The province of Pontevedra
lies in the far south-west of Galicia. To the north is the
province of Corunna (A Coruña), and to the east is Lugo
and Orense (Ourense).
In the south the river Miño lies
between Pontevedra and Portugal, whereas in the west we find
the well known Rías Bajas (Lower Rías) with their
popular beaches that border on the Atlantic Ocean. The entire
province covers an area of more than 4,400 sq. km and consequently,
is the smallest of the four Galician provinces.
it is the province with the most varied scenery of all
and with the highest density of population (204 inhabitants
sq. km in 1988), most of whom are located in the areas
nearest the sea. Its climate, generally speaking, is of a subtropical
nature, with mild temperatures and an abundance of rainfall.
The capital of the province, located at the head of its ría,
has a little under 50,000 inhabitants and its origins go back
to the time of the Romans. It enjoyed its moment of greatest
importance towards the end of the Middle Ages and the start
of the Modern Era (from about the middle of the 15th c until
the middle of the 16th c). During this time it became one of
the most important cities in Galicia, especially thanks to
the great wealth brought about by the abundance of sardines
in the ría.
Pontevedra has a fine monumental heritage, with the vast majority
of its most representative constructions being located within
the old town. There are some interesting squares including
those of La Herrería (A Ferrería), Teucro, La
Leña (A Leña) and La Pedreira (A Pedreira), as
well as conventual churches such as San Francisco, Santa Clara,
and Santo Domingo. The latter are all excellent examples of
Galician - Gothic architecture, having been built during the
late 14th and early 16th c). Other monuments of interest include
the Basilica of Santa María, where we find a harmonious
combination of the late-Gothic, Manueline and Plateresque styles.
Work was begun during the late 15th and early 16th c, and was
paid for by the powerful Seamen's Guild which had very strong
links with the city; the Church of San Bartolom, which formerly
belonged to the Society of Jesus and is generally believed
to be the first example of Baroque architecture to be introduced
into Galicia. It was begun towards the end of the 17th c, and
completed in 1714, and probably contains the finest reredoses
and sculptures in the city; and finally the Shrine of La Virgen
Peregrina, a clear testimony of the passing of the Pilgrims'
Way to Santiago through Pontevedra. It was started in 1778
and was designed by Antonio Souto.
Not far from Pontevedra there is the Monastery of Lérez,
which has important remains from the 16th and 18th centuries.
Meanwhile, the Monastery of Tenorio, in the town of Cotobad
(Cotobade), has interesting 16th c cloisters.
The Provincial Museum of Pontevedra
This Museum, created in 1927 by the Provincial Council, is
today one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in
Galicia. At present it occupies five buildings: the remains
of the Church of Santo Domingo, the Palaces of Castro Monteagudo
and García Flórez (both of which date back to
the late 18th century), and lastly the Fernández López
Building (constructed in the 1960's and enlarged in the 70's).
Apart from the valuable and varied exhibits on display, ranging
from prehistoric times to the present day, the Museum is also
a very active research center. It contains interesting documentary
archives, very important graphic archives with nearly 100,000
photographs, and a magnificent library that has over 75,000
The Monastery of Poyo and Combarro
The Monastery of Poyo (Poio) dates back to the high Middle
Ages, when it was in the hands of the Benedictine Order. However,
it was left abandoned in 1835, and it was not until 1890 that
it was once more inhabited, this time by friars of the Order
of La Merced.
The structure consists of sections that date mainly from the
16th to 18th centuries. One of the most outstanding parts of
the church, a fine example of the late Galician Classicist
style with Baroque elements, which was completed in 1708 and
was designed by Fray Gabriel de las Casas. Yet another is the
processional cloister, dating from the 16th c, which was the
work of the Portuguese architect Mateo López.
The Monastery has one of the most important libraries in Galicia,
containing, amongst other treasures, the extraordinary legacy
of the poet Rey Soto.
Not far from the Monastery of Poyo stands the small town of
Combarro. Its streets, houses and buildings have adapted themselves
to both the demands of the life of the sea and that of the
land, and the complete ensemble is one of the most interesting
sites in Galicia.
