Holy Week in Braga
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Holy Week in Braga

An annual multi-denominational tradition



The commemorative representations of the Passion and Death of Jesus began in the Holy Land in the fourth century, since, after centuries of persecution by Roman power, the emperor Constantine, with the famous Edict of Milan (313), gave peace to the Church. They took place at the times and places where the events had taken place. The pilgrim Egeria (or Etheria), who, at the end of that century, moved from the north-west of Iberia (Galatia) to Palestine, in his writing Peregrinatio ad Loca Sancta (Pilgrimage to the Holy Places), already makes an account of those celebrations. It was, in fact, the pilgrims who introduced the Holy Week and extended to the Christian world the custom of celebrating it. It is probable that in the lands of the Iberian Peninsula, this happened already from times near the IV-V centuries.


In turn, Lent - with reference to the forty days of crossing the desert the people of Israel and the forty days Jesus spent in the desert - emerged as spiritual preparation time for baptism that already in the third century, it was customary to celebrate the Easter Vigil. Since the fifth century, it was also assumed as a penitential time for sinners who were to be reconciled with God and the Church on Holy Thursday.


The Holy Week of Braga, whose exact beginning is unknown time and mode, undoubtedly connects in this multi-secular tradition and preserves the original sense of commemoration of the mysteries of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. enriched with innovative and exclusive elements. Similarly, Lent in Braga maintains the original double meaning referred to above, and has also been enriched with celebratory actions of preparation and setting for Holy Week and Easter which are unique in Portugal and in the world.



The Rite Bracarense


The period of the origins of the liturgy in Braga remains in obscurity. The same is true of the other Iberian Churches. It seems consensual that the beginning of the liturgy in the Church of Braga is framed in the broader problematic of the origins of the Hispanic liturgy, on which, however, there is no unanimity among scholars.


S. Geraldo, archbishop of Braga between 1096 and 1108, was a former monk of Moissac. He was the promoter of the liturgical renewal, replacing the old Hispanic liturgy with the Roman liturgy. He had previously been a librarian at the abbey of Moissac, where there was a scriptorium of high quality, and in the cathedral of Toledo, had held the positions of Chantre and Master-School. According to his biographer, he endowed the cathedral with implements and objects necessary for worship: among them, «divine books» are explained, an expression which, according to several scholars, interprets, apart from the Bible, the liturgical books. It happens to him D. Maurício Burdino (1109-1118), probably of the clergyman abbey of S. Martial de Limoges, where another important scriptorium existed. Also he will have provided the cathedral with liturgical books.


From the nucleus dating back to the time of S. Geraldo, Braga slowly organizes and enriches its liturgy, with the inclusion of ancient local customs and the permeability to inflows of other Churches and religious orders. Consensus is that, as early as the thirteenth century, the bracarense Church was aware of its own liturgical tradition, distinct from the liturgical uses of the neighboring Churches, which in their organization were also permeable to influences of the same genre. A constitution of 12 of June of 1265 establishes liturgical norms for the office in the cathedral. These rules are in full agreement with the headings of "Breviário de Soeiro", and how much is said in the "Art of Prayer - The canonical hours ordered according to the rules and customs of Bra- ca", printed in 1521. In addition, the "Breviário de Soeiro "uses the readings of a lectionary in use in the cathedral of Braga in 1282. In 1292, the Visits of Cluny speak of a community in Vimieiro, in the outskirts of Braga, that recited the office «secundum modum terrae». In the testament of Major Miguéis, written on December 2, 1301, the classic expression, referred to Masses for the deceased, appears for the first time, which should be celebrated «iuxta consuetudinem ecclesiae bracarensis».


The Bracaran rite acquires greater stability in the last decade of the fifteenth century, when, after a probable crisis, the first incunabula are printed: breviary, in 1494; ritual, in 1496; Missal, in 1498. Then successive editions were made, the last of which in the twentieth century, with potatoes approved by the Popes, which were used in the parishes of the Diocese of Braga, including those of the present diocese sister of Viana do Castelo, until the date of its creation.


Three are the characteristics or "special features" of Rito Bracarense most evoked: two more recurrent ones, to which some add a third, namely, the accentuated Eucharistic devotion, the developed Marian character and the desire for the Holy Spirit, respectively.




Brief description of the different events and ceremonies that take place during Holy Week in Braga:


Saturday before Palm Sunday


The celebrations begin on the Saturday night before Palm Sunday, with the Procession of Traslação from the Lord of the Steps, from the church of Santa Cruz to the Seminary (or St. Paul) church. It follows the Via Sacra, which runs through a series of seasons or "calvaries".


Palm Sunday

The morning is occupied with the Blessing of the Branches seminary church, followed by the Procession of the Branches in direction of the Cathedral, in whose galilee the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem (according to the old custom of the Rite Bracarense) is ritualizada, with the dialogue between Jesus and the city's guardians, whose three knocks on the door with the cross are sensitive and open the ancient porticoes. At 11:00 a.m., it is solemnly Mass of Palm Sunday. In the middle of the afternoon, the great Procession of Steps leaves the Seminary Church. In the middle of the way, next to the church of Santa Cruz, the moving encounter of Jesus with his Mother, illustrated by the Sermon of the Encounter.


Holy Monday and Holy Tuesday

On Holy Monday and Holy Tuesday, the last two big concerts (of a vast cultural program) of sacred music, symphonic choir, take place at night.


Holy Wednesday

At night, the biblical procession "You will be My people" , popularly known as the "Procession of Our Lady of the «Burrinha»".


Holy Thursday

In the morning, the solemn celebration of the Chrism Mass and Blessing of Holy Saints</ trong> takes place, and in the afternoon the Lava-Feet ceremony and the Lord's Supper Mass. The two take place in the Cathedral. At night, the great Procession of the Lord Ecce Homo goes out on the street or the Fogarts.


Sexta-feira Santa

In the cathedral, soon in the morning, the office of Laudes is sung, followed by service of confessions. At 3 o'clock in the morning, at the Cathedral, the moving celebration of the Lord's Death begins. n the course of this, one of the exclusive actions of the Bracaran liturgical custom (the so-called Rito Bracarense), is held, the Theophoric Procession, by the nave of the Cathedral which is one of the most exciting moments of Holy Week At night, it is the turn of the most solemn of all the processions through the streets of the City, the Burial Procession of the Lord. Around 100,000 spectators watch the parade of this procession.



Before Easter the morning is busy, similar to Friday. At night, in the Cathedral, there is the solemn Pascal Vigil, which ends with the triumphant Resurrection Procession .


Easter Sunday 

The Archbishop presides at the solemn Easter Sunday Mass. Throughout the day, through the streets of the City, one proceeds to the joyous Pascal Visit and blessing of the houses.