Since it was founded, the Pius XII Museum has been located in the building of the Conciliar Seminary of São Pedro and São Paulo, which corresponds to the former São Paulo School, which the Society of Jesus ran between 1560 and 1756.
This school was founded by D. Diogo de Sousa, in 1531. It served for the teaching of Humanities. Three decades later it was passed on to the Jesuits, by D. Frei Bartolomeu dos Mártires. Given the quality of teaching provided there, the building became considerably well-known.
The school ran all the way along the west side of the current Largo of São Paulo, taking up the entire street with the Public Grammar building. The Tower of Santiago, one of the first towers in the medieval circuit, was also part of the school and served as its bell tower from the year 1721.
Over the course of almost two centuries, the São Paulo School was a true centre for disseminating culture in Braga and its region.
Contemporary writer Inácio José Peixoto confirms that, in some academic years, there were as many as two thousand students. So, it had a wide influence. The educational methods adopted by the Ratio Studiorum of the Society of Jesus were undeniably innovative for their time. Critical thinking and reasoning were encouraged, with the use of the best textbooks from that period.
An example of this excellent teaching is Francisco Sanches, one of the most illustrious people in the history of Braga. A great doctor and philosopher, precursor of Bacon, Descartes and Pascal, he has a statue on the Largo of São João do Souto. He definitely wasn’t a Jesuit, but is an icon of the importance that the São Paulo School had in the history of culture in Braga and the world.
The year 1756 was, therefore, dramatic for teaching and culture in Braga. In a moment of great tension between the Jesuits and the Marquis of Pombal, controversial Archbishop D. José de Bragança, foreseeing the division that would happen three years later, expelled the Jesuits from the city. Previously occupied by Franciscan sisters transferred from Valença and Monção, the building served as a house for the Ursulines from the year 1785.
This religious order, founded by Ângela Merici, ended up leaving the building a few decades after the dissolution of religious orders in 1834. From 1882, the old school went on to house the archdiocesan seminary, transferred from its primary building in Campo da Vinha. With the advent of the Republic, it was to be expropriated, having become a military barracks for the Cavalry’s 29th Regiment.
In 1948 it was returned to the Church, having served as a residence for retornados between 1975 and 1985 and a seminary once again, after extensive rebuilding work. From 1957, it housed the Pius XII Museum and from 1984 the Medina Museum.
As well as being the headquarters of the Conciliar Seminary of São Pedro and São Paulo, a function it resumed after having been renovated, the building housed the Pius XII Museum and the Medina Museum.