Top Historic Sights in Ourense, Spain

Explore the historic highlights of Ourense

Ourense Cathedral

Ourense Cathedral, dedicated to St Martin, was founded in 550. The first structure was restored by Alonso el Casto. The present mainly Gothic building was raised with the support of Bishop Lorenzo in 1220. Its local patroness is Saint Euphemia. There is a silver-plated shrine, and others of St Facundus and St Primitivus. The Christ's Chapel (Capilla del Cristo Crucificado) was added in 1567 by Bishop San Francisco Triccio ...
Founded: 1220 | Location: Ourense, Spain

Ourense Provincial Archaeological Museum

The Ourense Provincial Archaeological Museum occupies the building that was the Bishop’s Palace. It is one of the best preserved civil monumental ensembles in Romanesque style, and was declared a Historic-Artistic Monument in 1931. Its structure is a faithful testimony of the development of the city, with Roman, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and modern elements. Its construction began in the 12th century and played a ...
Founded: 1895 | Location: Ourense, Spain

St. Mary's Church

The façade of St. Mary's Church, made in a restrained Baroque style (18th century), does not reveal the importance of this medieval church, located most likely in the site of the previous cathedral of Ourense. The only remains of this cathedral are some columns and some marble-like capitals preserved in the present façade and originating in the 5th or 6th century. From an inscription on the side, it is known that the ch ...
Founded: 1772 | Location: Ourense, Spain

Convent of San Francisco

In the 14th century, after the fire that destroyed the first Franciscan convent in Ourense (located in the current Mayor’s Square), the order moved to this place on the side of Montealegre Hill, where they remained until the 19th century. In 1843 the old convent was transformed into infantry headquarters (until its closure in 1984), producing numerous reforms. The most significant of them was the move of the apse and fr ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Ourense, Spain

Ponte Vella

Ponte Vella is a medieval footbridge built on Roman foundations in Ourense. At one time, it was considered to be the biggest bridge in all of Spain. The original bridge across the Minho River was built during the first century rule of Emperor Augustus though other sources state that it was built during the Trajan period. A mention is made of this bridge in the will of Doña Urraca, where it is said that it was repaired w ...
Founded: 1230 | Location: Ourense, Spain

Aquis Querquennis

Aquis Querquennis is the ruins of a Roman military camp sit along a flooded section of a river. The construction of the barracks dates back to the reign of Vespasian, around the year 75, when it was likely used as a base from which to defend newly built roads connecting other, larger roads in this remote province. The walls, arches and moat that form the foundations of this former Roman military camp can sometimes be fou ...
Founded: c. 75 AD | Location: Ourense, Spain

St. Mary in Reza

The parish church of St. Mary in Reza occupies a privileged position on the slopes of Mount Santa Ladaíña, in a place with beautiful views over river Miño. It was already mentioned in documentation from the 13th century. The Cathedral’s Treasures collection preserves the Virgin of Reza, a polychrome wood carving also from the 13th century, which also contributes to dating this church. Although Romanesque in origi ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Ourense, Spain

St. Martha’s Church

The old Velle church, although of Romanesque origin, combines many Gothic, Baroque and even modern elements. The apse is Baroque, while its interior preserves purely Romanesque elements such as the triumphal arch and the capitals on which it rests, with vegetal decoration. Both are from the 13th century. The façade has a semicircular arch decorated with high reliefs and is crowned with a steeple, used as a bell tower.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Ourense, Spain

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Broch of Gurness

The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.

The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.

The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.

The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.

Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.

At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.

In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.