The Mediaeval town of Monforte de Lemos is a fascinating and little-known small town in North West Spain, near the border of Galicia and Leon. There are dramatic river gorges nearby and wonderful Romanesque Churches all around. The historic Parador is a comfortable and atmospheric hotel and staying here for a few days is a real treat!
Origins of Monforte de Lemos
Today’s Monforte de Lemos was originally the site of a hill fort which the Romans called Castro Dactonio. The settlement was destroyed by the Moors in the 8C but restarted with the establishment of a Benedictine Monastery in the 9C. The Monastery of San Vicente de Pino (rebuilt in the 17C) is now the Parador on top of is probably the same hill used in pre-Roman times.
By Mediaeval times Monforte de Lemos was a fortified hill town with the Monastery and Castle at its heart. There were three gateways into the town, with three watchtowers giving far-reaching views over the surrounding countryside. At the bottom of the hill the River Cabe provided water for the town and its trade. I set out to try and trace the walls, gates, towers, and the Mediaeval streets.
Castle of the Dukes of Monforte
13C Gate of Alcazabar
The Gate of Alcazabar 13C was also called the Fishmongers’ Gate. An old paved road just below the Parador leads down from the Castle /Monastery/Parador to the gate. From there the Rua Santa Domingo follows the line of the walls.
At this gateway you can also find the 16C Church of Santa Maria da Regoa and from the Church I followed the Rua Abelardo Baanante down to the Square of Doctor Goyanes. There are records of Jewish families living in this area before they were pursued out of Spain. (This detailed article is fascinating and makes me wish I could go back and follow the information!) From the square the road leads to the Old Bridge of Lemos over the River Cabe. The Convent of Santa Clara, founded in 1622 by the wife of the 7th Count of Lemos (and the wonderful Museum of Sacred Art) is just beyond the bridge.
The Prison Gate
Back in the old town the Rua Santo Domingo leads to the Prison Gate. The Old Prison Gate of 13C was here in the Zapaterias Street but nothing remains.
From the Prison Gate I followed the Rua das Flores round the side of the hill. The Rua das Flores and the Rua Falagueira are fascinating roads in an area which was historically Jewish. Little lanes lead up the hill, in what feels like countryside, to emerge at the Porta Nova. The Porta Nova is at the far end of the Rua Falagueira and in the late 15C Count of Lemos rebuilt the gate. The Synagogue was apparently situated near the Gate.
The Porta Nova
From the Porta Nova I scrambled up the hillside to arrive at yet another gate, alongside the Ducal Palace, and the Monastery/Parador.
I hope that you can see that this is a wonderful place to spend a few days.
The history of the Parador and the town
A brief history of the town
The Jews in Monforte