The secret of the Western Towers

One of the most important fortresses in the Middle Ages, situated at the mouth of the River Ulla, which served as a defence point against Norman and Saracen attacks in attempt to reach the City of the Apostle.

The privileged geographic location of Catoira municipality was the main reason for the repeated maritime attacks in the past. This land was inhabited since ancient times; in fact iron-Age settlements had been established in the place where the Western Towers were erected. These towers were part of the Galician defense shield from the early Middle Ages until the reign of the Catholic Monarchs.

During the early Middle Ages attacks from the Normans were constant in the Arousa Estuary, sacking the town of Iria Flavia in the 9th century, in an attempt to reach the city of Santiago de Compostela. These incursions continued until the late 10th century. The Monarch Alphonso III "the Great" ordered the construction of both a religious and a civil building. The castle would turn into one of the main defensive fortresses during the reign of Asturias and in the Europe of the early Middle Ages. In the 12th century Saracens also tried to reach Santiago de Compostela. They did not suceed but the villages on the coast were later plundered by the pirates.

One of the four festivals of International Tourist Interest held in Pontevedra takes place in Catoira, during the first weekend of August. The Towers, declared a Historic-Artistic Monument in 1931, acted as a defensive shield, together with the towers of San Sadurniño and A Lanzada. For 54 years the Norman landing has been recreated, with an increasing number of visitors every year. In 1961, after a meal of fellowship in A Xunqueira das Torres, the priest of Catoira saw a fire in the woods on the other side of the estuary and cried: "It is the fire of the Vikings who come to attack us, the Vikings are coming!"

The following year the recreation was repeated, but with bagpipers and the participation of a Viking protagonist named Ulfo. Having a strong cultural significance, the festival has maintained its poetic, musical and drama activities, as well as other activities of exchange between the Celtic and Nordic cultures. Thirteen years after that meal of fellowship, three diplomatic representatives from the Nordic countries participated in the festival and a sand extraction ship was "disguised" for this special occasion.

The festival has been organized by the Council of Catoira since 1991, except the landing, which is performed by the society Ateneo Vikingo. Following the internationalization of the festival, several craftsmen visited Frederikssund, the city with the longest Viking tradition in Denmark, with the aim to learn the techniques of traditional boat builders. Then they built the first drakkar (Viking ship), the symbol and image of the festival.

On the day of the landing a mussel festival is also held, where seafood is tasted accompanied by red wine from Ulla area. Thousands of people are gathered by the Towers waiting for the Vikings to land. At the same time, Vikings are leaving the port of Catoira while planning the attack. They sail to the coast and start to cry and once the Vikings set foot on land they run to the Towers. There they start drinking from wine barrels using their helmets and horns disturbing the visitors and recreating kidnappings and fights.

As a counterpoint to this recreation of what it once was a brutality, on the previous night a medieval dinner is held, where the participants are dressed up in period clothes especially for the occasion. This is followed by a procession illuminated with torches on the banks of the River Ulla and a reading of a manifesto for peace and coexistence among peoples from different cultures.

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