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History Review
More than two thousand years of history that are still alive today and visible around the entire municipality of Braga, making travelling back in time possible and where the invitation is to discover the marks left by populations of ancient times. Ruins and roman thermal baths that are a beautiful history lesson, dozens of sacred, cultural, archaeological, military and civil spaces of outstanding styles and unique architecture. An important chapter of the Portuguese past that had, as its stage, the noble Bracara Augusta.
The human occupation of the region that today corresponds to the municipality of Braga goes back thousands of years, and is documented by facts that have acquired monumentality since the megalithic period. In the era corresponding to the Iron Age, the denominated "castral culture". The romanization process began around the year 200 b.C., consolidating from the origins of our era, with the foundation of the first city of Braga - Bracara Augusta. From the 5th century onwards, the barbarian invasions (Suevi and Visigoths), brought great disturbance to the region, which continued with the Arabs until the end of the 8th century. The reorganisational process only took place at the end of the following century.
In approximately 1070, D. Pedro, the first Bishop of Braga, reorganised the Diocese, creating a feeling of real strength in the city’s fundamental structures and its surrounding areas. The city slowly developed around the cathedral, limited however, to the walled nucleus, which having being successively fortified (D: Henrique, D. Dinis and D. Fernando), did not suffer an important expansion.
In 1100, thanks to Saint Gerald (Archbishop of Braga between 1099 and 1108), Braga’s authonomy and ecclesiastical notability came into light, following a tradition dated from the Roman period. The status of being pratically a municipality area of Galicia, boosted the competion with Compostela and the consequent antagonism of the Condado Portucalensis, or County of Portugal, towards Galicia, which also generated fervours of independence which paved the way to the Battle of S. Mamede. By his status, ecclesiastical reforms that he undertook, and also by the strong impulse that he gave to the construction of the Cathedral, Saint Gerald remains today in history as the Patron Saint of Braga.
In the 16th century, Braga is a small city that lives on the edge of the winds of discovery and progress, which at the time was at its peak. D. Diogo de Sousa (eminent Archbishop), and man of renaissance ideas, was going to transform it in such a way that we can consider it a refoundation. In the period between the mid 16th century and the first decades of the 18th century, an intense religious environment was observed, due to the arrival of religious communities that were going to build monasteries, convents and churches, influencing civil architecture itself, by covering the houses with shutters. In the 18th century, Braga emerges and shines with the flowered curves of the Baroque, lead by the Archbishops of the house of Bragança, and by the artistic genius of André Soares (architect 1720-1769). At the end of the century, we assist, with Carlos Amarante (engineer and architect 1742-1815), the transition to the neoclassic.
The following century brings with it some conflict (French invasions and liberal fights), flowing from the second half, the money and the likes of the "Brazilians" (Portuguese immigrants returned from Brazil). The city is subjected to some improvements as far as infrastructures are concerned and the civic centre leaves the traditional area of the "Sé" as it is, and moves on to the public garden (in front of the “Arcada”). The 20th century brought and consolidated multiple infrastructures and new instruments of development, which is worth noting in terms of built patrimony the "Theatro Circo" and the group of buildings that define the top part of the "Avenida da Liberdade". The recent period of April 25th, represented an enormous growth at all levels, and converted Braga into the third city of the country, with special highlight the level of architecture wich have marked the most recent important building works like the "Carandá" Municipal Market and the Exhibitions and Sports Municipal Centre.
In the year 2000, Bracara Augusta commemorated two thousand years since its foundation and an evocative monument was erected for future generations. A journey across the 21st century has helped significantly to enhance the brand of the city’s progress and visibility in the regional and national context with special emphasis, among the multiple features which mark today the current cities, the safeguard and rehabilitation to life of their culture heritage (Idol's fountain, Theatro Circo, Tibães Monastery), the renovation of its Historical Centre (“Braga, Capital of the Traditional Trade” with the country’s largest pedestrian area) and the building of public projects (Braga’s new Municipal Stadium, the 2004 Eurocup Championship ex libris, still waiting for classification). In this very brief and incomplete contemplation of one past with more than two millenniums, many events and noteworthy figures were inevitably left unmentioned, but nonetheless they are creditors of the singularity and excellency of Braga today.
(by Pedro Lopes)
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