The official Camino de Invierno (Winter Route) begins in Ponferrada and passes through the town of
Quiroga on its way to Santiago de Compostela. Attacks along the camino were a real danger to pilgrims
and although the area around Quiroga was protected by Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, their presence suggests a heightened threat on this part of the trail.
To avoid Quiroga, some pilgrims crossed the river Sil in the town of A Rúa and headed into the mountains, passing through Puebla de Trives and on to Castro Caldelas. From here the road descends back to the river Sil where a large wooden bridge, considered one of the wonders of Galicia in the Middles Ages, crossed the river near the village of Paradela. After another steep climb, to the village of
Doade, pilgrims would rejoin the Camino Invierno (winter route) in the town of Monforte de Lemos.
The detour was long and arduous, reaffirming the mortal perils that awaited pilgrims along the main route.
The Cañón de Sil is littered with miradors (viewing points); but in my opinion, Pena de Castelo is the most stunning. Be sure to take your camera: you wouldn’t want to miss this photo opportunity.
From the village of Doade we drove down the steep valley side, twisting and turning through steps of terraced vineyards to the river’s edge. The medieval wooden bridge of Ponte Paradela has long since gone, replaced by a modern crossing. Before continuing, why not stop for refreshments at the Club Nautico de Doade. A long, riverside terrace provides beautiful views of the river and spectacular aerial displays from House Martins nesting under the bridge.
After quenching our thirst we continued on to Castro Caldelas. The village is set on a natural outcrop overlooking the surrounding area. The Castle and medieval village were declared a historic and artistic site in 1998. Step back in time and wander through the narrow streets. Just past the castle you’ll find the Centro Comarcal (Information Centre). There are a number of exhibitions including an interactive 3D map of the whole area: it’s certainly worth a visit. The castle is open from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and from 4 p.m.
until 7 p.m. You’ll need a head for heights; guardrails were not part of medieval thinking, but the views from the ramparts are magnificent.
battles were fought to gain control over the regions' lands. Its walls display numerous coats of arms indicating its chequered past. Around the main entrance there are the coats of arms of the Osorio (two wolves), the Castro (six circular forms), the Kingdom of León (a rampant lion) and the Kingdom of Castile (a castle): and on the clock tower an inscription of the Greek letter tau is a symbol associated with the Order of the Knights Templar.
The next stop on our journey took us to Montederramo and the Santa Maria Monastery. Arrangements for viewing the monastery are quite unique. Opposite the church, to the right of the fountain, you’ll see a bright-yellow sign with the name Correos (Post Office) on it. This nondescript building also doubles as the local ayuntamiento (town hall). To view the monastery, ask at the post office counter; if it’s closed pop up to the first floor and ask there. Don’t let this little eccentricity put you off: we found everyone really helpful and more than willing to show us their church
By the end of the 17th century it had become an education centre for abbots and monks and remained so until the church cloisters were sold in 1835. There are two cloisters, both of which are still in private ownership. The first, called Reglar, is of late Gothic design with an impressive ribbed vault. Today it is used as a school for local children. The second, named Hospederia, is of Spanish Renaissance design; decorated with medallions and coats of arms. Today it houses private apartments and the restaurant Casa Elvira (Praza 20, Montederramo, 32750 Ourense +34 988 292 019)
After lunch at Casa Elvira, we left Motenderramo and followed signs for Parada de Sil and onward to Mosteiro de Sta. Cristina (Santa Cristina Monastery). Don’t let the steep gradient deter you from visiting; this Benedictine monastery is one of the area’s earliest, dating back to the 10th century. Its prominence grew throughout the Middle Ages and in the 16th century it became a priory of Santo Estevo de Ribas
façade features a rose window. Unfortunately the church remains locked for all but special occasions; if you’re lucky enough to visit when it is open, you’ll have the opportunity to admire the Renaissance frescos.
What remains of the rest of the monastery is accessed through a stone archway featuring sculptured symbols and ornaments. Only two of the cloister’s arcades remain. These can be accessed by climbing the stone steps in the far corner. The wooden floors are quite new and provide fantastic views of the river below.
To continue on we retraced our steps and followed signs to Mosteiro de Santo Estevo, the final stop on today’s tour. As we approached, we caught glimpses of the monastery’s red tiled roof through the thick woodland. Follow the road to its end where you’ll find the car park.
The church has a Romanesque base with later, gothic style additions; these include the basilica, consisting of three naves and semicircular apses. The monastery is organised around three cloisters which are Romanesque, gothic, and renaissance in design. The facade is baroque and was built in the 18th century.
In 1835 the Catholic Church sold the property to a private individual. After this the building fell into decline until, in 1923, the monastery was declared a historic and artistic site. Today, this majestic
building is part of the Parador Group of hotels.
Copyright © 2014 Craig Briggs
To find out more about a stay at Campo Verde and Galicia in general, visit our website at http://www.getaway-galicia.com
Craig’s book, Journey To A Dream, is available exclusively from Amazon, follow this link for your national store. http://bit.ly/188lOj2
Visit Craig’s website at http://www.journeytoadream.co.uk
Or join in the fun on Facebook http://facebook.com/craigbriggs.spain