Witnesses of history in stone
The different archaeological sites scattered all over As Rías Baixas show the life of the first inhabitants in the province. Parts of this legacy are still hidden underground, and when new excavations are performed, new surprising findings are still being discovered.
The most important archaeological site in the province and one of the best preserved is the Castro de Santa Tegra, at the top of the hill bearing the same name, in the municipality of A Guarda. The fortified settlement, over the history, was in the beginning a village, which, over history, would become the most populated town in the country. Among the large number of findings, the cabezón do Tegra stands out, a fragment of a sculpture of a warrior about 2,000 years old. The castro offers magnificent views over the mouth of the Miño River, the Atlantic Ocean and the neighbouring country, Portugal. Nearby we can visit a museum.
If you head north, you can visit the Castro do Facho in Cangas. It is a fortified settlement which offers spectacular views over the Atlantic Ocean and the Cíes Islands. Its name is related to an old watch house dating from the 18th century, located on the top of the hill.
Alobre, A Lanzada and Monte do Castro, in O Salnés, are three must-visits; and O Facho, in O Morrazo, offers magnificent views
In the region of O Salnes, we find three archaeological sites that well worth a visit: Alobre, in Vilagarcía de Arousa, A Lanzada, in Sanxenxo, and Monte do Castro, in Ribadumia. The economy of the Castro de Alobre, near the port, was based on shellfish gathering and fishing, which is evidenced by the finding of maddens. In addition, the large number of remains of imported products found in the area is proof of a maritime settlement of great importance.
A Lanzada was also an important commercial centre, since a large number of pieces imported from several areas in the Mediterranean were found in this area. This settlement has been occupied from the 9th century BC to the 15th century AD. The first salting factory in north-western Spain, dating back to Pre-roman times; a settlement; a Roman village; a medieval fortification and a chapel were located in this area. It also includes a necropolis, where a children cemetery has recently been discovered.
Finally, the fortified settlement of Monte do Castro was inhabited from the Iron Age to the arrival of the Romans, and it may have disappeared in a fire.
As you head inland, you can visit Castrolandín, in Cuntis. This castro, which was surrounded by a moat with a large wall of soil, was inhabited by about one hundred people during the Iron Age. The main findings of the site are displayed in the Fundación Terra Termarum Castrolandín, in the centre of the town of Cuntis.
Castles and fortresses
The fortified heritage in the province dates back to the fall of Rome and to the rise of a new society of vassals and peasants, whose main symbol is the castle. During the Middle Ages, the medieval disputes over property between nobles were constant in As Rías Baixas, as nobles tried to extend their territories and defend them against the enemies. The castles were built, and later rebuilt after every battle for the control over borders and boundaries.
The Soutomaior Castle, one of the most important monuments in the province, was the residence of the renowned Pedro Madruga and was attacked by the Galician peasants, known as Irmandiños. Half medieval fortress, half neogothic palace from the 19th century, the castle consists of two towers joined by a main building and a courtyard, enclosed by a double wall. The gardens surrounding the castle, including several botanic species as the camellia, are also a must. María Vinyals, the Marquesa de Ayerbe, lived in this castle. She was ahead of her time, she loved travelling, and she was cultured and fond of As Rías Baixas. We have recently learned from her that a ghost nicknamed Alemanote used to wander inside the castle.
Half medieval fortress, half neogothic palace, the Castle of Soutomaior has witnessed great episodes in the history of Galicia
The Castle of Sobroso, in the town of Mondariz, witnessed Queen Urraca's battles in the 12th century. The first evidence of the fortress is the siege of the queen in the castle, who managed to flee towards Compostela through an underground passage leading to the banks of the Tea River. Over the vicissitudes of history the fortress of Sobroso has been repeatedly restored and today it is a good example of the medieval heritage in As Rías Baixas. This castle, as well as the Castle of Soutomaior, is surrounded by signposted botanical paths.
The fortress of Salvaterra de Miño was also the setting of the battles of Queen Urraca and Pedro Madruga. It is a historical construction comprising a fortified wall with its watchtowers, the Casa do Conde, the Pazo (manor house) de doña Urraca and the Virgen de la Oliva Chapel. The fortress offers magnificent views over the Miño River. On the bank of the largest river in Galicia, the Miño River, you find another witness of our history, the fortress of Goián.
Another castle that is well worth a visit is the Castle of Monterreal, in Baiona. Located in a strategic position, in Boi Hill, it is a walled fortress surrounded by beautiful beaches. This castle has elements from the medieval period and from the Renaissance until the 18th century. Its three towers, namely O Príncipe, A Tenaza and O Reloxo stand out. Today, it houses a Parador Nacional.
We move from the heat of the battle to the spiritual retreat, to visit the majestic monasteries in As Rías Baixas. The monastery of Carboeiro, a gem of the Romanesque, is one of the most representative and best preserved monasteries in the province. It was founded in 939 on the grounds of a small shrine. It was commissioned by the disciples of Master Mateo, who left their mark on the ornamentation, which is similar to that of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The surroundings of the monastery, near the Deza River, also stand out.
The monastery of Aciveiro is located in the heart of the area of Terra de Montes, a Romanesque building built in 1135 and included in the Cistercian Order in 1170. Today, it houses a hotel. The building has been renovated, but respecting the structure of the monastery, and following the architectonic patterns of the Cistercian style, the old rooms around the cloister were kept.
The monastery of Carboeiro, founded in 939 on the grounds of a shrine in a beautiful setting, is today a jewel of the Romanesque
The monastery of San Xoán, dating from 942, is another example of the religious architecture in the province. The architectural complex comprises two monasteries: an old Benedictine convent and a Mercedarian convent. The Renaissance and the Baroque styles are present in the cloister of the Procesiones (processions) and the cloisters of the Naranjos (orange trees) or of the Cruceiro (stone cross). One of the largest hórreos (typical Galician raised granaries) in Galicia can be seen in the orchard of the convent.
Surrounded by nature and sheltered by the Castrove Hill, we find the monastery of A Armenteira, in the municipality of Meis. Built in the 12th century, it is one of the gems of the monastic architecture. According to the legend, San Ero was the founder of the monastery, after the Virgin appeared to him in a dream. The cloister from the 17th century stands out, having rounded arches and ribbed vaulting. Today, the building is perfectly preserved and is the residence of a community of nuns belonging to the Cistercian Order.
The monastery of Santa María de Oia, very close to the sea, also dates from the 12th century. When the Cistercian Order arrived in Galicia, this Benedictine building became the centre of the region, with influence in the north of Portugal.
Near the border with Portugal, we end our journey through the main temples in the province, with a visit to the Cathedral-Fortress of Tui, built in a Romanesque style, and lying on the upper part of the village. Inside the temple, it is worth seeing the altarpiece of the Expectación; the chapel of the Reliquias; the Museum of the Cathedral; and its magnificent cloister, the only one of Gothic style preserved of the Galician cathedrals.