St John in Portomarin

I particularly wanted to see the Church of St John in Portomarin and we decided to stop there on the journey from Monforte de Lemos to Lugo. Monforte is a wonderful stop for a few days, but it was time to move on – to Lugo.

Monforte de Lemos
Monforte de Lemos in the early morning

The road from Monforte, through Sarria, and on to Portomarin was pleasant but not particularly memorable. It is an easy drive and we were soon parked in the town.

Pilgrims on the road
Pilgrims on the road

Portomarin on the River Mino

Portomarin is on the River Mino and when the valley was flooded to create the Belesar Dam the town was moved higher up the hillside, rather like Riano. (The high walls and narrowness of the Mino and Sil River Canyons are ideal for hydroelectricity and the Belesar Dam, which opened in 1963, is the largest in Spain.) This protected and preserved the important churches, and one or two other historic buildings. The new bridge over the river is alongside the old bridge which is now buried under the water.

The new bridge in Portomarin

St John in Portomarin

The Knights of St John of Jerusalem came to the town of Portomarin in the 12C to manage the pilgrims’ hospital because the town is on the Camino. They built the fortress-church of St John in Portomarin in the 13C, and for some reason it is also known as the Church of St Nicolas. There are further Templar fortresses or hospitals along Camino, to help or protect the pilgrims in their journey to Santiago. Castles and hospitals include Hopital de Orbigo, Ponferrada, Eunate, and Torres del Rio. Towers at each corner of the centre block of the church make it very much a fortress – the curved apse at the back of the building looks rather odd.

St John in Portomarin
Apse at rear of St John
West door of St John in Portomarin
West door of St John
St John in Portomarin
Interior of St John in Portomarin

West Door of St John in Portomarin

The highly ornate west door of the church includes columns with figured capitals, a Virgin and Child (I think) over the door, and the Apostles or Elders playing musical instruments in the arch over the doorway. I wonder if the two figures at the top of the door represent good and evil?

St John in Portomarin
The West Door of St John in Portomarin

South Door of St John in Portomarin

This is the main door into the church and pilgrims were drifting in and out when we visited the town. Like the West Door this doorway has three recessed arches over the door, all ornately carved. The heads at the top of the door are very curious… There are three figures in the arch over the door who look like church dignitaries.

St John in Portomarin
South door
South door of St John in Portomarin
The carvings on the south door

Cross country to Lugo

I had read of another Romanesque Church to the north of Portomarin. However, the maps were poor, I had not done enough research, and in the end we just drove through the countryside, across the River Mino, to Lugo.

Countryside between Portomarin and Lugo
Countryside between Portomarin and Lugo
Lugo
Lugo

It was another interesting day in Galicia, and although I could easily have lingered at the Church of St John in Portomarin I was excited by the idea of exploring in Lugo!