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 The golden city 

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Millions of years ago, the waters of the river Miño, which had been forming a pool for a long time, hollowed an outlet... A wide valley was formed throughout the years. It was here that the Romans found a good place to settle the capital of the golden land... From that initial valley called ‘Auria’ emerged the present-day city of Ourense.

Historians do not agree about the origin of Ourense's birth: the river, the bridge, the 'Burgas' (thermal waters), gold... or the four elements. As the Romans looked for gold and found it in this land, they built the old bridge to cross the river and enjoyed the hot water coming from the springs...

And here, the golden city and capital of the lands of gold called Auria was born on the banks of the river Miño around the 'Burgas'.

No matter where its name comes from the Warm See of the Germans, from the Or Ens (hot water) of the Celtic or from the Roman Auria (city of gold or shiny place). Ourense, which is thought to have been founded by the Greek hero Amphiloco, was important for the Romans because of the river, the bridge and the springs.

Those were the origins of the first city. The river and the bridge serve us as the starting point to visit what Cunqueiro called 'The Golden Country of Ourense'.

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The river Miño, the great Galician River, enriched by the river Sil, gets in Ourense the irregular volumes of the rivers Loña and Barbaña... The south of the Miño and the East of the Barbaña were the best places so that the Romans could lead their legions to the North. A great bridge should be built so that the troops stationed in Chaves or Braga could reach their distant objectives.

About the year 100 of our era, perhaps in the time of Trajan, was erected the most majestic Roman Bridge of all that are preserved in Galicia.

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It was rebuilt in 1228 by Bishop Don Lorenzo so that pilgrims could walk to Compostela and was later repaired on several occasions. It is 370 metres long, 5 metres wide and its central arch - today 37 metres high- was the one that had a greater light in the whole Roman Empire. It had a castle, chains, ramps... and today it is one of the greatest jewels in Ourense...

ourense turismogaliciaourense turismogaliciaA popular strophe says:

Tres cosas hay en Ourense
Que no las hay en España:
El Santo Cristo, El Puente,
Y la Burga hirviendo el agua.


We leave the modern area of the Railway Station behind, which appeared when the railway arrived in Ourense.

When in March 1881 the locomotive Miño arrived in Ourense, it announced the creation of a modern city that definitively crossed the river to expand.

We cross the river along the old bridge (A Ponte Vella) and go to the historical Ourense. The old stones from the Roman time lead us to the city that reached the River Miño in the middle of the XIX century. It was in 1863 by building the road Villacastín - Vigo that the Roman Bridge linked the urban structure of Ourense.

The city, spreading out at intervals, approached the river and made up the present - day large city.

There is evidence of the great movement of the city since today there are four great bridges that cross the river.

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At the end of the old bridge, on the left, we can see the Alameda del Crucero. Today it has almost disappeared being replaced by the Courthouse. The 'cruceiro' (stonecross) has been moved to Plazuela de la Magdalena (Magdalena Square).

ourense turismogaliciaOn the right, we find Nuesta Señora de los Remedios Chapel, which was founded in 1522 by Francisco Méndez Montoto.

In the past, this was a dangerous place for pilgrims because of malefactors. Since the chapel was founded, it was called del Desafío as it was the place the people of Ourense chose to fight a duel. From the 17th century onwards it was called Campo de los Remedios.


ourense turismogaliciaourense turismogaliciaIn the direction of the Burgas, we go across Progreso Street, the old road Villacastín - Vigo. It is parallel to the river Barbaña and the starting point of the modern Ourense.


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On our way to "Las Burgas", which was doubtless an important element so that the Romans settled down here. Three warm, drinking and thermal springs that flowed freely in a pool have been piped to the street of the same name.

The thermal waters have showed their presence during the course of time. Yradition has it that Calpurnia Abana, a woman in the Roman times, offered a votive altar to the nymph Goddesses of "Las Burgas".

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The lower "Burga", which carries more water, has a façade from the middle of the 19th century, Fervedoiro is on the right... and the smallest one, the upper "Burga", is on "Las Burgas Street"... At any time of the year, temperature stays at 70 degrees and volume at 300 litres per minute. Tradition has it that the water of "Las Burgas" was born under the image of Christ in the Cathedral and the water is heated by a volcano that some day will erupt burying the city.