Just a few kilometers from Combarro we find Sangenjo (Sanxenxo),
one of the most important tourist resorts on the Pontevedra
The Monastery of Armenteira
This Monastery has been on record since 1151 and has strong
links with San Ero, known to be one of the characters related
to the medieval legend of the visionary monk.
From about 1161 to the expulsion of the monks in 1835, the
Monastery of Armenteira (Meis) belonged to the Cistercian Order.
At the present time, a group of nuns from the Convent of Alloz
in Navarre are preparing to move in and inhabit the place once
The medieval Church of Armenteira, which was begun in 1167
and completed around 1225, remains practically intact today.
It constitutes one of the finest examples of Cistercian architecture
in all Spain, and has such an exceptional characteristic as
a ribbed dome which covers the central section of the transept
- a clearly Mudéjar trait. The remaining buildings that
go to form the Monastery are of perhaps lesser interest and
date from between the 16th and 18th c.
El Salnes Valley
This valley lies mainly between the Arosa (Arousa) and Pontevedra
rías and takes in several towns and villages, including
Caldas de Reyes (Caldas de Reis), Cambados, Villagarcía
de Arosa (Villagarcía de Arousa) and Villanueva de Arosa
(Vilanova de Arousa). There is also a wide selection of monuments
contained within the valley, particularly those from the Romanesque
period, and examples include the Parish Church of San Martín
de Sobrán (Villagarcía de Arosa) and the Church
of San Vicente in the Monastery of Nogueira (Meis). Baroque
monuments to be found are the Convent of Vista Alegre and the
O Rial mansion (Villagarcía de Arosa), as well as the
Rua Nova mansion at Villanueva de Arosa which has strong ties
with the writer Valle-Inclán and has now been converted
into a hotel. There is also no lack of Gothic monuments, such
as the Church of Santa Mariña at Cambados, and Renaissance
architecture is well represented by Vista Alegre Palace and
the Parish Church of Santiago de Carril (Villagarcía
de Arosa), and Fefiñanes Palace at Cambados.
The peninsula of E Grove (O Grove) joins up to El Salnés
valley in the west and gives access to the Island of La Toja
(A Toxa) via a bridge. This is one of the most important tourist
resorts in the province of Pontevedra.
A few kilometers outside the valley we find the so-called "Towers
of the West" (Catoira). They stand at the mouth of the
river Ulla and would appear to be of Roman origin. During the
time of the Bishops Sisnando, Cresconio and especially Gelmírez
(at the beginning of the 12th c), they underwent extensive
alterations and enlargements.
The Morrazo Peninsular
With the Atlantic Ocean lying to the west and the Pontevedra
and Vigo rías to the north and south respectively, the
densely populated Morrazo Peninsula takes in the small towns
and villages of Marín, Bueu, Cangas, Moaña and
The Peninsula has an extraordinarily rich archaeological heritage,
including some particularly important remains from the Megalithic
period (e.g. the Chan de Armada Dolmen near Marín and
Vilaboa, and the Chan de Arquiña Dolmen at Moaña),
and the Bronze Age (especially the archaeological sites known
as O Fixon and Lavapés, both at Moaña, and the
Mogor rock drawings at Marín. From an architectural
point of view, there is a fine selection of Romanesque churches,
including Santo Tom de Piñeiro (Marín), Santa
María de Cela (Bueu), San Andrés de Hio (Cangas),
San Martín (Moaña) and another San Martín
(Vilaboa). Baroque constructions are the Parish Church of Santa
María de Darbo and the western section of the Church
of San Salvador de Coiro (both in Cangas), the Santa Cruz and
O Cuadro country mansions (the former at Bueu and the latter,
which also preserves some valuable remains from earlier periods,
at Marín). The most outstanding structure on the Morrazo
Peninsula is undoubtedly the Collegiate Church of Santiago
(St. James) at Cangas. In the same way as the Church of Santa
María at Pontevedra, it has great ties with the powerful
Seamen's Guild, and constitutes one of the great Galician creations
of the 16th c. The principles of late-Gothic architecture are
seen to be fused with purely Renaissance traits. Also at Cangas,
and not far from the Church of San Andrés de Hío,
there is a magnificent transept, built during the second half
of the 19th c by the famous architect A. Cerviño.
