RIBEIRA SACRA VALLEY AND MONFORTE DE LEMOS


The Ribeira Sacra covers an area of surprising natural beauty on both margins of the valley and of the manumental canyon of the Sil. This impressive natural and touristic territory includes the regions situated among the first elevation of the 'Caurel' (NE), the valleys of 'Ourense' and 'Ribeiro' (SW), and from the mountain range of 'Faro' (NW) to that of 'Queixa' (SE) nearly all the mountain limits that separate it from other regions such as the Caurel, Valdeorras, Lalin, Val de Limia or Bolo. In this way, the Ribeira Sacra is a land of river banks and monutains at the same time. It's average hight is of 600 metres, presenting an enormous declination that goes from 100 metres from the water level of the Sil in Peares to nearly 1900 metres to the 'Cabeza Grande de Manzaneda' mountain. However, the lands that include it are bathed by the waters of many river courses such as the Cabe, Bibei or Navea and all flow into the Sil. The routes of the Miño immediately preceding and following the confluence with the Sil also forms part of the Ribeira Sacra. The Ribeira Sacra is of mountainous territory with pronounced valleys, livestock, genuine gastronomy and a splendid monastic past with powerful characters such as the Lemos and including the war of the Irmandinhas. This is why, this land full of vineyards and excellent wines give place to a unique landscape, that of, vineyards on the mountainsides of the Miño and the Sil.

The Wines of the Ribeira Sacra deserve a special mention. Those elaborated in the Ribeira Sacra are divided among different denominations of origin; the 'Ribeira Sacra', that counts on five subzones, and the 'Valdeorras' that belongs to the zones more to the east. Numerous wine cellars dedicated to the production of first quality wines exist and in smaller quantities to the production of 'Aguardiente' (firewater) and coffee liquor. However, these wines are becoming well known and exported to other markets.

The Ribeira Sacra assembles a large number of megalithic monuments such as the tombs and testimonies of the people of these lands going right back to ancient years. However, the petroglyphs like the ones found in 'Sober' suggest a celtic settlement in the area between 1.300-1.000 a.C. The large number of forts show an important geographical strategy of these lands, generous in metals such as gold and copper and minerals like tin. Some areas and castles like 'Monforte' and the castle of Caldelas have their origins in important forts. The romans, sometimes settled their scarce but important nucleus over ancient forts such as in Proendos, and forced the native population to work in the extraction of the 'gold of the Sil' and other minerals. Witness of this mineral exploitation is the fluvial gold mine of Montefurado among others. Over Galicia, you can still find various bridges of roman origin, those of Bibei, Vilarinho, Monforte etc, and an important road the Via-VII: (Braga-Astorga). Above all, the introduction of the grapevines and the numerous chestnut trees that today cover the region are due to them. In effect, the romans adored the wine so much that they gave it the name of 'the golden liquid of the Sil'. For thousands of years a large number of eremites and monasteries have flourished the river banks of the Sil and the Miño and up to such an extent that this fact gave the whole region the name 'Rivoyra Sacrata'.

Chantada, agricultural capital of the Miño. From the 'Serra do Faro' the lands of Chantada lie crossing the deep rivers up to the vineyards of the 'Ribeiras do Miño'. The village of Chantada, the stately home of the Counts of Lemos in the past is the centre of a strong wine producing, agricultural and livestock region. The lands of Chantada receive the Miño making the most of its strength and energy thanks to the Encoro de Belesar (river dam), the largest in Galicia. The wide margins and the deep flow make the Miño an ideal place for practising various water sports. The landscapes are of great interest and walkings through the diffrent hamlets such as Belesar, A Sarinha and Nogueira de Minho. A beautiful roman roadway goes through Lincora and continues along a bridge that was submerged during the construction of the hydroelectric power station. The typical landscapes of sculptured river banks by the mountain terraces dyed by the diffrent colours of the vin yards obliges admiration and delight. Here is where they collect Chantada's variety of Ribeira Sacra Wines, of great quality and increasing presige.


MONFORTE DE LEMOS

In Monforte de Lemos you can visit the monastery of San Vicente do Pino, with neo-classical front and with figures of three story and with very little ornamentation on its ashlars stone. The interior cloister is made of very well carved stonework and it is very interesting from the architectural point of view. Two important stones of great archaeological value are shown here, which correspond to the old 'cenobio', a cinerary urn and a valuable bas-relief. In the small nave that is located close to the Gospel is where the people from Monforte concentrate their Christian fervor. In the interior of the Benedictine church, close to the main door, you can see the granite sepulchre of the abbot Diego García. The popular tradition says that these remains belonged to the bishop abbot, killed by order of the count and countess. People who attended to the opening of the sarcophagus say that it has several bones and in the face you can notice the sign of the burn on the right temple.

The Homage Tower is also a fundamental part of the castle of Monforte, with an almost square base and with an approximated height of 30 metres. It is built with well-carved ashlars that give it a singular beauty. Its four floors are built on beams and it rests on protuberant foundations and on some corbels. The stairs inside are made of wood, illuminated by windows with arches, it rises up to the pointed barrel vault that holds the terrace. On the third floor there is a beautiful window called 'of the queen', with trefoil arches. The upper part is finished by a group of crenellations. The view you can have from this point offers the best scenery with the whole valley, O Incio and O Caurel mountains and an impressive natural and aesthetic spectacle that is worth watching.


You can also admire the convent of the Franciscanas Descalzas, with a front built with ashlars stone and with simple outline. In the inner courtyard and in the same line of the wall, we can see the robust gable ends made of masonry with high and lattice windows. The church is extremely modest made of well-carved stone with gothic style in doors and windows, as well as the shape of the Presbyterian apse. Very few sacred art museums have the interest and quality of the Clarisas, which is the most important in Spain. Crucifixes, monstrance, a copy in silver of Michael Angelo's Piedad, liturgical ornaments, processional crosses and silver candelabra, ivory crucifixes, the Reclining Christ, Inmaculadas of Gregorio Fernández, works that you can see very well represented and described in the Nais Clarisas museum.

The school 'Nosa Señora da Antiga' is a building with Herrerian design and it was built by several Jesuit architects; the front has Renaissance style made with country stone. It is distinguished by its impressiveness and the equilibrium in the layout of its elements. It has three solemn and geometrical vertical bodies. The cloister has Doric-Roman style, it is square and it is 22 metres long on its side. It is one of the most important pieces of the building, where the hardness, elegance, and soberness of this style stand out. The church has a Latin cross ground plan and it is one of the most sumptuous of the classical architecture in our country. It has a central nave with barrel vault and two lateral naves communicated among them. The museum has the pictures of the Greco's 'San Lorenzo' and 'San Francisco' and five pictures by Andrea do Sarto, two pictures of the Compostelan school and six showcases with personal objects, books and incunabula that belonged to the cardinal Rodrigo de Castro.