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 due to a royal privilege issued by The Catholic Kings, as a defence against the corsair incursions.
The peninsula covers an area of 18 hectares and sis surrounded by 3 Km of crenellated battlement walls dating back from the 11th to the 17th centuries. This place changed ownership over the years until 1963, when it was acquired by the Ministry of Information & Tourism to convert it into a Parador Hotel named Conde de Gondomar.
The fort has three important towers: the Tower of the Clock is found near the entrance. Inside this tower there was a hidden warning bell which served as an alarm in case of enemy attacks. The Tower of the Tenaille rises to the East: its duty was to defend the port with artillery. In the West the Tower of the Prince stands over the bay. This is probably the oldest tower and it used to serve as lighthouse for vessels. It shows three coats of arms (the Austrias's, the Sotomaior's and the one of Baiona). The tower was named after the Portuguese prince Afonso Enriques, imprisoned inside the tower in 1137.
The Fortress can be visited all through the year. Amazing sunsets over the ria and the Cíes islands can be admired from the walls. Not to miss the coastline along which Baiona stretches.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).