Portugal – Archbishops of Braga

Portugal - Archbishops of Braga

Editorial Project Archbishops of Braga

The philatelic issue “Archbishops of Braga” was launched in 2017. Four groups of stamps have been presented, in annual cycles, depicting the historical Prelates of the Church of Braga. This year the fifth and final group will be launched — completing the 18 stamps planned for the “Archbishops of Braga” set — featuring some of the most significant Prelatures of this noteworthy cohort of Archbishops and Lords of the Archdiocese of Braga.

This initiative by the Archdiocesan Commission for Property and Heritage — of the Archdiocese of Braga — part of the Institute of History and Christian Arts (IHAC), was submitted, as a concept and selection, to CTT – Correios de Portugal, which immediately supported and agreed to this philatelic project.

One of the purposes of the mentioned Commission is to organise or follow events and cultural activities with the aim of promoting and enhancing the value of the Cultural Assets of the Church. This sensitivity and recognition start with the promoters or interlocutors — as is the case with the Archbishops of Braga — who idealised or advocated for these assets, often supporting their creation, as well as safeguarding or enhancing everything that Faith has spread and the Gospel has built in terms of Ecclesiastical heritage.

The new group of stamps, like the earlier issues, shows Braga Prelates who reflect the history of the Church and the city of Braga; the history of Portugal and the territory it conquered; its expansive and historical evangelisation.

It therefore features Gonçalo Pereira, the Liberal, (1326–1348) — medieval, a zealous defender of the Assets of the Church who gave Braga its first “monumental feature” and was present at the famous Battle of Río Salado with a cross on his flag; Friar Agostinho de Jesus (1588–1609) — modern, active and credited reformer who promoted the “new consecration of the Cathedral” and commissioned the famous Map of Braga of 1594 [noua BRACARAE AVGVSTE descriptio (sic)] to Georg Braun and Frans Hogenberg; António Bento Martins Júnior (1932–1963) — contemporary, a pious Eucharist and Marian, who devoted himself to the “Christianisation of religious festivals”, “consecrated the High Altar of Braga Cathedral” and, in social terms, encouraged institutions of a charitable nature to respond to those most in need.

In the philatelic souvenir sheet, we reveal a new aerial view of the Main Cathedral, which gives it a new perspective within its urban surroundings — a new breadth that confirms its context with the Sacro-Montes or the Sacred Hills of Braga on the horizon — in an interactive relationship with the so-called “Tourist Triangle” of Braga — renamed by us as the Sacred-Tourist Triangle of Braga.

The Guide to Braga — Art and Tourism from 1959 (page 107), by Braga City Council, describes this tourist polygon as the angular formation between the sanctuaries that crown Espinho Hill, Sameiro Hill and Falperra’s Hill.

It identifies the hill of Bom Jesus do Monte, the hill of Imaculada Conceição do Sameiro and the hill of Santa Maria Madalena do Monte as having temples and adjacent stairways directed towards the city. These temples punctuate the hills surrounding Braga, with the Cathedral as a pole — a centre for spreading the Faith and revitalising of these sacred spaces — which, thanks to the action of humankind and the contribution of the Archbishops, have developed into renowned sanctuaries: the first and the second in the category of Basilicas; the first and the third, properties classified as National Monuments; with the first featuring as the only one in the north of the country recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

On the brochure cover we depict the expressive view from the Cathedra, the visual perspective of the Archbishop over his Seat — manifested by the three naves and the entrance, crowned by the opulent baroque organs — the view, therefore, of the Shepherd over his flock: an ecclesiastical Community that guides, teaches, and educates on the wisdom of the Gospels.

Archbishop Gonçalo Pereira (1326–1348)

A prominent figure in the Church and in the politics of his day. Archbishop Gonçalo Pereira focused particularly on the preservation of the temporal and jurisdictional aspects of the Bishopric. He acted against powerful beneficiaries, oppressive powers, and plunder by grandees.

He played a role in national and peninsular military conflicts. In 1336, he defeated a host of Galicians (who had entered the Minho region). Even more significant was his participation in the Battle of Río Salado, in 1340 (in support of Alfonso XI of Castile and where the advance of peninsular Islam was halted).

In thanks to the Holy Cross (the pennant under which he protected himself), he erected a votive chapel, around 1341–42, on the hill overlooking Braga which, since then, has never ceased to be a centre of devotion and pilgrimage. It became one of the first Calvary Hills in Europe and, over time, developed into a magnificent Sanctuary, now a World Heritage Site — Bom Jesus do Monte.

Braga owes to Archbishop Gonçalo Pereira its first monumental feature, which, in terms of materials and architecture, shows significant aspects of the national palatial Gothic and religious style. He would transform Braga into almost a second court, such was the grandeur of the works made “in such a way that Braga did not seem so much like a city of the Prelate, but like the Court and Palace of a great King”.

Because of his liberality in his pastoral and social activities, he became known as the Liberal — essentially, a great Prelate: “a Diplomat, a Warrior, a Reformer”.

Archbishop Friar Agostinho de Jesus (1588–1609)

Born in Lisbon, in 1537, with the name Pedro de Castro, took his vows in the Order of the Hermits of Saint Augustine, changing his name to Agostinho de Jesus. Provincial of the Order, elected definitor, he went to Rome, to the General Chapter, and was charged with reforming the respective constitutions. From there, the Pope sent him to Germany to reform its monasteries, getting everyone’s support. On his return to Portugal, named perpetual vicar general of this Province, he was appointed Archbishop of Braga by King Philip II, confirmed by Pope Sixtus V in 1588.

He was one of the great Archbishops whose main achievements included: the creation of the General Register; two diocesan synods; another consecration of the Cathedral; transfer of the Benedictine sisters from Vitorino das Donas to Campo da Vinha (Braga) and translation of the mortal remains of Saint Martin of Braga to the Cathedral; and the founding of Pópulo Monastery, where his mortal remains were laid to rest. He died in 1609. In nearly 20 years of administration, he sent four ad limina reports, the highest number from when the practice started until 1910.

Archbishop António Bento Martins Júnior (1932–1963)

Born in the parish of São Miguel de Arcos, in the municipality and archpriestate of Vila do Conde, on 5 May 1881, he attended the Seminaries of Braga. He later studied in Rome, at the Pontifical Gregorian University, gaining a degree in Theology and a Doctorate in Canon Law. Returning to Braga, he became a teacher at the Seminary and, when the Diocese of Bragança and Miranda became vacant, he took on the role of Bishop in 1928. In 1932, he was appointed Archbishop of Braga.

He reformulated the Confraternities and Brotherhoods, and attempted to Christianise religious festivals. In the social field, he concerned himself with the Conferences of St. Vincent de Paul, the St. Cajetan College of Orphans, the Santas Casas da Misericórdia charitable institutions, the Programme for the Protection of Girls, the Cozinhas Económicas [soup kitchens], the St. Joseph Workshops, the District Refuge and the “Bread for the Poor” scheme. In his time, he oversaw the consecration of the High Altar of Braga Cathedral (in 1934) and the inauguration of the St. Peter and St. Paul Conciliar Seminary.

He was very interested in clergy, parishes, and apostolic movements. A man of Eucharistic and Marian piety, a devotee of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the saints (chiefly those of Braga), he died, to general consternation, on 19 August 1963.