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Church of Mercy in Braga

Church of Mercy in Braga

Founded in 1513, the sisterhood of the Mercy of Braga had the permission of D. Diogo de Sousa, archbishop of the city, to get installed in one of the chapels of Braga’s Cathedral’s cloister, named then as a Chapel of Jesus of the Mercy (Capela Jesus da Misericórdia). However, in the mid-century the space available to the sisterhood became too narrow, so in 1558, the brothers decided to build a new temple, next to the Cathedral. The original plan of this temple is attributed to the architect Manuel Luís, master of Oporto’s Main Chapel of the Mercy of Oporto (Capela-Mor da Misericórdia do Porto) (RUÃO, Carlos, 1996, pp. 202-205). The construction of the temple started around 1560, having been engraved in the main gate the date “1562”, probably indicating the date the façade was finished. In the following years, the fist works of decoration on the interior space were made, with the construction of a lot of altarpieces sponsored by the brothers that wanted to get themselves buried inside the temple (CASTRO, Maria de Fátima, 2001, pp. 15-16). The Mercy of Braga’s registers (Misericórdia de Braga) indicates that in 1577 the brotherhood hired the painter António Juzarte to make the integrated paints in a side altarpiece, located next to the Epistle, which gold carving was elaborated by the masters Lucas Fernandes and Jácome Pires. In 1590, the Braga’s painter Francisco Soares was hired to decorate the chorus, low ceiling with frescoes with “brutesco’s roman way motifs” (SERRÃO, Vítor, 1999, p. 287). The Church of the Mercy of Braga (Igreja da Misericórdia de Braga) is a longitudinal temple, with a single aisle forming an L together with the House of the Dispatch (Casa do Despacho). On the ensemble, it presents two very distinct languages, the mannerist flemish style structure and the baroque decorative program, over the XVII and XVIII centuries.

The temple project planned by Manuel Luís demonstrates a more erudite knowledge of the mannerist models, highlighting the main façade of flemish language, very similar to the Temple of S. Domingos of Viana do Castelo (Templo de São9 Domingos de Viana do Castelo, planned by João Lopes – the youngster – in the same period, and that was used as inspiration for posterior constructions in the portuguese northwest, as the Temple of S. Gonçalo de Amarante (Templo de São Gonçalo de Amarante) or the Mercy of Guimarães (Misericórdia de Guimarães).

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