We have seen the elements that influenced the birth of the old Ourense... It was the Court of a Swabian King... It was destroyed by the Arabs in the eighth century; it was restored by Alfonso II, the Pure, and destroyed again. It was rebuilt by Alfonso III the Great, king of Asturias... It was devastated by the Normans and finally restored by Sancho II and his sister Doña Elvira.

ourense turismogaliciaLet us visit the old city entering the Jardín o Campo del Posío (Posío Garden). It was divided when the road was being built and continues to be the great Ourensan garden where the Oseira fountain or the memorial to Lamas Carvajal and Prado Lameiro have a place of honour.

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On the way to the centre of the city, we find the Secondary School from the XIX century, which was called "Otero Pedrayo" as the famous writer worked there as a teacher.

Trinidad Church, which was founded in the 12th century, is the oldest of the parish churches in Ourense. It was first an abbey and hospital for pilgrims.

ourense turismogaliciaourense turismogaliciaWe must stand out its polygonal apse (16th century) towards Padre Feijoo Avenue and its façade - between two cylindrical towers - towards Villar Street. the porch with transept is also which faces the Plateresque main front of the old pilgrim hospital and the Renaissance one of St Roque's Hospital (from the 16th century).

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St Cosme and Damian Chapel, which was founded in 1521, lies in the square of the same name. Both saints are represented in the façade with their legs on a poorbox picking up the food the angel brings for them. In this chapel, we can find the Nativity scene by Arturo Baltar.

We are already at the Main Square.

On three sides, there are porches from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The city hall dates from the 19th century and was later modified. The coats of arms of the city are placed on the cast iron balconies.

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The Main Square is the centre where the most important streets in the old Ourense city join. In the XIX century -as Vicente Risco said-, it was the brain and heart of the city.

On one of the corners of the Square we find St María "La Madre" Church and the Archaeological Museum.

ourense turismogaliciaThe steps from the 17th century - renewed in the 20th - provide access to St Mary's Church. St María "La Madre" was erected in 1084 by Bishop Ederonio, although it was totally reconstructed in 1722. It is leant against the Bishops' Palace, whose tower was pulled down so that the church could be widened.

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It is Baroque-style with Latin-cross floor. In the façade, there are eight marble columns, which are thought to be the remains of the old Swabian basilica from the sixth century. However, it only functioned as a Cathedral while the basilica was being reconstructed.

On the north door there is a commemorative tablet from the 11th century, place by Bishop Ederonio because of its foundation. Next to this tablet, there is another one, which recalls the reconstruction in the 18th century.

ourense turismogaliciaThe old Bishop's Palace (today the Archaeological Museum) was built by Bishop don Diego Velasco in the 12th century and modified by don Lorenzo in the 13th. The Palace of Swabian kings of Ourense is thought to have been placed here long before. The large windows on the north façade and the series of arches on the inner courtyard are the most outstanding elements in this historical building.

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There is a wide range of findings related to the history of Ourense: from the 'mámoas' in the Bronze Age to the art of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Especially important are the remains of the fort hills in Lás, Arméa and Troña: altar stones, stone tablets, Roman milestones, Visigothic and Romanesque capitals, pictures from the time of secularization and so forth.

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Magdalene Square functioned as market, courtyard and cemetery. In the middle of the Square, a crossstone from 1718 comes from the surroundings of the Roman Bridge.

This is a quiet place far away from the modern life of the city.

In the sixth century, the King Carrriarico together with his court converted to Christianism and erected a cathedral dedicated to St Martin when his leprous son was cured because of St Martin de Tours contribution. The old basilica was placed on the same site where nowadays lies the Cathedral dedicated to St Martin and St Mary.

It was not vaulted until the beginning of the 13th century. It was a fortress in the 15th century and resisted many attacks during difficult moments in the history of Ourense.

ourense turismogaliciaourense turismogaliciaThe route from Castle arrived at the South door. From the north door came the route to cross the River Miño by boat towards the rest of Galicia.


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We arrive by walking along the Plaza del Trigo (Wheat Square), which is full of houses with porches and inner courtyards, typical in Ourense. Long ago, there was an area called Las Platerías with silversmith studios on the upper parts.

The Patio de Naranjos (Orange trees Courtyard) of the Cathedral or Plaza de las Damas (Ladies Square) was also here. From this place, we watch the external aspect of the first temple in Ourense before going inside.

ourense turismogaliciaThis is the south façade with the Clock Tower from the 16th century. The façade was first symmetrical with two turrets but the Clock Tower made them lose their military character invading the main front. The upper part of the main front is one of the most interesting in the Cathedral.

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Several constructions from the 18th century - Museum, record office and library - lie on the South Romanesque façade. Manuel Murguía said about the South façade of the transept: "it has such a strong character that we do not know anything alike in Galicia for its beauty and details".

