the northeast of the country. The area around Braganza is known for its impressive scenery, such as the Douro Valley and Montesinho Natural Park. Braganza lies on a branch of the Sabor River south of the Culebra Mountains, 255 km northeast of Porto, 515 km from Lisbon and 22 km from the Spanish border.
Back to the 10th century, Bragança was a Celtic city known as Brigantion (Brigantia, the name of a Celtic goddess), which was later romanised to the present form. The Romans gave the name of “Juliobriga” to the original fortified village. Bragança grew in importance due to its location and rich agriculture so this fortification was further improved in the time of King Dom Afonso I who constructed a proper walled citadel for his brother-in-law Fernão Mendes. Completed around 1130, the place was then renamed Brigantia.
King Afonso IX of León occupied the town and soon King Sancho I retook possession and built the castle that still remains. This town also gave its name to the last royal Portuguese lineage, the House of Bragança, which descended from an illegitimate son of Dom João I who was appointed Duke in 1442. The tower of the castle was to become a place of imprisonment or refuge for many historic personages including Dona Sancho, the unfortunate wife of its constructor.
Historically, the city has been important as the seat of the House of Bragança, which provided the kings of Portugal from 1640 to 1910 and the emperors of Brazil from 1822 to 1889; their feudal castle (built in 1187) still remains. Catherine of Braganza became the queen consort (1662) of Charles II of England. The town played its strategic part in many battles between the two Kingdoms of Portugal and Spain. It was also the location in which General Sepulveda in 1808 called upon the local inhabitants to resist against the invasion of the French forces.
The isolated walled citadel dates back from the 12th century and is surprisingly well preserved: it is worth admiring the Castle, with its watchtowers and dungeons, the pentagonal Domus Municipalis (an unique example of Romanesque civic architecture in Portugal, which served as a meeting place for the «good men» of the county) and which until the 16th Century was used as a reservoir for water and then converted into a building that was used as a civic court for disputes between tradesmen and landowners.
Still within the citadel, you can find the church of Saint Mary dating back to 1580, which exhibits an elaborate carved portal restored in the 18th century. The first church was named Nossa Senhora do Sardão (Our Lady of the Green Lizard!). The creature was said to protect the inhabitants from the Moors. Close to the walls of the castle in the adjoining garden lies a medieval pillory in the unusual shape of a pig being skewered which dates back to Celtic period.
The Church of São Vicente, built in the 13th century and reconstructed in the 17th, is reputed to be the location in which the secret wedding of King Dom Pedro and Inês de Castro took place. Originally a 13th Century structure, it was rebuilt in the 17th Century with several rich adornments.