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 de San Clodio de Leiro

It was in the sixth century when the legend says monks from San Clodio in León, fled from the Arian persecutions, founded the monastery in these lands. The first proofs of its existence are from 928, date of the document establishing a mixed community with a family character in this place.

The incorporation to the Benedictine order towards the year 1158 and later the Cistercian observance give way to its period of greatest splendor in the XV and XVI centuries, with a prosperous community dedicated to the cultivation of the vineyards and to agricultural exploitation. From 1836 on, San Clodio was destined to different military and municipal uses. It was inhabited again by the Benedictines at the end of the 19th century, but after almost one hundred years, and in ruinous condition, it was abandoned again.

The monastery had a cloister in the Middle Ages that was dismantled to raise the current Processional and Portería ones that were built during the XV and XVI centuries. Its wide structures communicate with the church through a staircase covered with a starry ribbed vault.

In the place where there was a primitive pre-Romanesque building stands the church, the only surviving medieval vestige. It was possibly built at the end of the 12th century, it has a basilical plan with three naves and three apses. Of late Romanesque style the transition to Gothic is appreciated in the amplitude of the main chapel, the pointed arches of the naves and the importance of the rosettes. The structure was hardly modified since then and the changes were purely aesthetic. The substitution of the old wooden cover by the present one had a functional character. The construction of the high choir has a baroque taste.

The mural decoration on the central apse remained hidden behind the main altarpiece. It was discovered and restored just five years ago. The paintings contain scenes of the Crucifixion, the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian and the Last Judgment. It is dated in the XVI and XVII centuries.

The monastery was declared a National Historic Artistic Monument in 1931. When, in the 1990s, the Xunta de Galicia (Galician government) and a hotel chain undertook the restoration project, the deterioration of the whole building seemed inexorable. After a successful recovery, the first Galician monument-hotel was opened in 2000.

Santa María Nai

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 Carriarico’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.

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.

Santa Mariña de Augas Santas

Roman villa, sauna, cremation oven, templars and initiatory rites; petroglyphs, water, stone and trees; legend, tradition and history. The religious belief situates in this area the martyrdom of Santa Mariña in the II century. The place had been inhabited in pre-Roman times and during the romanization, and possibly worked as a pre-Christian cult space.

The burial place of the martyr was forgotten through the years. The first news of the existence of a chapel are from the IX century, during the reign of Alfonso II, who decided to build it to protect the relics and made it a place of worship where at that time the village was settled. The current church was begun in the XII century in late Romanesque style. It has a basilica plant with three naves ending in three semicircular apses visible to the exterior. The facade looks like a fortress and has three streets that correspond to each of the naves. Both the doorway and the apses are decorated with rosettes that give light to the temple.

The space is covered by a wooden paneling of the XV century. The slab in the South contains the remains of St. Mariña. The baldachin, raised on a granite base, has been recently restored. Some columns support the entablature with vaulted roof in three sections under which is the image of the saint, flanked by two angels, with the palm of martyrdom, the cross in one hand and the dragon or big serpent at her feet. It is completed by a small baroque dome with a sculpture of Saint Michael on top.

Outside the church we can see one of the springs that, according to the legend, sprung miraculously in the places where the head of Santa Mariña fell after her beheading. Another one is inside Saint Tomé chapel included in the Episcopal Pazo enclosure that since the XVII century has belonged to the Bishop of Ourense and was used as a summer residence.

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.