Located just down the hill from Guimarães Castle, the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza is a beautifully restored palace that was, at various times, the home to the Dukes of Braganza, a pile of ruins, Antonio Salazar’s Royal Palace, and, since 1910, a National Monument.
It’s hard to imagine that from the 16th century until the 19th century, the original palace was abandoned and left to fall into ruin. In the 19th century, there was a movement to restore the palace, and plans were drawn up to rebuild the palace. Reconstruction was finally begun in 1937 and, after more than two decades, the palace was finally opened in 1959.
Like the Biltmore House in my home state of North Carolina, it gives you a glimpse of the grandeur of the lives of the richest and most powerful people of their times. There are innumerable beautifully furnished spaces throughout the palace. You can spend hours exploring the rooms. There’s even a small museum of modern art in the palace.
This room is an example of the beauty of the palace. The heavy stone and wood construction is juxtaposed against richness of the wonderful tapestries. The beautiful vases are probably three feet tall. It’s a stunning collection of riches.
The Palace of the Dukes of Braganza has seen a lot throughout its history. Originally built in the 15th century as the residence of Afonso, the first Duke of Braganza, it remained in the family until the end of the century, when it was closed.
Several years later the palace was passed to the House of Aziz, when it was given as dowry to Isabel of Braganza when she wed the Infante Edward, the sixth son of King Manuel I. For many years it remained unused.
Over the next few centuries, the abandoned palace fell into ruins, as stone from the structure was taken to build or repair roads and structures in the area. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the palace was deemed beyond repair.
During the 1930s, plans were created for the restoration of the palace. The reconstructed palace was based on an analysis of various medieval palaces across Europe. The restoration was completed and the Palace of the Dukes of the Braganzas was opened to the public in 1959.
The restored palace was probably much more ornate than the original structure. The palace served for many years as the Presidential Palace during Antonio Salazar’s Estado Novo regime.
The palace is a beautiful place and well worth a tour. We spend a couple hours exploring the building and its many beautiful possessions. In addition to the historical rooms and belongings, there are a couple really nice modern art displays, including a Paolo Neves sculpture and an exhibit of art by local artist José de Guimarães.
Here are a few of the photos from our tour.