San Martiño Cathedral


Although there is no agreement on the date it was started, it is known that the main altar was consecrated in 1188, as stated in the document which, along with the relics of St. Martin brought from Tours, was kept in one of the five columns that supported it. There seems to be less controversy about the date it was finished, around 1218-1248. Although Romanesque in structure, the Cathedral grows with the history of the city, and reaches up to four consecrations, the last one in 1966.

There are three areas the visitor cannot miss: Santo Cristo chapel, built between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, contains a canopy with a crucifix venerated throughout Galicia. This is a gothic image that, according to tradition, is one of the copies Nicodemus made when he saw dead Jesus on the Cross. The chapel is like a jeweler, covered with decorative plants in polychromed wood, twisted columns and reliefs of Christ Passion.

The Door of Paradise (13th century) also deserves special attention for being one of the most beautiful works in the cathedral. Unfortunately it was compared with the Door of Glory in Santiago de Compostela, but it has its own values of idealization and serenity similar to the French Gothic style. It is a stone transcription of the Doomsday, explained in a very meticulous way.

The altarpiece, by Cornielis de Holanda, is from the sixteenth century, and it is decorated with scenes from the life of Jesus, the Virgin and St. Martin. The 36 small size statues placed between the columns are exceptional. They are painted white and represent saints and Old Testament characters dressed in 1500 Flemish costumes.

Santa María Nai Church


In the same site where now stands this eighteenth century church, there was a temple built by the Suebi converted to Christianity after St. Martin of Tours made the miracle of curing king CarriaricoÂ’s son. The original building, which was the city’s cathedral in that time, was destroyed in successive Norman and Arab raids and rebuilt in 1084, as stated in the inscription preserved at the North gate. When the new cathedral was built in the twelfth century, the church became a funeral chapel and in 1722 was torn down because it threatened ruin.

The present church benefits from the view the Plaza Mayor staircase offers. With the Palacio Episcopal to the south and the beautiful Plaza de la Madalena north, stands this temple with a single nave and its dome. The Baroque façade of three parts includes four double columns that are believed to belong to the old Suebi building.

The church is consecrated to Santa Maria, which can be seen in the center of the altarpiece. The baroque seated image represents her as a wealthy lady with the Child on her lap. On Easter Day is carried in procession to Santo Cristo chapel inside the cathedral.

  • Praza Maior s/n 32005  Ourense
Teatro Principal


In the 1830s Mr. Pastor Santiago Saez decided to build this theater in La Paz street, former Shoemakers street. It was apparently a kind of revenge because someone had sold the box he had booked in the old theater.

He built the new one in the site where he had his home and his business, a bank. The result was a small Italian style theater, with a pit on the ground floor, three floors of boxes and a stage. The ceiling with geometric and plant motifs.

For many years it was the only public theater in the city. It was also the center of social and cultural life, with concerts, operettas, plays, or meetings. Zorrilla read his poems at the Principal, Concepción Arenal and Emilia Pardo Bazan participated in a literary contest and politicians such as Calvo Sotelo or Gil Robles organized their political meetings here. In 1912 cinema arrives in Ourense and three years later the first film is projected at the Principal.

During the 1970s it was closed and about to disappear. „LetÂ’s save the Principal” was the slogan of a group led by artists, teachers, architects and people from Ourense public life, who managed to get it repaired during the 1980s. The Teatro Principal was reopened in 1992.

Archeological Museum


Some authors such as Ferro Couselo claim that on the site now occupied by the Archaeological Museum, for centuries known as “pazo, torres e curral do bispo”, existed in Roman times a praetorium and that it always was the center of power in the early city of Ourense. However, just based on the remains found and due to the reuse of the building elements and the successive renovations, we cannot determine with certainty the function and character of the building that was here.

A foundation appeared in Plaza da Madalena belongs to the Germanic period and could coincide with a building, possibly fortress or episcopal see in the time Ourense was converted to Christianity by the suevos.

The central role that would have in the history of the city could be seen already in the eleventh century. When the city did not have some effective defensive walls, the manor became a reliable fortress. During the following years, and since 1122 the bishop moves into the lordship of the city, the building reaches up to six defensive towers and a series of courtyards and interior fields. Already a symbolic and real power becomes an important hub on the border between the ancient Roman town in the South and the medieval city that was growing Northward.

