Semana Santa

Religious in Braga

Image by Emanuele Siracusa Getty Images

Braga hosts the most elaborate Easter celebrations in Portugal. It kicks off with Semana Santa, when Gregorian chants are piped throughout the city centre and makeshift candlelit altars light the streets. The action heats up during Holy Thursday’s Procissão do Senhor Ecce Homo, when barefoot, hooded penitents – members of private Catholic brotherhoods – march through the streets spinning their eerie rattles.

The Good Friday celebration in the cathedral is a remarkable, elaborately staged drama with silk canopies, dirge-like hymns, dozens of priests and a weeping congregation. On Saturday evening, the Easter Vigil Mass begins dourly, the entire cathedral in shadow, only to explode in lights and jubilation. Finally, on Sunday, the people of Braga blanket their thresholds with flowers, inviting passing priests to enter and give their home a blessing.