The first documentary reference to Santa María de Piasca is a donation from 930 making reference to a basilica just founded on the site. Little over a decade later, in 941, an agreement was recorded between 36 nuns and an unknown number of monks under an abbess Aylo, telling us that the monastery housed a community of both sexes. The monastery's dual character faced several oscillations, with the nuns leaving and returning twice. The archeological evidence of the original monastic buildings shows a small single nave church and separate spaces for the two groups.
A foundation stone records that the current church on the site, the Romanesque edifice, was dedicated in 1172 under a prior Petrus Albus. By this point the monastery had been incorporated into the larger Cluniac monastery of San Facundo y Primitivo de Sahagún (in 1122) and brought under the Benedictine Rule. The inscription also names the master of the project as Covaterio. The church has two sculpted portals, the west and the south. The portals have most likely been somewhat reconstructed, possibly with elements exchanged between the two. The triple arcade on the west façade has obviously been renovated as the central sculpture of Mary is from the sixteenth century. The two apostles (Peter and Paul) to her sides may have originally flanked an image of Christ, forming, as Ruth Bartal suggests, an abbreviated apostolado.References:
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.