The Irmandiñas revolts during the XV century broke down the towers giving on Barreira street and the people held a commercial space in the open air remaining territory. Throughout the XVI century the bishop’s domain began to wane in favor of the civil authority, and in 1628 he gave up the lordship over Ourense.

The baroque reform in the XVIII century suppresses the defensive aspect of the building to make it an open and palatial construction. On the side facing the Plaza Mayor, a balcony on corbels above a monumental episcopal coat of arms replaces the old arcades.

The building was acquired to become an Archaeological Museum in 1951 and in 2002 closed its doors for a remodeling that continues 13 years later.

San Pedro de Rocas Monastery


The monastery of San Pedro de Rocas probably existed as a settlement of some kind of hermit’s life by the end of the IV century. The year 573 is shown, however, on the tombstone which is considered the charter of the monastery and which is preserved in Ourense Museo Arqueoloxico. The date and the text may probe the existence of a primitive monastery of some kind of familiar use which had a number of natural caves in the form of cells for the isolation of hermits and whose life was organized around a space used for different community activities. It was abandoned by the VIII century, probably due to the Arab raids in Galicia.

It was derelict and in ruins when Sir Xemunde found it while hunting and he started recovering the monastic activity. From the year 900 and under the protection of King Afonso III, a new stage will start for the monastery, getting its peak in the XII century together with the Ribeira Sacra revitalization.

The original building was adapted to the new monastic life flourishing around. The church, the only example of rock building in Galicia, has three naves covered with barrel vaults ending in three semicircular apses. A skylight, open on the central nave, illuminates the enclosure from above. To cover the space necessities of the monastery, a transept in front of the Romanesque facade was built in the thirteenth century, having the soil covered with anthropomorphic tombs excavated in the rock.

Highlights outside include the late XV century steeple, which stands on a rock 14 meters high with a large open arch leading to the old cemetery. The cloister was destroyed surely by the fire of 1640 and in the same period the new, sober, rectangular priory was built.

Santa María la Real de Xunqueira de Ambía

The old Monastery of Xunqueira de Ambía was founded in the year 955. In the 12th century it was donated to the regular canons of St- Augustine, with the church being built in transition Romanesque style. It achieved the rank of Collegiate in 1164, and came under the Archbishopric of Valladolid.

Artistically, it shows the typical characteristics of Galician Romanesque, together with those that the Order itself designed for their residence. A church in clear Romanesque style (12th century). The main facade is noteworthy, divided by two buttresses corresponding to the church´s three interior aisles. Romanesque doorway with three archivolts, and capitals decorated with interwoven and leaf designs.

Over the door, there is an arched awning over corbels. There are three notable Romanesque apses. The cloister is Ogival, with semi-circular arcades, showing perforated tympanum. Interior on a Latin-cross ground plan, with three aisles separated by stilted Ogival arches. Plateresque choir and Renaissance stone pulpits.

It is worth mentioning the originality of the organ made by Manuel González Maldonado, recently restored and one of the finest in Europe . Designated a National Monument in 1931.

Santiago das Caldas

As Caldas was one of the many Roman settlements which developed around Ourense, just a farmers village in that time.

It is known there was a Mozarabic chapel called Santa Catarina de Reza Vella in the Middle Ages and a parish from the 12th-13th centuries to 1639.

As Caldas parish had a Romanesque temple from the 16th century that was very close to the current cemetery, by the Miño river. Though it was repaired in the 17th century, it became small to satisfy the population demands and by the end of the 19th century it was completely ruined.

In 1905 bishop Eustaquio Llundain y Esteban orders Bilbao diocese architect José María Basterra the new temple building. On 30th July 1910 the first stone is placed in Las Caldas Avenue.

The building was made following the historicist taste of the period. Gothic, with its lightness and luminosity, was his model. Its basic structural elements are the pointed arch, the cross vault and buttresses, which make this church so special.

The facade has a unique central tower, so typical in churches by Basterra.

In 1919 the altarpiece is committed to Maximino Magariños, an imager from Santiago de Compostela. It has a gothic front, with golden polychromy and ogival filigree and which fits perfectly to the temple style. In both sides of the altarpiece we can see scenes of St. James’ life, as he is the saint patron of the church. On the lower part a crucifix of the Cristo del Perdón, on the upper part a wooden sculpture of St. James.