Majestic. Stony. Historical. Such are the works of religious architecture that have left their mark on the province of Pontevedra and its heritage, of priceless value. As Rías Baixas are filled with spirituality as it is evidenced by the large number of monasteries and churches that can be found in the province of Pontevedra.
San Lourenzo de Carboeiro, Silleda
In the town of Silleda, nestled in a beautiful valley by the Deza River, you can visit one of the jewels of the Romanesque in Galicia, the Monastery of San Lourenzo de Carboeiro. It was built on the grounds of the old shrine known as Égica and was founded by Count Gonzálo and Countess Doña Teresa at the end of the 10th century.
Its heyday was between the 11th and the 12th centuries, when the church, clearly influenced by the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, was built. The main nave of the church has three sections and the capitals of its engaged columns present some vegetal motifs. The eastern façade, perhaps the most impressive of this temple, presents a three apse-chapel on a large pedestal.
Santa María de Aciveiro, Forcarei
Near O Candán Hill, in the town of Forcarei, you can visit this old Romanesque monastery, which used to belong to the Cistercian Order. It was built in 1135, commissioned by the King Alphonse VII. Its style follows the standards of this order, since its rooms - kitchen, refectory, scriptorium, chapter house, stables and monastic cells - are arranged around the cloister.
The monastery, which is listed as an Asset of Cultural Interest and was declared Historic and Artistic Monument, has two beautiful gardens and a church, which has the floor of a basilica and is divided into three naves and three apses in the Romanesque style. The door to an old Romanesque factory can be found in the northern wall of the building. The sober façade of the church, with semi-circular apses, and fully restored in the 18th century, presents an image of the Virgin with the Child on the tympanum.
Moreover, inside the church, a false triforium - 36 metres long and 12 metres high - stands out. Its columns are beautifully decorated with capitals bearing different motifs and in the altarpiece of the temple The Last Supper is recreated. The monastery was completely renovated and today serves as a hotel complex.
San Xoan de Poio, Pontevedra
The municipality of Poio, which borders the town of Pontevedra and offers beautiful views over the ría, has one of the benchmarks of the religious architecture in the province of Pontevedra: the Monastery of San Xoan, which may date back to 942. The complex comprises two buildings: an old Benedictine monastery and a Mercedarian convent. The monastery has two cloisters: the so-called of the Proccessions - from the 16th century - and the one known as of the Cruceiro (stone cross), built in the 18th century.
Renaissance and baroque styles are combined in the church, where one should not miss the altarpiece of the high altar, built in 1735, decorated with images of mercedarians, of the Virgin of Mercy and Saint John Baptist, and the altarpiece of the chapel of Christ which houses the sepulchre of Santa Trahamunda
The monastery is surrounded by a beautiful garden which boasts the largest hórreo (typical Galician granary house) in Galicia and a stairway in the Baroque style, belonging to the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy.
San Salvador de Lérez, Pontevedra
The Monastery of San Salvador de Lérez, which dates back to the 9th century, presents both baroque and neoclassical elements. The monastery, of Benedictine origin, was renovated at different times through history. In the 17th century, the monastery was extended to become the School of Arts and Philosophy
From its original construction, the monastery currently preserves the stairway, the courtyard and part of the cloister. The baroque façade shows an image of Saint Benedict, who is honoured every year on 11 July in the procession of San Bieito de Lérez, declared Festival of Tourist Interest in Galicia.
Santa María da Armenteira, Meis
Situated close to the Castrove Hill, in the town of Meis, the Monastery of A Armenteira is surrounded by nature. It was taken over by Cistercians in the 12th century, when the church - the only element preserved nowadays of the former monastery - was built.
The rose window on the façade and the 16th-century cloister, with semi-circular arches and a rib vault, stand out. Structurally, the buttresses separate the three naves, with semi-circular apses. The legend says that the knight Ero of the court of King Alphonse VII decided to erect the monastery after he had had a dream in which the Virgin asked him to build it in order to redeem himself for not being able to have children with his wife.
Since 1989, a small community of Cistercian nuns is living in the monastery. They have carried out a magnificent work for the conservation of this monastery, which is also works as an inn.
