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San Lourenzo de Carboeiro

In the northeast of the province of Pontevedra is the town of Silleda, through which runs the Deza River. In the parish of Carboeiro there is the monastery with the same name, in slow reconstruction, and the church, small comparing to those of the same style, is next to the river. The place is rough and the murmur of the water defines the landscape.

The beauty of this spot came first when choosing it. From above the monastery can be seen, high and almost surrounded by the meander of the river. Its foundation dates back to the second third of the 10th century, in a place owned by a noble from that period.

The first house was used to host the primitive community of Cenobites. The construction began in the 11th century, a very propitious moment because the Romanesque Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela was also under construction, what would influence in Carboeiro, but it was in the 12th century when the monastery would see its heritage constantly increased. The erection of the current church, an example of proportionality, began in the last decades of the 12th century, when the pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela were at their peak.

Before arriving to Carboeiro, we find the so-called bridge Ponte do Demo (Devil’s bridge), where assaults, murders and other crimes happened. This bridge dates from the 16th century and for centuries it was the only access road between the towns of Silleda and Vila de Cruces.

San Lorenzo de CarboeiroAerial view of the monastery
San Lorenzo de CarboeiroSan Lourenzo de Carboeiro. Ilustration by Chema Fernández Román

The church, with three naves in its western façade, has an ambulatory in the front that is separated from the high altar by a pointed arcade in its lower part. Its upper section boasts semi-circular arches, through which the light gets in. This is a sign of divine grace for those who come into the simple and rocky inside, like all Romanesque works.

In the transept there are oculus flanked to the outside by buttresses made of Galician granite. In the southern façade there is a door with double archivolt, and its wall is also reinforced with buttresses. In the outdoor front, a magnificent curved wall allows the apsidal chapels to be raised. To the north, the monks' cells and the other monastic rooms were located.

There is controversy on the origin of the monastery. It is possible that the hermit Egica, and the Count Gonzalo and the Countess Teresa founded it, as well as the Monastery of Camanzo (in Vila de Cruces), where Gonzalo is buried. In the middle of the 10th century the church was consecrated, which does not mean that it was finished (in any case it is not the current one), because it used to be started with the chevet (high altar) so that the mass could be officiated.

San Lorenzo de CarboeiroFacade of the church
San Lorenzo de CarboeiroCentral nave

In the monastery taxes were paid, sacred songs were sung, disputes were dealt with, sins were committed and people prayed and tried to earn a place in heaven. Carboeiro, as other monasteries, was the heart of farming and control of a territory which has been partly filled with villages, hamlets and towns.

It is also worth visiting the cascade of the Toxa River, located between the towns of Vila de Cruces and Silleda. Therefore, human work and nature are combined in a beautiful cultural and ecological trip.

The Monastery of Carboeiro was declared National Monument by decree on 3 June 1931.