When arriving in the north-eastern part of mainland Portugal, the visitor comes across the beautiful city of Miranda do Douro. D. João III ordered the construction of a splendorous Cathedral in this frontier city, stage of many battles.
To build the Cathedral, the old Church of Santa Maria, a Gothic temple from the reign of D. Dinis, was destroyed. Once the 13th-century temple was dismantled, the works on the Mannerist Cathedral began in 1552 and were completed in 1566.
This is the largest temple in Trás-os-Montes, standing out on the Miranda plateau for its imposing architecture and artistic quality. It is a symbol of reference in the city, as the people say – “chega a Miranda, vê a Sé e anda” (arrive at Miranda, see the Cathedral and walk).
Next to a wide churchyard, the visitor can see the imposing and solid façade of the Cathedral, which is marked by the two large rectangular bell towers and topped by a balustrade. The temple, which faces north, is cruciform in plan, with 3 naves and 4 aisles and a ribbed vault supported by 8 Tuscan pillars.
Inside, one can observe the retable of the main altar, which has a sculptural ensemble of relief and is dedicated to Santa Maria Maior. There are other altarpieces in the Cathedral which, due to their antiquity or exemplariness, are worthy of the visitor’s attention, such as the altarpiece of S. Bento, the altarpiece of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, the altarpiece of the relics, the altarpiece of Santo Amaro or the altarpiece of Nossa Senhora do Rosário (currently of the Sagrado Coração de Jesus). Of baroque style and from the 18th century, the altarpieces of S. Pedro, S. Jerónimo and Nossa Senhora da Piedade can be seen. The chair in the choir of the Cabido – a work of great perfection and rarity, dates from the 17th century and is in the Mannerist style.
Miranda do Douro Cathedral is well known for the existence of a popular religious icon – the Baby Jesus of Cartolinha. This small 18th century image can be seen in a baroque gilded carved oratory where the other devotees offer a huge amount of dresses and ornaments.