Medieval castles in Galicia

Ribadavia Castle

Ribadavia Castle, sitting at what is the unofficial entry point to the old town, has relics dating back as far as the 9th century, but the main structure was erected during the 15th century at the behest of the then Count of Ribadavia. It was abandoned in the 17th century when the counts moved to the palace adjacent to main square of Ribadavia.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Ribadavia, Spain

Monterreal Fortress

Monterreal Fortress is located on the Monte Boi peninsula, also know as Monterreal. This site has been known over the past 2000 years as the walled precinct. Pre-Christian civilisations such as the Celts, the Phoenicians and the Romans lived here in the past. During the present time, the place was occupied by many different people and it suffered a number of attacks and modifications. The village of Baiona was site here d ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Baiona, Spain

Torres de Oeste

Oeste Towers (Torres de Oeste) is located at the head of the Ría de Arousa. The towers remaining today are the ruins of Castellum Honesti. In the 9th century, King Alfonso III of Leon built the castle as a defense against Viking attacks. The two remaining towers are from this period, and have a pre-Roman style. Pre-Roman ceramics and bronze tools have been discovered at the site. Two centuries later, King Alfonso V ...
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Catoira, Spain

Lanzada Castle Ruins

Lanzada Castle dates from the c. 960 AD and it was built to the grounds of Phoenician or Roman lighthouse. The castle was built to protect the area against Viking and Norman raids and later for Moorish pirates. It was conquered by Irmandiño revolts and destroyed in 1467. Today one hermit and and part of the keep remains.
Founded: c. 960 AD | Location: A Lanzada, Spain

Monastery of San Vicente do Pino

Above the plain of Monforte de Lemos rises a small hill which overlooks its entire expanse. This was the site chosen in the 10th century for building what would subsequently become the current monastery. It is also said that this was the location for the well-known Castrum Dactonium, of the Celtic Lemavos tribe, mentioned by the historians Ptolemy and Pliny the Elder. Construction of the current San Vicente del Pino mona ...
Founded: 10th century AD | Location: Monforte de Lemos, Spain

Castro Caldelas Castle

The typical Galician noble fortress in Castro Caldelas with medieval origins has been splendidly conserved and restored and today functions as a library, cultural centre and exhibition venue. The castle originally belonged to the House of the Counts of Lemos, and became part of the House of Alba in the 18th century. It was built in the 14th century as a fortress with a purely military function, and was renovated in the 1 ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Castro Caldelas, Spain

Monterrei Castle

Monterrei Castle is located a high part of the valley, near the town of Verín. It was built in the 12th century by Alfonso Henríquez. It was extremely important in the epoch of Peter the Cruel. In the 16th century it was used by Philip the Handsome for a meeting with Cardinal Cisneros. It was built from stone with evenly dressed ashlars. The most notable exterior features are the two towers: the Ladies Tower and the Kee ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Monterrei, Spain

Soutomaior Castle

Built in the 12th century by Pedro Álvarez de Soutomaior it is one of the most important castles in Southern Galicia. Its origins can be traced back to the reign of Alfonso VII, when a military construction was built in a strategic location in the town of Soutomaior. On a hill at 119 metres above sea level at the bottom of the Ría de Vigo, the castle was near the coast but protected against the sea incursions of the Nor ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Soutomaior, Spain

Vimianzo Castle

Vimianzo Castle construction began in the 13th century and was completed during the 14th and 15th centuries. It is in an excellent state of preservation. Its walls are surrounded by a moat over which a drawbridge is lowered. The building was constructed in a polygonal design with four towers and an arms courtyard. Its walls, almost two metres thick, withstood numerous attacks during the Irmandiñas (Brotherhoods) Wars. It ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Vimianzo, Spain

Nogueirosa Castle

Built in a strategic position on a crag, Nogueirosa Castle (or Andrade Castle) is a small fortress but one with magnificent views. From the keep there are extensive views of the mouth of the Eume and virtually all of the Ría de Ares y Betanzos. It was built in the 13th century.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Pontedeume, Spain

Sobroso Castle

Due to its strategic position, the Sobroso castle was known as 'the key of the Kingdom of Galicia'. The name of the Castle, and the village itself, comes from the Latin SUBEROSUM, in reference to the "sobreiras", Quercus suber or cork trees that once surrounded it. The oldest reference to Sobroso Castle dates back to 1096. The castle that stands today dates back to the 14th or 15th century constr ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: A Pena, Spain

Castle da Rocha Forte

Castle da Rocha Forte was built by Archbishop Juan Arias around 1240 and has since served as an archbishop's and cabildo's residence, witnessing much of the medieval history of Santiago. In the year 1255 appears the first documentary mention of the fortress in relation to the capitular constitutions of Juan Arias. The castle was situated in a strategic location by road from Padrón village to Santiago. Pilgrims followed t ...
Founded: c. 1240 | Location: Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Naraío Castle

Built on solid rock inside the spectacular protected area Xuvia-Castro, Naraío Castle dates from 14th century. Neverthless, it is said that the remains we can see nowadays are the result of the reconstruction of an ancient fortress. The precious castle was an unconquerable fortress. To get to the tower of homage we have to cross two doors where can still be seen the Andrade´s coat of arms. Around the tower were found se ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: San Saturnino, Spain

Torres de Altamira

Torres de Altamira is a ruined castle in Brión, connected to powerful Moscoco family. It was built in the 9th century AD and rebuilt in 1471. In the 17th century it was in bad condition and today mainly towers remain.
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Brión, Spain

Maceda Castle

Originally built in the late 11th century, the Maceda Castle that we see today is a mixture of very different styles of construction. It comprises two concentric enclosures, the newer one dates from the 16th century.  
Founded: 11th century | Location: Maceda, Spain

Castrodouro Castle

Castelo do Castrodouro is a small castle which once belonged to Pardo de Cela"s family. It dates probably from the 14th century.   
Founded: 14th century | Location: Alfoz, Spain

Moeche Castle

Moeche Castle was built in the 14th century by the Andrades Family. It has an octogonal groundplan, and its walls are 10 m high and 3 m thick. Its gatekeep is 18 m tall and it is the only part of the castle protecting its walls from the outside. It was under siege and taken by the Irmandinos uprising. The Moeche Castle has been restored recently, but in order to visit the interior of the castle, you"ll have to requ ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Moeche, Spain

Carbedo Castle

The exact age of Carbedo Castle is unkown, but it was documented first time in 1181. The last restorations were made in 1558, but the castle was abandoned soon after that.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Folgoso de Caurel, Spain

Peroja Castle

The origins of Peroja Castle are uknown. It may be built as part of the defence line in 793 by the King of Asturia. The current ruins date probably from the 13th century.
Founded: 13th century | Location: A Peroxa, Spain

Doiras Castle

Castillo de Doiras is one of the best preserved castles in Galicia. It is dated to the 15th century and has 16m high keep and curtain walls.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Lugo, Spain

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.