Santa María de Oia
This 12th-century Benedictine monastery, which belonged to the Cistercian Order, is listed as an Asset of Cultural Interest. It is located in a very privileged spot, very close to the Atlantic Ocean. Regarding its architectural elements, they belong to the Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque styles. The sacristy, the cloister, the monastic rooms, the library, the tower or the façade of the church stand out.
The Romanesque church has a Latin cross plan. The star vault, which encloses the 16th-century choir, and the 17th-century Mannerist style main altarpiece stand out. The façade of the temple and the bell tower, both in the Baroque style, date back to the 18th century.
San Salvador de Camanzo, Vila de Cruces
This Benedictine monastery in Vila de Cruces was founded in the 10th century by Count Gonzalo and Countess Teresa. In the heyday of the castle, in the 12th century, in 1166, when the construction of the Monastery of Carboeiro was about to finish, a church with a basilica plan with three naves and three apses was built. On the façade, the figure of the Holy Saviour can be still admired on the tympanum.
The only remains from the old monastery, declared Asset of Cultural Interest, are the arcade of the chapterhouse, made up of semi-circular arches resting on two columns decorated with leaves and balls.
San Pedro de Tenorio, Cotobade
The origin of the monastery of San Pedro de Tenorio, in Cotobade, dates back to the 10th century, as it is written in some documents from 1073 kept in the Monastery of San Salvador de Lérez. The only Romanesque elements of this monastery, which belonged to the Benedictine Order, are the old cloister and the eastern part of the church as well as some pieces such as an oculus, which once was the façade rose window.
The Baroque church, built on the grounds of a former Romanesque one, dates from the 18th century. The 16th-century two-storey cloister has a rectangular floor plan built in the classic Baroque style and three wings. Surrounding the church is a beautiful orange tree garden.
San Pedro de Ansemil, Silleda
The Monastery of San Pedro de Ansemil, contemporary with the Monastery of San Lourenzo de Carboeiro, dating from the 9th and 10th century, was inhabited by Benedictine nuns. Two chapels, one Romanesque and the other one Gothic, define the old church.
The Romanesque chapel, with a basilica plan, consists of three naves and pilasters separating three sections. The main façade stands out for the motifs decorating the four capitals: one with two lions, two of them with vegetal motifs and, the last one, a depiction of a decapitation.
Adjacent to the Romanesque is the Gothic chapel in honour of Saint Ann, also known as the Capela Señorial dos Deza because it houses the sepulchre of the knight Don Diego Gómez de Deza, which dates from 1341. Above the main door, there is an image of the Virgin with the Child, which is popularly known as "La Virgen de la Leche". In addition, the corbels, which have different motifs, stand out.
San Pedro de Vilanova de Dozón, O Mosteiro
The remains of this old convent, with a perfectly preserved Romanesque church, are located in the parish of Santa María de Dozón. There is evidence that in the 12th century this convent was founded by Guntroda Suarez in her lands for the Benedictine nuns.
It has a very peculiar arrangement: a single nave with a rectangular floor plan, connected to a semi-circular apse by a straight section. It consists of three façades and a semi-circular apse divided into five sections supported by two pairs of columns and a straight section framed by pilasters. The southern façade used to house the old monastery. Today, this austere and simple construction is unfurnished.
San Bartolomé de Rebordáns, Tui
San Bartolomé de Rebordáns is found near the cathedral of Tui. First, it was a Benedictine monastic church and later, until the 15th century, belonged to the Augustinian Order. In the 11th and 12th centuries, it was the archbishopric and Cathedral of the town of Tui.
The temple, which replaced a previous pre-Romanesque one, was built using Galician granite. In the 12th century, the building was renovated following the style of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Later, in the 18th century, the Romanesque façade was replaced by the current one. Its most distinguished features are the apse-chapels with capitals, which are preserved from the original structure.
Inside, there are murals depicting different scenes, such as the beheading of Saint John the Baptist and Herod's supper as well as several images of the Passion of Christ, painted around 1600 in the Serveira family’s workshop.