Another interesting construction, this time at Mar, is the
Naval School building which was officially opened in 1943.
Vigo, with 271,128 inhabitants, is the most highly populated
city in the province. It is an important industrial and fishing
center, and its most rapid growth and development have taken
place during the last 150 years.
Vigo has a magnificent archaeological and artistic heritage.
Included in the first category is the archaeological site known
as Monte del Castro (Monte do Castro), which is dated sometime
between the 2nd c B.C. and the 3rd or 4th c A.D.
Thanks to the excavations carried out in the last few years
we now know a great deal about what life was really like here
all those centuries ago. From an artistic point of view, the
list of constructions is quite long and includes all those
contained within the city's "old quarter", the Romanesque
Churches of Santiago de Bembrive, Santa María de Castrelos
and San Salvador de Corujo (Coruxo), the mansions of La Pastora
(A Pastora) and Castrelos - the latter having a beautifully
maintained garden following a French design, the Neo-classical
Collegiate Church of Santa María (begun in 1815 and
designed by Melchor de Prado), and also a magnificent series
of eclectic and Modernist buildings.
The Municipal Museum of Vigo
This is located within the Quiñones de León
Mansion (Castrelos) and is divided into three sections: Archaeology,
the History of the City, and Art. The first section exhibits
those remains that were found in the city, in particular from
the excavations at Monte del Castro. The second section contains
objects relating to the War of Independence, whereas the third
section has an outstanding collection of the 20th c Galician
painting, which has recently been added to with works that
where donated by the artist Laxeiro. The latter are exhibited
in a separate building which bears the artist's name.
Bayona and the Miñor Valley
The town of Bayona (Baiona) is today one of the most thriving
tourist resorts in the province of Pontevedra. During the low
Middle Ages and the beginning of the Modern Era it was very
important from a historic point of view. It was, in fact, the
first place in the Old World to learn of the discovery of America,
since on April 1st, 1493, the caravel Pinta put into port here
following the historic voyage.
Bayona has an outstanding monumental and artistic heritage.
One of its most important constructions is the old Collegiate
Church, which was completed during the latter half of the 13th
c, and preserves certain similarities to the neighbouring church
belonging to the Monastery of Oya (Oia). Inside can also be
found a fine collection of guild marks. Mention should also
be made of the Transept of La Trinidad (a late-Gothic work
dating from around the end of the 15th c and the beginning
of the 16th c), the Chapel of Santa Liberata (18th c), and
in particular Monte Real castle, which has now been converted
into a Parador.
Outside the town we find the enormous Shrine of the Virgin
of La Roca, a work that was carried out in 1910 following a
design by Antonio Palaçios.
The remaining area of the Miñor valley takes in the
small towns of Gondomar and Nigrán. One of the most
important sites is the Visigothic Church of San Juan de Panjón
(Panxón) at Nigrán, which dates back to the latter
half of the 7th c. Close by is the Church of El Mar, built
by Antonio Paredes between 1932 and 1937. Other interesting
monuments include the Romanesque Churches of Santa Eulalia
de Donas (Gondomar) and Santiago de Parada (Nigrán);
la Ramallosa (A Ramallosa) bridge, which may have been of Roman
origin but was totally reconstructed during the low Middle
Ages; and the Cea and Urzaiz mansions (both in Nigrán),
which were built in the 18th c but have some later additions,
and those of Gondomar, La Touza (A Touza) and Villarés
( all three at Gondomar).
The Monastery of Oya (Oia)
The origins of this Monastery are somewhat confused. It would
appear that it already existed in the year 1137, although it
was in 1185, with the arrival of the Order of the Cistercians,
that it reached its most splendorous moment. The church, begun
towards the end of the 12th c and of extraordinary simplicity,
is the westernmost example of the design adopted by San Bernardo
(St. Bernard) at Clavaral Abbey. It was altered during the
18th c when the present-day façade and the west end
tower were built, and the vast majority of the other buildings
connected with the Monastery also date from this time.
Mount Santa Tecla
Mount Santa Tecla (Santa Trega), near to La Guardia (A Guarda)
in the south-western section of the province, offers magnificent
panoramic views out across the Atlantic Ocean. At its feet
flows the rive Miño.
