Some places in the province of Pontevedra are filled with silence and spirituality. They can be immersed in natural landscapes, or found in urban environments. But all of them are far from the madding crowd. Such are the convents, and the various communities of nuns and monks who used to inhabit them in in former times and, in some cases, even today.
Ruins of San Domingos, Pontevedra
The Dominicans arrived in Pontevedra at the end of the 13th century and founded a convent near the city walls, the remains of which are still preserved. Later, they moved to the place of the current Ruins of San Domingos. The old convent, built between the 14th and 15th centuries, is one of the most important monuments of the Pontevedra's historical and artistic heritage.
The only elements that have been preserved from the original construction are the five-apse chevet, exceptional in the Galician Gothic style, part of the southern wall of the church and the entrance to the chapterhouse of the convent, founded around 1282. The Ruins, that are part of the Museum of Pontevedra, have a large collection of shields, guild tombstones and different sculptures.
Vista Alegre, Vilagarcía de Arousa
It is situated in the very heart of the town of Vilagarcía de Arousa, and is connected to the majestic manor house Pazo de Vista Alegre by a large arch. In fact, the whole complex is listed as a Historic and Artistic Monument. The 17th-century abbey used to be the residence of the Order of the Augustinian Recollect Sisters.
The Convent of Vista Alegre was built a century later than the pazo on the grounds of a former Chapel built in honour of Saint Christopher, and the construction works were commissioned by Fernando de Andrade Soutomaior y Caamaño, in the 17th century. One of the most important modifications was the move of one of the pazo towers to the convent.
Santa Clara, Pontevedra
This convent, located outside the old wall of the town of Pontevedra, was founded in the 13th century and became the residence of a community of nuns of the Order of Saint Claire. Inside its walls, there is a beautiful cloister with a garden in the shape of a cross, a cruceiro (stone cross) and a fountain which resembles the one found in the square Praza da Ferrería.
It has a Gothic church from the late 14th century with a polygonal apse higher than the nave, with a single vault, and altarpieces built in the Baroque style. It houses elements from a former Templar convent, built on the same grounds and no longer existing. One of the most remarkable altarpieces, built in the Churrigueresque style, dates back to the 18th century.
San Bieito, A Guarda
This Benedictine convent, close to the famous archaeological site of Santa Trega - one of the gems of As Rías Baixas - , was founded in 1558 by the Ozores de Sotomayor brothers in the town of A Guarda to create a religious community for all relatives with a religious vocation. Other women of faith who would like to participate in this spiritual retreat would also be accepted.
The Bishop of the Diocese of Tui, Diego de Torquemada, accepted this and began the construction of the convent and the church, which would finish in 1561. Currently, it serves as a hotel and it houses a cloister, an original chapel and a library with 16th-century books as well as an important collection of sculpture and ceramics.
San Francisco Convent, Pontevedra
It is thought that this Franciscan convent was founded by Saint Francis of Assisi during his pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, in 1214, along the Portuguese Way, but there is no documentary evidence about that. This masterpiece of Gothic art, built between the 14th and 15th centuries, has a Latin cross plan with a single nave, wood ceiling and one chevet with three polygonal apses. Its façade has a big rose window from the Modernism, and although it underwent some alterations, still preserves some original elements.
Inside this Historic and Artistic Monument, on the left of the high altar, we can find the tombs of the historic troubadour and Admiral Paio Gómez Chariño, and of two noble married couples which may date from the 13th century or early 14th century. The sculpture of the Nazareno, from the 19th century, and different mural paintings, from the 16th and 17th centuries, also stand out.
San Diego de Canedo, Ponteareas
This convent was built on the grounds of the old 15th-century Galician manor house Pazo dos Sarmiento, a noble family who also owned other historical buildings in the province of Pontevedra, such as the fortress in Salvaterra do Miño and the Castle of Sobroso. Franciscans began to restore it. First, the church, and later the pazo, which was turned into a convent.
The complex has a convent church dating from 1777, with a Latin cross plan and three naves, and a simple small cloister, built in the 18th century. It is also worth admiring the stonework of its walls and the façade of the church of San Diego de Canedo, both built using stone from the original building.
One of the meninas from the international painting by Velázquez, namely Agustina Sarmiento, was born in the Convent of Canedo.
San Bieito de Pereira, Cuntis
The Convent of San Bieito de Pereira, which used to be the residence of the cloistered order of Benedictine nuns, is located in the centre of the town and is surrounded by a beautiful landscape. It is worth seeing the large gate, topped by a stone cross and a pair of pinnacles, and the building with a 19th century neoclassical façade featuring the statue of Saint Benedicte.
In the atrium, from where one can see the church and the priest’s house, there is a cruceiro (stone cross) with a statue of the Virgin with a dagger in her heart. Its base is decorated with a Baroque peto de ánimas (sculptural elements linked to rituals that are usually found in places of worship).
Inside the church, in the high altar, which was built on the model of Bernini's colonnade in St. Peter's, in the Vatican, one can admire several rich religious scenes, such as the image of Saint Benedict and his sister Saint Scholastica, or the popular Demo de Pereira, a sculpture depicting Saint Michael killing Satan.
Dominican Convent in Baiona
This convent of the Dominican religious order, which is still the residence for cloistered nuns, is one of the most emblematic buildings in the old town of Baiona. It was founded by Doña Mayor Fernández Acuña in 1547 and was built on the grounds of an old 13th-century building.
The building complex, built in granite, consists of a chapel, a convent, an orchard and a farm. The Baroque altarpiece in the high altar of the chapel is devoted to the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the patron saint of Baiona.