The head was recently freed from several buildings leant against it. So we can see all the beauty of this great Romanesque work:

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the head, Christ's Chapel, the Choir with rose windows, ambulatory and the Great Gothic-Renaissance dome that crowns Ourense Cathedral. It has octagonal floor, three large -window storeys and was built at the beginning of the 16th century by Rodrigo de Badajoz.

In front of the head lies the Plazuela del Corregidor where we also can find the statue of Ramón Otero Pedrayo.

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On the north part of the Cathedral there is a small flagstone - pavement porch closed by a balustrade that can be reached by a stone staircase. All this dates from the late 18th century.

We can also see a chapel from que 16th century called Capilla de las Nieves and St John's Chapel from the 15th, reconstructed by the count of Benavente after the devastation of his battle against the Count of Lemos.

On the north façade, we can also appreciate its fortress aspect with two unfinished circular towers. Its structure is similar to the one on the south façade.

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A few years ago, there was no access to the main front of the Cathedral. Facing West, it is flanked by St Martín's Tower (from the 16th century) that is unfinished and the Bell Tower (Torre de las Campanas). The latter is 40 metres high and has four parts cut in a series of steps, being the two lower the oldest of them all. The lower part of this tower was reinforced at the end of the 19th century to repair the cracks caused by the great earthquake that took place in Lisbon in 1755.

The façade earlier than the repairs in the 16th century preserves the Great rose window and two smaller ones as well as the exterior part of the Romanesque main front.

Through this three-arcade main front, we get into the interior of Ourense's basilica.

Long ago, the people of Ourense celebrated here their communal gathering in front of the Paradise Porch (Pórtico del Paraíso), inspired by the Porch of Glory in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

ourense turismogaliciaIn the 16th century it suffered serious modifications: the vaults were replaced, it was laterally invaded by the towers that eliminated the lateral columns, the tympanum was changed and the bases were removed because the figures of the monsters were thought to be 'infernal'. The Paradise Porch is the best jewel of the medieval art in the golden land... If this Porch did not exist it would probably be the most beautiful jewel in the land of the end of the world.

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Next to it lies Nuestra Señora del Paraíso (Our Lady of Paradise), the Virgin with the Child on a south-side altar from the 16th century.

The cathedral is 84 metres long from the main front to the end of the central chapel of the apse... And 43 metres from one to another door of the transept.

Let's visit now the nave of the Gospel.

This is St Luke's chapel, which was founded in 1603 and closed with a screen. Next to this chapel is the tomb of Don Alonso González del Padrón.

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The chapel called Capilla de las Nieves dates from the 16th century. Here lies the tomb of the Infantina, perhaps a princess from Castile.

St John's Chapel is thought to have been placed on the Swabian baptistery. Under the floorboarding, there is a deep pit.

It already existed in 1227 and was pulled down by the count of Benavente's artillery in 1467. It was later rebuilt by the same count, who had repented of it. Nowadays it is an annexe to the cathedral museum.

ourense turismogaliciaOn the north part of the transept we can see the Gothic tomb of Bishop Vasco Pérez Mariño, who died in 1342 and brought to Ourense the image of Crucified Christ that is venerated here.

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St Christ Chapel is ogival from the second half of the 16th century and was restored a century later. The famous Gothic Christ of Ourense is said to have been brought in the 14th century by Bishop Vasco Pérez Mariño from Finisterre, where it had appeared floating on the sea.

Natural hair and beard seem to appear on a human skin and grow due to the realism achieved by the artist who created it. Long ago people used to put cages with birds in this chapel so that they could sing during the novena of St Christ.

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Part of the choir-stalls of the Cathedral is preserved in this chapel. The other choir-stalls are placed on different rooms of the temple.

At the beginning of the 17th century, five radial chapels were built to replace the old Romanesque three-apse closing: St Paul, St Isabel, Concepción, Resurrección and Asunción face the ambulatory that surrounds the Main Chapel.

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Cristo de los desamparados (Christ of the helpless) is on a chapel next to Asunción Chapel. It is full-size, Romanesque from the 12th century, carved in wood and is supposed to be venerated before the 14th century when Bishop Vasco Mariño brought the ogival Christ from Finisterre.

We finish our walk along the ambulatory and see the sacristy from the 16th century where the Romanesque St Andrew's Chapel was placed long before.

On the south part of the transept is the full-size equestrian image of St Martin from the 17th century.

In the nave of the epistle, there are several tombs like the tomb of bishop don Lorenzo, who died in the middle of the 12th century and was so famous in Ourense in the Middle Ages.

