The Pius XII Museum was founded in 1957 by Canon Luciano Afonso dos Santos, a priest fascinated by history and heritage, who in his free time would wander through the archdiocese of Braga in search of treasures hidden in sacristies and rocks that may have helped to better explain the origins of the communities.
After some years of collecting, he had put together an extremely valuable collection of archaeology and religious art. With ceramics, textiles, sculpture, jewellery, liturgical furnishings, coins, medals and paintings, the Pius XII Museum displays the evident results of the priest’s enthusiastic labour. At the start, the collection was only archaeological, bringing together the findings of several excavations. The religious art collection was created later on.
In 1968, with plans for work to be done on the building, Canon Luciano Afonso dos Santos carried out archaeological surveys in the cloister of the Conciliar Seminary of São Pedro and São Paulo, and the structures of a Roman building were found, more specifically, the hypocaust of a Roman house (fourth century).
In 1984, after a donation from artist Henrique Medina to the Archdiocese of Braga, the Medina Museum, also located within the Seminary building, was founded. Although it was initially created as an autonomous museum, it is currently integrated into the circuit of the Pius XII Museum, as an art gallery.
Inside one of the wings of the former Conciliar Seminary of São Pedro and São Paulo, also known as the Seminary of Santiago, the Pius XII Museum didn’t initially benefit from the best exhibition conditions. The collections were in poor condition and the building didn’t provide the necessary conditions for exhibition, conservation and security. For this reason, at the end of the 1990s, renovation work began. The official opening of the new version of the Pius XII Museum took place on 5 December 2002.
Under the care of the Seminary, where the Museum was located, was one of the medieval towers of the ancient wall of Braga. This Tower, known as the Tower of Santiago, is currently part of the Pius XII Museum circuit.