Romanesque Churches near Monforte de Lemos

Monforte de Lemos is situated in an area called the Ribeira Sacra which is noted for its rich collection of Romanesque Churches. We came here partly to see some of the churches, and partly to see the two rivers which bound the area – the Sil and the Minho. I loved the Romanesque Churches we had seen in Potes (Piasca and Lebena) and was looking forward to further exploration!

We found it quite difficult to locate the Romanesque churches we wanted to visit because the maps provided by the Tourist Office are ‘pretty’ rather than exact, and our general road maps were not as good as the ordnance survey maps. And secondly the roads around the river canyons are extremely windy and narrow, and some are quite dangerous for driving!

The Monastery of San Salvador (Las Bernardas de Ferreira de Panton) was the first stop and easy to find.

This Convent was established back in the 10C and developed over the centuries. Only the Church is a Romanesque building with fascinating sculptures on the outside. Today the Convent is a closed order, a small community of nuns in the countryside outside Monforte de Lemos. It is apparently the only Cistercian Convent still active in Galicia, and the only convent which has functioned as such without cessation. The Convent is not open to the public but some people have been allowed access and it looks austere, but beautiful.

Romanesque Church near Monforte de Lemos
The 18C Gateway into the Convent of San Salvador
Romanesque Monastery near Monforte de Lemos
The Church and the Convent of San Salvador
Romanesque Monastery near Monforte de Lemos
The entrance hall of the Convent, with the closed ‘speaking window’ in the corner
Carvings on the Church of San Salvador

Our next stop, The Monastery of San Miguel in Eire, was also a Convent and its beginning dates back to the 10C as well. It was suppressed at the end of the 1400s and the Church looks well-preserved now but photographs from the 1800s? show a nearly derelict building.

Romanesque Churches near Monforte de Lemos
The Monastery of San Miguel in Eire
Monforte de Lemos
Looking towards Monforte de Lemos from the Church

Then we tried to find the Church of San Estevo de Atan but the map was hopeless and there were no signs on the road either. We ended up looking at this view over the River Minho from the Church of San Martino de A Cova.

Romanesque Churches near Monforte de Lemos
Church of San Martino de A Cova
River Minho valley
The River Minho valley

The Monastery of St Fiz de Cangas appears in documents of the 12C as a community of Benedictine Nuns, but the Church may have been built on an earlier, Visigothic site. Sadly this was another building which was firmly closed but at least we could find it!

Romanesque Monastery near Monforte de Lemos
The Monastery of St Fiz de Cangas
Romanesque Monastery near Monforte de Lemos
The Monastery of St Fiz de Cangas
Romanesque Monastery near Monforte de Lemos
The Fountain for the Monastery

The door into the Church has some curious carvings. There is a sun and moon on either side of a cross over the door, an animal on the left, and then further symbols which I don’t understand. The Monastery seems to have ceased as such at the end of the 1400s.

San Fiz de Cangas
The door into the Church

And finally we visited the Church of Santa Maria at Proendos, which is another Romanesque church modified over the centuries. Yet again this was another locked church which was a pity because there are 16C wall paintings inside.

Romanesque Churches near Monforte de Lemos
Santa Maria at Proendas
Romanesque Churches near Monforte de Lemos
Santa Maria at Proendas

We had had a thoroughly enjoyable half day visiting Romanesque Churches near Monforte de Lemos, and the only sadness was that we couldn’t see inside the churches. Next time (!) I will do more research before I go and try and establish visits in advance.

However, we weren’t quite finished with Romanesque Churches – more to come from Monforte de Lemos!

Further information
The Cistercian Order
The Convent of San Salvador
The Monastery of San Fiz de Cangas – lots of information and photos of the interior