The mountain itself is the location of an interesting archaeological
site, work on which was begun in 1914 and then completed in
1988. The excavations have uncovered a large settlement, and
many objects found here can be seen in the Museum that has
been set up on the summit.
In the area surrounding La Guardia there are several Romanesque
churches (e.g. Santa María de Tomiño, San Vicente
de Barrantes and Santa María de Tebra, all of which
are situated in Tomiño).
Also in Tomiño the traveller may visit Tebra :Tower,
the only surviving medieval remain of what must have once been
a great 15th c fortress.
The frontier town of Tuy (Tui) lies close to the river Miño
and is one of the most attractive and picturesque places in
Galicia. It was particularly important during the Middle Ages.
Tuy also has one of the richest, most varied and surprising
historical and artistic heritages in Galicia. The most outstanding
construction without a doubt is the Cathedral, located in the
highest area of the town. Work on it began in the middle of
the 12th c, and its Romanesque traits were clearly derived
from those used on the Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela.
It was completed around the year 1225 with Gothic additions,
and during the low Middle Ages underwent several alterations.
The new west end, for example, dates from the end of the 15th
c, and the arches that link the columns in the aisles were
introduced between 1794-95 by Domingo Novás. This was
in order to solve the problems of stability which had increased
following the earthquakes suffered in Lisbon in 1755 and 1761.
The Cathedral has a magnificent collection of religious objects,
many of which are on display in the Cathedral Museum. The Cloisters,
built in the latter half of the 13th c and restored during
the 15th c, are the only ones of their kind in all Galicia
that are in a perfect state of preservation.
Apart from the Cathedral, other monuments of interest to be
found within the town include the Church of San Bartolom de
Rebordanes (Rebordans), the oldest in Tuy; the Convent of Santo
Domingo (whose Gothic church was begun in the 15th c and completed
in the 18th c); and the Chapel of San Telmo, built over the
house where, in the 13th c , the town's patron saint lived
and died. The present construction was built in the 18th c
following a design by Fray Mateo de Jes? María. The
Diocesan Museum, located not far from the Cathedral, contains
some very interesting exhibits.
Not far from Tuy we find the Mansion of San Jos de Vista Alegre,
and, in neighbouring Salceda de Caselas, those of La Picona
(A Picona), Aballe and El Pegullal (O Pegullal). The most attractive
of all of them was built in the 18th c.
The Region of El Condado
This region includes the lands situated in the south-eastern
section of the province as far as their boundary with the river
Miño. Of great archaeological interest is the so-called
Castro de Troña at Puenteareas (Ponteareas), a site
which is at present being excavated and which can be dated
from sometime between the 6th c B.C. and the 1st c A.D. In
addition there are several Romanesque churches, including that
of San Pedro de Angoares at Puenteareas. The Gothic church
of the old Cistercian Monastery of Santa María de la
Franqueira (A Franqueira) at La Caniza (A Caniza) dates mainly
from the middle of the 14th c. Its main image is brought out
during the festive celebrations of a very popular romería
(religious gathering). Other Gothic constructions include Sobroso
Castle (Mondariz), a fortress which was closely connected with
the powerful Sarmiento family and played an important role
in the events that took place in Galicia during the end of
the Middle Ages. It has recently been restored and will soon
be the location of the Museum of El Condado.
Constructions dating from more modern times include the fortifications
of Salvatierra de Miño, which were undertaken towards
the middle of the 17th c during the war with Portugal, and
the 18th c Mansion of Barcia de Mera (Covelo), whose entrance
doorway is one of the most outstanding of its genre in all
Tierra de Montes
This region takes in the towns and villages of Cerdedo and
Forcarey (Forcarei), as well as the neighbouring La Estrada
(A Estrada), Campolameiro and Cotobad (Cotobade).
Its rich archaeological heritage is typified by the abundance
of rock drawings to be encountered, most of which date back
to the Bronze Age, and are particularly common in and around
Campolameiro and Cotobad, close to the river Lérez.
From an artistic point of view this area preserves some interesting
Romanesque churches, in particular the one of Santa María
de Acibeiro at Forcarey (Forcarei). This belonged to a Monastery
that was first documented in 1135 and became a part of the
Cistercian Order in 1225. The remaining buildings connected
with the monastery, today lying for the most part in ruins,
date from the 17th and 18th centuries. It was during this time
that the region of Tierra de Montes enjoyed a renewed importance
and provided many of the great artists and master builders.
