Church of San Xoán

Portomarín, Spain

The Church of San Xoán (or Saint John) of Portomarín is an unusual Late Romanesque temple as it is designed to be both a church and a castle and so has architectural characteristics of both buildings. As a church it has one barrel vaulted nave, a semicircular apse and all the typical decorations of Romanesque churches; these include a carved portal with archivolts, rose windows and carved capitals. As a castle its perimeter is surrounded by merlons, it has four defense towers (one at each corner) while behind it lies an adarve, a defensive street. The north west tower currently has a stork's nest with two young (2011). The church was relocated to its current position from the valley in the 1960s when the river was flooded to form a reservoir.

It is situated on the principal route of the Way of St. James to Santiago de Compostela, where other Templar and Knight Hospitaller churches and castles were constructed as a result of the effort of the Hospital Orders to protect the way to the tomb of Santiago; others include the churches of Torres del Río, Eunate and the Castle of Ponferrada.

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Founded: 12th century
Category: Religious sites in Spain

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4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Mark Auchincloss (2 years ago)
Also called San Juan Church it's Romanesque originating from 12/13th Century inspired by Portico de la Gloria. It was relocated (each stone is numbered which you can see if you look carefully) along with alot of the town during Franco era ds they could dam the valley of River Miño.
Phil Batten (3 years ago)
Beautiful church with a wonderful story.
KB Raif MD (3 years ago)
Impressive castle like looking church from the 1300’s. It’s amazing that they moved it stone by stone to the new Portomarín. If only the walls could talk.
KB Raif MD (3 years ago)
Impressive castle like looking church from the 1300’s. It’s amazing that they moved it stone by stone to the new Portomarín. If only the walls could talk.
Mike McBride (3 years ago)
Interesting church with a very interesting history as it was moved to enable the construction of a reservoir
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