Let’s feel medieval for a day! Let’s take the horse, or the carriage, or the cart… or rather the car… and take a tour of our most stately past. In the province of Ourense, 5 castles stand out for their historical importance and their state of conservation. We can even stay in one of them, with the comforts of our times, of course.
Castro Caldelas Castle. Castro Caldelas, in A Ribeira Sacra do Sil, is known for its wine, the hot springs and the castle. The castle is perched in the center of the city, going up Cima de Vila, the name says it all. From here, the counts of Lemos had a wonderful view of their domains. The castle was built in the 14th century by Fernández de Castro. In the fifteenth century it would be demolished by the Irmandiños and, later, rebuilt, the destination of all the castles. In the 16th century, a corridor and windows with benches were added. Later, in the 18th century, it passed into the hands of the Casa de Alba and, in 1991, it was ceded in usufruct to the town hall. Right now it is the cultural center of reference in the region. The wall is preserved; three towers, in very good condition, the one with the clock and the one of the homage; the administrator’s house; the parade ground; the cistern and even a catapult. Inside the castle is the interesting Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum, with two floors where we discover the objects found in the castle and others related to life at the time. In the same building is the tourist information office.
Castle of A Peroxa. We continue in A Ribeira Sacra Ourense. The castle of A Peroxa is in the parish of San Xes da Peroxa, on a hill above the valley of the Rial stream. It is believed that it comes from the 8th century, and that it was built by the Temes as a defense against the Muslims. In any case, it was already known that the land was good, since long before it had already been inhabited. During the Middle Ages it belonged to the counts of Ribadavia. After several centuries and successive changes of owners, in 1920, the owner at that time tore down the keep stone by stone to build the church of A Peroxa. Oh… The remains that are preserved are from the 13th century: remains of the towers, part of the parapet, a cistern and remains of the interior.
Maceda Castle. This is a very robust castle; It can be seen that originally (11th-12th centuries) it had a defensive function above all. But, with the passing of time, it was given a more palatial use. In fact, today, restored and rehabilitated, it functions as a hotel-monument. It seems that Alfonso X spent his childhood here, until he was 11 years old, and that here he took a liking to writing songs in Galician (others place the action in Allariz…). It is also said that Xoan Novoa lived here, a nobleman who was sent to Portugal as a child to avoid the irmandiños. There he would be a well-known explorer, and would even become mayor of Lisbon. Going back in time, the castle plunged into a period of decadence, hidden for years under a mantle of wild blackberry bushes, until its restoration at the end of the 20th century.
Monterrei Castle. It rises high above the Támega valley, in the parish of Santa Marta. It was built in the 12th century, on the fort of Baroncelo. At first it served as a defensive fortress and, with the passage of time, it took on the air of a stately residence. The tower of the ladies is from the 14th century. The keep, the pilgrims’ hospital and the church of Santa María were built between the 15th and 17th centuries. With Felipe IV an imposing fortified wall would be deployed. It has reached our days as the largest fortified complex in Galicia. Inside the walls, there was a lively cultural activity; in fact, the castle had the first printing press in Galicia. Here the Missale Auriense (1494) would be printed. One copy is preserved in the Cathedral of Ourense and another in the National Library. After the confiscation that led to the abandonment of many castles, it would be restored in the 60s of the 20th century and the area of the old Jesuit college and the San Francisco convent would be converted into a hostel in 2015.
Ribadavia Castle. It is in the very historic center of Ribadavia, on a small hill near the Avia river. Some say that it is from the 9th century, and some say that it is from the 12th century. In any case, what is known is that in the 15th century it underwent several renovations. In the 17th century, the counts of Ribadavia, who lived there, got tired of it, and moved to the Plaza Mayor, leaving the castle half-forgotten. In that state of abandonment, the people of the town took the opportunity to build their houses with the stones of the castle, oh… The remains of a tower with battlements and parts of the wall have come to us, with several cubes, some with a circular base and others square. Three of the five original gates are also preserved: the Cerca, the Nova and the Falsa. In the 20th century, taking advantage of part of the walled enclosure, an auditorium was built. There, since the 70s of the last century, the Mostra de Teatro de Ribadavia has been held, which has been international since 1984. The castle is also one of the settings for the Festa da Istoria, a return to medieval Ribadavia that takes place at the end of August.