The Regions of Tierra de Deza and Tierra de Tradeza
These two regions, located in the north-eastern section of
the province, take in the towns and villages of Golada (Agolada),
Dozón, Lalín, Rodeiro, Silleda, and Villa de
Cruces (Villa de Cruces), with Lalín being the largest
and most important of them all.
These regions are particularly outstanding for their monumental
heritage, especially in the form of Romanesque constructions.
Fine examples include the Churches of San Pedro de Ansemil
(Silleda), which also preserves some magnificent pre-Romanesque
remains; San Salvador de Camanzo (Villa de Cruces); Santiago
de Breixa (Silleda); San Pedro de Dozón (Dozón);
San Esteban de Carboentes (Rodeiro); San Andrés de Orrea
(Golada); San Miguel de Goyás (Goiás, Lalín);
and in particular San Lorenzo de Carboeiro (Silleda). The latter
formed part of the Monastery which was founded in the 10th
c. Work began in 11171 along clear Burgundian lines and the
completed construction is deemed to be one of the finest works
of its time. Its portals bear many similarities with the "Portal
of La Gloria" in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
There is also an abundance of Baroque constructions to be
encountered in the area. Those of a religious nature include
the Shrine of Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados at
Abades (Silleda), which was built during the latter half of
the 18th c following a design by Melchor de Rici. Civic constructions
come in the form of a list of 18th c mansion houses including
the ones of Borraxeiros (Golada), Donfreán, Des and
Linares (all three at Lalín), Camba and Trasulfe (both
at Rodeiro), and finally Paizás at Silleda.
Tierras de la Estrada
The region of Tierra de la Estrada, lying close to the river
Ulla, also preserves a magnificent architectural heritage of
both the Romanesque and Baroque styles. The former style includes
such churches as San Jorge de Codeseda, Santa María
de Frades, Santa María de Lionil, San Pedro and Santo
Tomás de Ancorados, San Esteban de Oca, San Martín
de Riob, and Santiago de Tabeir. The baroque style is represented
by the Mansion of Oca, one of the most outstanding of its kind
in Galicia, which was built during the 18th c. Its graceful
chapel contains three reredoses with sculptures by Jos Gambino,
whereas its impressive gardens are a harmonious combination
of stone, water and plants, many of which are unique to Galicia.
The Pilgrim's way to Santiago de Compostela
The different regions that go to form the province of Pontevedra
were crossed by those pilgrims who, during the Middle Ages,
were making for Santiago de Compostela from Portugal. This
'Portuguese Way', although less well known than its French
counterpart, was also of great importance. Its route follows
the present-day itineraries from Tuy to Santiago, passing through
Porrino, Redondela, Pontevedra, Caldas de Reyes (Caldas de
Reis) and Puetecesures (Pontecesures).
The province of Pontevedra preserves a large amount of fortified
constructions, many of which have already been described in
earlier pages of this guide. One fine example is Soto Mayor
(Soutomaior) Castle, located in the town of the same name.
It was closely linked with Pedro Madruga, a key figure in Galicia
during the latter years of the 15th c. Although it dates back
to the 14th and 15th centuries, it was extensively altered
from 1870 onwards when the Marquis of La Vega de Armijo decided
to convert it into a summer residence. Finally, in 1982, it
was acquired by the local council who set about its timely
restoration. Not far from the fortress there is a large park
where several exotic species of plants and trees were planted
during the last century.
The great diversity of local cooking in this province is explained
by the great variety of regions that go to form it. Many well-established
local festivities were born out of the desire to promote the
most typical products of each region. Hence we find the "Salmón" Festivities
at La Estrada, the "Stew" Festivities at Lalín,
and the ":Baby Eel" Festivities at Tuy. Nevertheless,
like all the other Galician provinces that border on the coast,
it is shellfish and fish that take pride of place in the local
cooking of the province of Pontevedra.
Wine is another excellent product from the area. Perhaps the
most famous and respected is that known as Albariño.
The grapes are mainly cultivated in El Salnés valley.
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