Sunday, 18 September 2016

Portugal: The Pilgrim's Steps: Life, Death, and the Afterlife in Porto and Braga

Here's the opening of my latest article for Timeless Travels...

Bom Jesus do Monte. Photo: Garry Shaw.
Anybody who tells you that the first step is always the hardest has never tried walking the nearly 600 steps that lead to the Catholic church of Bom Jesus do Monte near Braga, Portugal. In my humble opinion, having completed the pilgrimage, the last one is far worse, particularly when it’s raining. This exquisite baroque church at the hill’s summit has been the goal of sweaty, panting pilgrims since the 19th century, but earlier incarnations have existed on the same spot for far longer, probably all the way back to the 14th century. Since that time, the climb from the bottom of the hill to its top has represented a journey towards purification and salvation – a stairway to heaven. And like any pilgrimage, it isn’t easy. To reach the peak, pilgrims must ascend three separate stairways – built successively since the early 18th century, set among the hillside’s dense forest – stopping at chapels on platforms along the way to make offerings. Each chapel, spread along the route, represents a stage in the story of the Passion of Christ – Jesus’ journey towards his crucifixion. Your struggle to reach the church is a spiritual quest, meant to bring you closer to Christ.

You can download a pdf of the full article here: The Pilgrim's Steps: Life, Death, and the Afterlife in Porto and Braga.

And if you enjoy it, please buy the Autumn 2016 issue of Timeless Travels! It's full of wonderful history-themed travel pieces. You can find it at: http://www.timeless-travels.co.uk/