Living a multisensory experience will be possible if you visit some of the towers of the rich fortified heritage in the province of Pontevedra. Impressive buildings, witness to the passage of time and the continuous invasions and attacks suffered by the lands in As Rías Baixas. Their remains will take you back into the past, into the times of the power struggles, while enjoying the breathtaking landscapes and the rich wildlife of their surroundings.
Towers of Oeste (Catoira)
An important defensive construction that was used to protect the land against the enemies’ attacks. It was built in the 9th century, by order of the King Alfonso V, on the grounds of a pre-Roman settlement known as Castro das Torres, dating back to the 2nd and 1st centuries BC. Originally, the defensive complex, known as Towers of Oeste, consisted of seven large towers lying on both banks of the Ulla River. Only two of them and a chapel have survived until today, and they, restored in 1970, are listed as a National Artistic Monument. They are internationally known for the famous festival Romaría Viquinga, held on the first Sunday of August in the surroundings of the towers, in the town of Catoira. The event, declared Festival of International Tourist Interest, is a re-enactment of the Viking’s landing and of the encounters between the invaders and the locals.
Tower of San Sadurniño (Cambados)
It stands in the islet A Figueira, in the coastal neighbourhood of Santo Tomé, in the town of Cambados. It dates back to the 8th and 9th centuries AD, and today, only the remnants of two walls of a tower stand. It is known as Tower of San Sadurniño because of the devotion to the saint. It was destroyed by the Normans, and later rebuilt in the 11th century by the Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela, Diego Gelmírez. Due to its strategic location, it was used to protect the Ría de Arousa and the city of Santiago de Compostela against the enemies’ attacks, by setting bonfires to warn the nearby fortresses, as the Towers of Oeste or the ones in A Lanzada. The complex was partially destroyed after the Irmandiño Revolts in 1467, and later, the earthquake that devastated the Iberian Peninsula in 1755, would leave the building in its current condition.
Tower of a Lanzada
The Tower of Lanzada is the only remnant of an old fortress built on the remains of a lighthouse of Phoenician or Roman origin. It was commissioned by order of the bishop Sisnando in the 10th century to protect the Ría de Arousa.
It was part of a defensive system, together with the Towers of Oeste and San Sadurniño, used to fight the Viking and Norman incursions. It also witnessed the battles between the Queen Doña Urraca and the Archbishop Gelmírez, until it was finally destroyed by the Arabs in the 13th century. Afterwards, it was rebuilt, and later destroyed again after five days of struggle between the Irmandiños and Pedro Madruga and his allies. A Lanzada Chapel is located nearby, well known for the fertility rite that is performed there, one of the oldest in Galicia.
Tower of Alarma in Barciela (Forcarei)
TheTower Alarma of Barciela,, also known as Torre Vella or Torre de Castrelo, was declared Cultural Interest Site in 1949. It dates back to the late 15th century or the early 16th century, and it was part of an old fortress destroyed during the Irmandiño Revolts in 1468. It stands 10 metres and was once used solve the conflicts among locals and to warn about the enemies’ attacks during the French invasion and the Carlist Wars. It is made up of three bodies: a rectangular one with a vaulted niche, one with the bells and where the fire was set as a warn sign, and a façade that originally included a pinnacle.
Tower of Cira (Silleda)
The origins of the tower are not clear, although some theories suggest that it may have been built by order of Bernardo Xoán de Deza in the 11th century, and later refurbished by the Count Bermundo Suárez in the early 12th century, with the Archbishop Gelmírez permission. Tower of Cira belonged to different noble families, and it witnessed the conflict between Doña Urraca and the Church of Santiago de Compostela. Originally, it was 12 metres high, but the Irmandiño Revolts in the 15th century and the passage of time would cause its gradual deterioration until reaching its current condition.
Tower of Cálago (Vilanova de Arousa)
It was used to alert of invaders’ attacks in the Ría de Arousa. Tower of Cálago is the only remnant of an old monastery founded in the 8th century by San Fructuoso, also known as San Cipriano de Cálago. It was continuously attacked by the Normans and by Almanzor in his incursion towards Santiago de Compostela. The tower has a square floor plan and no ornamentation, and it keeps some ashlar stones, which used to be a climbing ladder. It is tangible evidence of the existence of a defensive system in As Rías Baixas in a time of constant attacks and struggles, when this type of constructions were essential.
Interpretation Centre of the Archiepiscopal Towers of Pontevedra
The vestiges of the Archiepiscopal Towers of Pontevedra are the only remnants of a primitive twelfth-century castle that managed to survive the Irmandiño Revolts, but not the English attacks or the conflicts between Pedro Madruga and the Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela, Alonso de Fonseca. Today, it is an interpretation centre that shows this emblematic historical complex, discovered while digging to build an underground car park. It is a museum of around 715 m2 that includes audio-visual guides that lead you in a time travel to discover Pontevedra in the medieval times.
Tower of Tebra (Tomiño)
Built, in 1478, in the place of Outeiro, in the town of Tomiño, by the noble Pedro Álvarez de Soutomayor, best known as Pedro Madruga, the tower of Tebra was destroyed during the confrontations between this noble and the Catholic Monarchs. Shortly after, in 1532, Álvaro Suárez de Deza undertook the construction of a new tower to replace the defensive complex, by order of Joanna, Queen of Castile, popularly known as Joanna the Mad. This 4-storey strong tower is 8 metre high and it was built in a Renaissance style. Today, it is a private residence.
Tower of Fornelos (Crecente)
Close to the border between Portugal and Spain and by the Miño River, the Tower of Fornelos was, according to the legend, part of a fortress built in the 9th century (its first written evidence dates from 1158) on the grounds of a Templar Monastery. Due to its privileged location, this construction witnessed many battles during the Portuguese War of Independence. During the Irmandiño Revolts, the Fornelos Castle was destroyed. Later, it was rebuilt by Pedro Madruga, who would keep the Bishop of Tui, Don Diego de Muros, imprisoned in the tower, as he was an ally of the Catholic Monarchs and his sworn enemy. Today, some of the ashlar walls and part of the tower are the only remnants of the 19-metre high original building.
Tower of Borraxeiros (Agolada)
Lying at the boundary between the provinces of Pontevedra and Lugo, the Pazo de A Torre or Pazo de Borraxeiros still keeps the remains of a medieval tower which was part of a walled fortress destroyed in 1467 during the Irmandiño Revolts. The original building was owned by Vasco López de Ulloa and, later, by Lope Sánchez de Ulloa, the first Count of Altamira. During the reign of Felipe II of Spain, in the 17th century, the fortress was rebuilt on the grounds of the former building and mostly using its stones. Today, it is a two-storey stately building flanked by two towers, one of them dating back to the medieval times.
Medieval tulla of Fafián (Rodeiro)
According to some historians, the origin of the medieval ashlar tower tulla of Fafián was first documented in the late 16th century. This old tower belonged to the Counts of Maceada, and in the 18th century, was used as a tax collection building and as a grain storage facility. There, peasants used to give the lords part of their farm produce. Today, this perfect ashlar tower keeps three of the original four walls, the stairs and the double arched-windows.