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Journey To A Dream

In May 2002 my wife and I journeyed from Huddersfield in England's industrial north to rural Galicia. Join us on our journey and immerse your senses in the sights, sounds, and tastes of this remote and little known region of Spain.

Monforte de Lemos – 6 Things to do on a rainy day
10 December 2014

The town of Monforte de Lemos is situated in the Val de Lemos, a vast undulating plain in the south of Lugo province, Galicia. Regarded as the heart of the Ribeira Sacra, the town attracts national and international tourists during the long summer months. As well as being the administrative centre of the area’s denominacion de origin (a wine and food quality standard for a specific geographical area), Monforte boasts many historic monuments. Out of season, the weather is less predictable. Here are my suggestions of things to do on a rainy day.

1. Ribeira Sacra Centro de Vino

An ideal starting point for any visitor is the tourist information office. It’s located in Rua Comercio in the heart of the old town. Housed in the same building is the Ribeira Sacra Centro de Vino (Wine museum). As well as interesting exhibitions, the museum offers visitors an interactive experience and tells the story of this unique wine growing region. Within this modern facility is a laboratory used for wine testing. The Ribeira Sacra etiquette (a small wine label guaranteeing its origin) is also issued from here.

2. Torre da Homenaxe

Perched on a hilltop in the centre of Monforte is the Torre da Homenaxe or Homage Tower. Built between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries it dominates the skyline. The tower is 13 metres square with walls over 3 metres thick and stands 30 metres high. The views from the top of the tower over the town and surrounding countryside are outstanding. There are exhibitions inside including arms and furniture from the period. Visitors can also buy locally sourced handmade products.

3. Monasterio Benedictino de San Vicente del Pino

The Torre da Homenaxe shares its hilltop position with the Benedictine monastery of San Vicente del Pino. Its origins date back to the tenth century. Today’s building was constructed in the sixteenth century in the neoclassical style. Ten years ago, after extensive restoration, the monastery opened its doors to the public as a luxury Parador hotel. The cafeteria provides a wonderful location to enjoy a cup of coffee or sample a glass of local wine.

4. Colegio Nosa Señora da Antiga

Arguably, Monforte’s most architecturally impressive building is the Colegio Nosa Señora da Antiga, known locally as the Escolapios. Construction began in 1593. The building displays two perfectly symmetrical wings centred on a large domed church. Within the college is a museum featuring outstanding works of art, most famous of which are paintings by El Greco. The church features a huge altar. Commissioned in 1625 it’s almost 20 metres tall and 9 metres wide. Look closely at the semicircular domed ceiling and you’ll see the damage caused by the Lisbon earthquake of 1755.

5. Museo de Arte Sacro de la Madre Clarisas

In the seventeenth century the 7th Count of Lemos founded the convent of the Clarissa nuns. The count owned an impressive collection of sacred artefacts which he donated to the convent. From this collection the Museum of Sacred Art was formed. Today its treasures are regarded as some of the best in Spain underlining the importance of Monforte de Lemos during the Middle Ages.

6. Museo del Ferrocarril de Galicia

On the outskirts of Monforte is the Galicia Railway Museum. In 1883 King Alfonso XII opened the Madrid to A Coruña line. As a consequence, Monforte became an important railway junction. In the mid-twentieth century this responsibility was moved to the city of Ourense.  To help preserve its railroad heritage, a huge workshop was converted into a railway museum. Antique locomotives, coaches and other rolling stock are now on display.

Whatever the weather, Monforte de Lemos offers visitors many fascinating places to visit, packed with priceless artefacts and steeped in history.

Copyright © 2014 Craig Briggs

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Craig and Melanie own and operate a luxury farmhouse rental property called Campo Verde. To find out more about a stay at Campo Verde and Galicia in general, visit their website getaway-galicia

Craig’s book, Journey To A Dream, is available exclusively from Amazon, to purchase your copy click here for your national Amazon store.

Find out more about Craig, and Galicia or look him up on Facebook



Like 0        Published at 10:48   Comments (0)


Montederramo – Determined to survive
03 December 2014

Nestled in the foothills of the Sierra de San Mamede mountain range in the province of Ourense, is the town of Montederramo. Like many inland towns and villages in Galicia, its population has been in decline for many years. At the turn of the century over 4000 souls called this isolated community home, by 1981 that total had almost halved and today stands at less than 1000. This worrying trend is mirrored throughout many parts of Spain.

The town’s decline contrasts sharply with its influential status during the latter half of the Middle Ages. In 1124, Queen Teresa of Portugal granted a founding charter to Abbot Arnaldo to establish a Benedictine monastery in the area. It’s in this charter that the first written reference to the area known as the Ribeira Sacra (Rivoyra Sacrata) is made. Following the monastery’s affiliation to the Cistercian order, sometime between 1155 and 1163, it was granted many privileges by a succession of monarchs. Such were the value of these privileges that by the beginning of the 14th century Montederramo had one of the most important monasteries in Galicia. 

Its incorporation into the congregation of Castile, in 1518, represented the beginning of a period of monastic expansion. The church and its cloisters were completely replaced. The new church was built in the shape of a Latin cross; in the Herreriano style. Its three impressive naves are crowned with ribbed vaults. On the upper floor, the choir stalls have been beautifully renovated; the number of seats reflecting the church’s status. The high altar has also been painstakingly restored: carved from chestnut, it is illuminated with painted bible scenes.

The monastery has two cloisters: Claustro Reglar which became an education centre for abbots and monks and Claustro Hospederia which housed guests and pilgrims. After the Ecclesiastical Confiscations of Mendizábal (Desamortización Eclesiástica de Mendizábal) in 1835, both cloisters were sold. In common with most Spanish monasteries, this government decree to expropriate and privatise the assets of the Catholic Church led to its abandonment. A period of neglect, plundering, and partial ruin was brought to an end by the current inhabitants of the municipality.

Arrangements for viewing the monastery are quite unique and reflect the town’s personality and charm. Opposite the church, to the right of the fountain, is a nondescript building marked out by a bright-yellow Correos (Post Office) sign. It’s here that visitors will find the local ayuntamiento (town hall). To view the monastery, ask at the post office counter; if it’s closed pop up to the first floor and ask again. Don’t let these unusual arrangements put you off: you’ll find everyone is extremely helpful and very proud to show off their church.

Today the two cloisters are in private hands. In keeping with its former purpose, the Claustro Reglar is currently used as a centre of learning, to educate local children. Claustro Hospederia, is divided into private apartments and also houses the restaurant Casa Elvira (Praza 20, Montederramo, 32750 Ourense +34 988 292 019). It’s open seven days a week and serves a good selection of regional dishes including a great value menú del dia which is available Monday to Friday.

The local people of Montederramo are doing their best to preserve this isolated rural community and its historic heritage from the ravages of time and changing patterns of migration. The next time you’re in the area, why not show your support by paying them a visit.

Copyright © 2014 Craig Briggs

*************************************************************************

Craig and Melanie own and operate a luxury farmhouse rental property called Campo Verde. To find out more about a stay at Campo Verde and Galicia in general, visit their website getaway-galicia

Craig’s book, Journey To A Dream, is available exclusively from Amazon, to purchase your copy click here for your national Amazon store.

Find out more about Craig, and Galicia or look him up on Facebook



Like 1        Published at 11:23   Comments (3)


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