The Main Chapel draws now our attention. It has an ogival altarpiece from the early 16th century and different sculptures by Cornelis de Holanda as well as a silver front from the beginning of the 17th century.

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We must also stand out the wall of the Gospel, the tomb of Bishop Quevedo and the tomb of the unknown bishop on the wall of the epistle, which is considered the best funeral work of the Middle Ages.

We finish our visit to Ourense's Cathedral watching the Cathedral Museum.

Through a Romanesque door, the nave of the epistle provides access to what at first was thought to be the cloister of the Cathedral. This Gothic-style construction with groined vault is known as Claustra Nova.

Many valuable objects of religious art are placed here like the book El Incunable de Monterrey, which was first published in Galicia in 1494.

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The Processional Cross by Enrique de Arfe,

Romanesque Enamelworks by Limoges from the 13th century,

The so-called St Rosendo's Treasure, The oldest Christian memorial Tablet in Galicia from Baños de Bande...

Through the main entrance we go towards Calle de las Tiendas (Shopping Street)...

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The Oca-Valladares Palace was built in the 16th century and later modified. It has a Gothic-Renaissance style and since 1870, it has been the central office of Ourense's Lyceum.

St Eufemia is the old temple of Jesus Society and was opened in the middle of the 17th century. As Jesuits were expelled in the middle of the 18th century, the parish church St Eufemia was established in the church (until then it had been in the cathedral) and the Seminary was established in the College.

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The church (of Baroque style) has a façade from the 18th century but it is still unfinished in spite of many works in the building.

In the surroundings, we find the garden with a statue of Father Feijoo, which was placed XIX century because of the centenary of his birth.

Now we are in the old city of Ourense itself. Buildings are made of granite and in any small street we can find a bar ('tasca'), which tempts us -like the Wise King himself- to drink 'a good wine of Ourense'.

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Two streets lead us to Plaza del Hierro (Iron Square): Lepanto Street (which long before had been called De Obra as it was related to the construction of the cathedral) where the City Museum is placed and La Paz Street where we find the native houses of Vicente Risco and Ramón Otero Pedrayo.

Plaza del Hierro (Iron Square) was long before called Cruz dos Ferreiros because here there was a market for iron tools. In this square, there are large porches and a Renaissance fountain from the 16th century in the middle, which comes from Oseira's Monastery.

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St Dominic lies on the street of the same name. It was the convent of Dominicans founded in the 17th century. The works lasted until well into the 19th century.

After the sale of Church lands, the site of the convent was occupied by the building of the local tax office and the parish of St Eufemia La Real del Norte established in the church.

It has Latin-cross floor, flanked by two small chapels and other two on both sides of the entrance.

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Let's see now the building of the County Council Offices ('Diputación Provincial') from the 19th century. It was first built to be a weaving mill and the Local Tax Office was established on the ground floor. St Lazarus, which lies in the heart of the modern Ourense, was in the past an area far away from the centre of the city and a market until the beginning of the 20th century.

In the centre, we find the third of the fountains of Oseira's Monastery. On the West, we can see a funeral sculpture by Asorey.

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Mainly outstanding is St Francis Church, which was moved in 1930 stone by stone. It dates from the early 14th century and has ogival style.

St Francis Cloister is ogival and remained 'in situ' inside the courtyard of the Infantry Quarter, which lied on the old convent in the so-called Campo de San Francisco (St Francis field).

The cloister was built by the family Yáñez de Novoa at the beginning of the 14th century. It has 63 sharp arches resting on twin columns, 120 Romanesque-style capitals, all of them different, which fit with the Gothic arcades forming a unique whole.

From the old St Francis Field, which dominates the city, we leave the old Ourense and immerse ourselves in the daily life of the modern Ourense.

We only try to take part in the business, social and cultural life of a town with a population of 100,000, the biggest in the inner Galicia the strength of the city draws our attention and win us round.

Not only by the contrast between the peace of the stones that history left to us and the busy life in the late 20th century, and not only because it lit so many illustrious minds and deserves the title of 'Athens of Galicia' but also because it is clear that the capital of the golden land continues to be nowadays...

However, this present-day gold has much to do with agriculture, timber industry, tourism, slate industry and poultry breeding. Gold is represented by people's work; the water of the dammed rivers generating power; crops germination, the business spirit of people; the cultural strength of the city... and even the golden fermented liquid the Wise King told us about.

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 Let's drink to the golden land of Ourense! Let's drink to the golden capital of the golden lands!