Ourense, once known as Auria, is a city well known for its medieval style buildings, churches and hot thermal waters. The popular As Burgas springs, are within a short walking of Hostal Grelo where I stayed and date back to the era of Roman times. The natural spring waters of As Burgas are reputed to have therapeutic benefits and admission is free.
Of course a visit to Ourense would not complete without a visit to the cathedral. Ourense Cathedral The cathedral of San Martino was constructed during the 12th century under the rule of King Alfonso III in late Romanesque style with gothic elements. The cathedral was built in the shape of a Latin cross plan and has three naives separated by pillars in the shape of crucifixes with double arches. The altar of San Martino was consecrated in 1188 and the building became a National monument in 1931. This cathedral is claimed to be strongly influence by the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela from which several of its features can be identified. One of the main features, the Pórtico del Paraíso or door of paradise is very similar to the one found on Santiago’s great cathedral, the Pórtico de la Gloria. There is also the magnificent sixteenth century ‘Capilla del Santo Cristo’ or Christ’s chapel which is in the Baroque style. It should be noted that the cathedral is also an important passing point for pilgrims (peregrinos) on the Christian pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
Leaving Ourense As the pilgrim departs Ourense via the Ponta Romana bridge, which spans the River Minho, they have a choice of two routes – left or right. Both routes join up in Casanovas where the pilgrim has only two kilometres left before arriving in the village of Cea. Directions for left and right routes The right route goes via Tamallancos and the left via Canedo. Both routes are adequately waymarked, have their own challenges and very steep. The route via Tamallancos is one kilometre longer than the left route and after reaching Cudeiro the pilgrim is offered some great views of Ourense. Past the chapel of San Marcos, they cross to the area of Outeiros da Forca, and the Camino continues on for approximately five kilometres until the town of Tamallancos. Hete the pilgrim continues through the municipality of Vilamarín, over the medieval bridge of Sobreira, across the River Barbantiño to Viduedo and then Casanovas. The left route via Canedo goes past Ourense’s railway station and industrial area. After a steep climb up the Costiña de Canedo the pilgrim will reach Castro de Beiro. Here the pilgrim continues on past Reguengo until the La Parada del Peregrino. This path takes them to Puente Mandrás, a medieval bridge over the River Barbantiño. After crossing the Madrás the pilgrim ends up in Casanovas. I took the left route which, by the way I might add, had an incline of 21 percent
and then stopped at Casa Cesar for a break and something to eat
before continuing on to Cea.
One of the main products of this region is the famous Pan de Cea. This Galician bread is famous for its quality and in 2004 was awarded a Denomination of Origin. Using only raw materials such as flour, water, salt and yeast and applying a traditional process the bread is baked in stone wood-fired ovens. The loaves of wheat bread are easily recognised by their elongated shape with rounded ends and a cut across the centre dividing it into two equal parts. The texture of the bread is soft, spongy and uneven and the crust is thick and crisp. The origin of this baking tradition is linked to the neighbouring monastery of Oseira, and also to the passage of pilgrims towards Santiago, who during the Middle Ages found hospitality here. I recommend sampling the bread and afterwards visiting Plaza Mayor where you will see a big clock tower which is the main feature of the plaza.
After overnight stay in the municipal albergue in Cea I decided that I would take a short day and visit the monastery in Oseira.
I also decided to spend the night there and was the sole occupant. It was very creepy.
The Monasterio de Santa María la Real de Oseira is a Trappist (Cistercian) monastery and is popular with pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago Via de Plata route.
Founded in 1137 the monastery was destroyed by fire in 1552 and in 1553 the restoration of the monestery began. In 1835 the monks were expelled as a result of the law of desamortización (confiscation) and the building remained abandoned for almost a century. In 1929 the monestery was re-established by French and Spanish cistercian monks and in 1965 became a spanish national heritage site. Today there are approximately 14 monks who reside at the monastery carrying on the tradition of their predecessors by making liquor called Eucaliptine as well as pastries and cookies. Pilgrims who want to stay here overnight are accommodated in an albergue with very limited and basic facilities. The main room is not heated due to a very high ceiling and blankets are provided. Pilgrims who stay in the albergue can also attend Vespers in the evening and Mass and Lauds in the morning. New albergues were opening up enroute offering overnight accommodation to pilgrims. One of these new albergues was named Reina Lupa and only 12 km before Santiago de Compostela so I decided to stay there and have a short walk the next day.
Santiago de Compostela is well known for being the final destination of a pilgrimage route commonly known as the Camino de Santiago or the Way of Saint James, which pilgrims have travelled since the Middle Ages. The architecture and atmosphere of this magnificent city are enriched with history and pilgrims may feel like they have taken a step back in time. At the centre of this medieval city lie the majestic cathedral and Praza do Obrodoiro.
According to legend the remains of Saint James the Great, one of the apostles of Jesus, are enshrined in a silver tomb within the Cathedral.
For dining you should not pass up trying meals at Casa Manolo for 10 euros. Tucked away in a corner of the 12th century Plaza de Cervantes this restaurant is famous amongst pilgrims for its traditional Galician meals.