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Archdiocese of Braga

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(Bracara Augusta, Civitas Bracarensis).

Braga is situated in a flat fertile tract of land between the rivers Este and Cavado, in the province of Minho, in the Kingdom of Portugal. The name was derived from the costume worn by the ancient native inhabitants, which reached from the waist to the knee, unlike the tunics worn by the Romans; for this reason the latter called these bragas (bracas) a barbarous costume, and those who wore them--Persians, Scythians, and the Celtic inhabitants of Gaul--barbarians. The city of Braga is very ancient as the etymology of the name implies. Some, like St. Isidore, believe it is derived from the Greek Brachys, short, others from hrachos, thorn-bush; others again, like Diodorus Siculus, say that it is of Celtic origin. In the fifth book of his "Historical Library", speaking of the Gauls he says, quas bracas illi nominant. Braga, the metropolis of Galicia, was one of the principal cities of Lusitania (Portugal), until the Emperor Augustus, having brought his wars to a close, made a new division of the provinces and united it to Hispania Tarraconensis, giving it the name of Augusta, and making it one of the three judicial divisions into which the provinces of Galicia was divided. It was one of the first cities of Spain to receive the light of the Gospel. The tradition that St. Peter de Rates, a disciple of St. James, preached here, is handed down in the ancient Breviary of Braga (Breviarium Bracarense) and in that of Evora; but this, as the Bollandists tell us, is purely traditional. Paternus was certainly bishop of the see about 390.

Some have denied that Braga was a metropolitan see; others have attempted without sufficient evidence, however, to claim two metropolitan sees for Galicia before the sixth century. The real facts in the case are that after the destruction of Astorga (433) by the Visigoths Braga was elevated to the dignity of a metropolitan see in the time of St. Leo I (440-461). Balconius was then its bishop and Agrestius, Bishop of Lugo, was the metropolitan. At the latter's death the right of metropolitan rank was restored to the oldest bishop of the province, who was the bishop of Braga. From this time, until the Mohammedans invaded Spain (711) he retained the supremacy over all the sees of the province. In 1110 Pope Paschal II restored Braga to its former metropolitan rank. When Portugal separated from Spain, Braga assumed even greater importance. It contested with Toledo the primacy over all the Spanish sees, but the popes decided in favour of the latter city. At present it has for suffragans the dioceses of Porto, Coimbra, Visco, Bragança-Miranda, Aveiro, and Pinhel. There have been many very famous bishops and writers in this diocese. Among its earlier bishops, besides the traditional St. Peter already mentioned, the most famous is St. Martin of Braga who died in 580, noted for his wisdom and holiness. St. Gregory of Tours says of him (Hist. France, V, xxxvii) that he was born in Pannonia, visited the Holy Land, and became the foremost scholar of his time. St. Isidore of Seville ("De Viris illustribus", c. xxxv) tells us that he "was abbot of the monastery of Dumio near Braga, came to Galicia from the East, converted the Suevic inhabitants from the errors of Arianism, taught them Catholic doctrine and discipline, strengthened their ecclesiastical organization, and founded monasteries. He also left a number of letters in which he recommended a reform of manners, a life of faith and prayer, and giving of alms, the constant practice of all virtues and the love of God." For his writings, see Bardenhewer, "Patrologie" (2nd ed., 1901), 579-581. Braga having been destroyed by the Saracens, and restored in 1071, a succession of illustrious bishops occupied the see. Among these were Mauricio Burdinho (1111-14), sent as legate to the Emperor Henry V (1118), and by him created antipope with the title of Gregory VIII; Pedro Juliano, Archdeacon of Lisbon, elected Bishop of Braga in 1274, created cardinal by Gregory X in 1276, and finally elected pope under the name of John XXI; Blessed Bartholomew a Martyribus (1559-67), a Dominican, who in 1566, together with Father Luis de Sotomayor, Francisco Foreiro, and others, assisted at the Council of Trent; the Agustín de Castro, an Augustinian (1589-1609), who consecrated the cathedral, 28 July 1592. Alejo de Meneses, also an Augustinian, was transferred to Braga from the archiepiscopal see of Goa. He had been an apostle to the Nestorians of the Malabar Coast in Farther India and had converted them to Catholicism with the help of missionaries of the various religious orders. Under him was held the Council of Diamper (1599), for the establishment of the Church on the Malabar Coast. He died at Madrid in 1617 in his fifty-eighth year. in the odour of sanctity, being then President of the Council of Castile. Three other bishops of note were Roderico de Cunha (1627-35), historian of the Church in Portugal; Roderico de Moura (1704-28), who restored the cathedral, and Cayetano Brandão, who was reputed a saint among the faithful.

In its early period the Diocese of Braga produced the famous writer Paulus Orosius (fi.418) also Avitus of Braga. At the beginning of the eighteenth century a contest was waged over the birthplace of Orosius, some claiming him for Braga and others for Tarragona. The Marquis of Mondejar, with all the evidence in his favour, supported the claim of Braga; Dalmas, the chronicler of Catalonia, that of Tarragona. Avitus of Braga, another writer of some importance, was a priest who went to the East to consult with St. Augustine at the same time that Orosius, who had been sent by St. Augustine, returned from consulting St. Jerome. It was through him that the priest, Lucian of Caphar Gamala near Jerusalem, made known to the West the discovery of the body of St. Stephen (December, 415). The Greek encyclical letter of Lucian was translated into Latin by Avitus and sent to Braga with another for the bishop, Balconius, his clergy, and people, together with a relic of St. Stephen. Avitus also attended the Council of Jerusalem against Pelagius (415). There were two others of the same name, men of note, who, however, wrought incalculable harm by introducing into these provinces the doctrines of Origen and Victorinus.

In 1390 Braga was divided to make the Archdiocese of Lisbon, and in 1540 its territory was again divided to create the Archdiocese of Evora. There are some fine edifices in the diocese, among them the Cathedral of the Assumption, very large and architecturally perfect; the archbishop's palace; the seminary, and the Institute of Charity. The sanctuary of do Senhor Jesus do Monte is the object of great devotion to which many pilgrimages are made every year.


Flórez, España Sagrada (Madrid, 1754--), IV, 234-240; XV. 82-364, and passim; Aguirre, Collectio maxima conciliorum Hispaniæ (Rome, 1693); Thomas ab Incarnatione, Hist. Eccl. Lusitanæ (Coimbra, 1759-63); Tejada y Ramiro, Canones de la Iglesia de España (Madrid, 1859); Gams, Kircheng. Spaniens (1862-79). For the local historians: Argote, Cunha, Corréa, et al., see Chevalier, Topo-bib. (Paris, 1894-99), 497; ibid., Lisbon and Evora.

About this page

APA citation. López Bardón, T. (1907). Archdiocese of Braga. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. López Bardón, Tirso. "Archdiocese of Braga." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Brenna Green.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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