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 Pontevedra, boa Vila. 

pontevedra turismogaliciapontevedra turismogaliciaOn the Town Hall of Pontevedra we can see the inscription:

“Fundote Teucro valiente
de aquesta ría a la orilla
para que en España fueras
de villas, la maravilla”.

Cunqueiro spoke about an English traveller in the early 19th century called Milford who said about Pontevedra ‘a pleasant city placed on a hill’. Castroviejo referred to Pontevedra as museum-city stating that he did not know when he went into the museum and when he left the city. But we want to start our journey recalling the words of that French Duke who, being defeated in our Peninsular War, set fire to a district saying: "Your beauty disarms me!".

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We are going to the city of the beauty that disarms. If Pontevedra was in the Middle Ages the business capital in the North-West of Spain, today it is one of the most beloved urban wholes in Spain.

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A long time ago, the sea route was the best access to Pontevedra and many sea routes finished here.

But nowadays there is a greater variety, the modern motorway or roads that join the rest of Galicia, the railway, which was a great change for the urban Geography of this city, and three new bridges over the river.

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The River Lérez. The waters of this river have crossed over half hundred km from Forcarei to reach this place. The rivers Alba and Tomeza join Lérez. And the estuary of Pontevedra is formed here.

Protected by the mountains Acibal, Castrove and da Fracha, Pontevedra has been always a crossroads.

pontevedra turismogaliciaThe first inhabitants lived in Palafitos, on the banks of the river Lérez. Then they lived in a town protected by the nearby hill fort, which was also a sanctuary. Finally they lived on a harbour, which was the heart of the city for many centuries and was first dedicated to tin, then to fishing and finally to business. And here arrived Arabs and Normans, English and French, Berber and Turks looking for wealth.

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We go to Pontevedra along the road coming from Santiago.

There are three possible entrances and we take that of the old Burgo Bridge leaving the modern service area on the left and the housing estate called A Caeira on the right.

From the administrative point of view, this area belongs to Poio but it has a direct connection with Pontevedra.

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We have chosen this route because of history. In the 12th century Pontevedra was called Ponte Veteris or Burgo de Ponte Veteris, the old bridge.

Next to the bridge appeared the first inhabited settlement, where travellers were attended.

The bridge had four arches between two towers. The leitmotif on the city’s coat of arms recalls this bridge.

In the Roman itinerary Per Loca Maritima by Antonio Pío, Pontevedra was the third Mansion... It was called Ad Duos Pontes...

There is doubt about whether the first of those bridges was "Sampayo Bridge" or "do Couto bridge" over the river Tomeza. But what is certain is that the other one was the present - day "do Burgo bridge", the old bridge, Ponte Veteris, the first natural entrance to Pontevedra.

The present-day medieval bridge was altered owing to different modifications but it is doubtless the successor of the bridge that in 1165 was the scenery of the signing of the peace treaty between the Kings Alphonso of Portugal and Ferdinand of Leon. It may be also the same bridge that in the late 14th century was “Muy buen lugar para los que quisiesen hacer armas por amor de sus amigas, ca todas las dueñas e doncellas de Pontevedra eran a mirar por el adarve de la villa“.

pontevedra turismogaliciaUpstream we find St Salvador de Lérez Monastery, which was founded in the 9th century. Pontevedra’s history began with this monastery. There is nothing left about the first Romanesque factory. The present-day church is Neo-classical and so is his major altarpiece. Here is St Benedict’s chapel, as the famous song says:

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Si vas a san Benitiño
non vaias ó de paredes,
que hai outro máis milagreiro,
San Benitiño de Lérez.

The illustrious Galician Father Feijoo and Father Sarmiento studied and taught here. Both of them are remembered in a commemorative tablet on the façade of the old Benedictine house.

The marine district called La Moureira settled on the mouth of the river Lérez. The ship Santamaría (The Galician one) is thought to have been built in the wharf Las Corbaceiras for the expedition of America’s discovery. Today we can only see ground - floor houses with mitre - shaped façades because of the roofs inclination.

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The village by-laws from the 16th century did not let those who did not work on the sea live in La Moreira.

In his Descripción del Reino de Galicia (Description of Galicia’s Kingdom) Molina said that Pontevedra loaded

Navíos que pasan de ciento
de tantos pescados y mantenimiento
que hincha a otros Reinos y a la AndalucÍa.

Pontevedra was especially important for its relation with the sea in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, although his business importance went on until the middle of the 18th. But wars, plagues, migrations, business changes and floods made its business and transport importance decay.

The walled city began at the end of the bridge. Pontevedra had a Wall, which started to be built in the 13th century and was preserved until the middle of the 19th. It was 2,170 metres long whose last section went through the present - day streets

- Arzobispo Malvar (where there are still some remains next to St Mary’s Church),
- Michelena,
- Cobian Rofignac,
- Amoedo and
- Avenida de Buenos Aires.

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Unluckily, the wall is nowadays just a memory.

We are again at the end of the bridge Puente del Burgo to start the journey across the city.

In spite of being on the doors of the old city we get into the intense activity of the modern city. Today like yesterday life starts in Pontevedra in Puente del Burgo (Burgo bridge).

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Our first destiny is Santa María la Mayor founded by the powerful "Gremio de Mareantes do Corpo Santo" just in the place that long ago had been occupied by the Romanesque church called Santa María la Antigua.

It was erected in the first half of the 16th century.

About the façade, built by Cornelis de Holanda and Juan Noble, Cunqueiro said ‘La había patinado el viento del mar o la mirada de los que llegaron, en naves, desde lejanos puertos, con la nostalgia de la villa natal’.

pontevedra turismogaliciaWith a combination of ogival and plateresque styles, it is the first monument in Pontevedra and one of the most beautiful of the Gothic -Isabelline in Galicia. It was given the rank of basilica by Pope John XXIII.

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It occupies the top of the old hill fort, a sacred place in Pontevedra. It has basilical floor with lateral chapels that give it a cross shape.

We go up the wide steps - modified in the middle of the 19th century. In the main façade, which is like a three-bodied altarpiece among buttresses, several motifs are represented as for example a Passing of the Virgin on an arch of the main front. Mary’s coronation on the rose window. A Calvary on the top. And St Miguel and Teucro, who founded the city, on the buttresses.

pontevedra turismogaliciapontevedra turismogaliciaOn the right door there are medallions of the Emperor Charles I and his wife. Next to it we find Cristo del Buen Viaje (the Christ of Good Journey), who sailors said goodbye to before embarking. The polygonal apse is the oldest part.

pontevedra turismogaliciaInside, there are three naves separated by groups of columns. We must stand out the Baroque altarpieces and the chapels La Concepción (with the tomb of Diego de Arango), St Miguel (with the tomb of Mariños de Lobeira) and CorpoSanto, which has the same name as ‘Gremio de Mareantes’, who founded this church.

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This is the old vegetable garden of St Dominic’s Convent, which today is a poplar grove and the administrative centre of the capital. We can find here the Town Hall, the County Council Offices, the old Teaching School, the Secondary School, the Faculty of Fine Arts... all of them are buildings from the late 19th century.

On the head of the poplar grove and surrounded by a pool, there is a memorial to Pontesampayo heroes, which commemorates the heroic deed of Galician people in the Peninsular War.

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Dominicans arrived in Pontevedra in the late 12th century. In the late 13th century they started to build their convent, first in A Moureira, then in this place.

pontevedra turismogaliciaIn the 18th century, the old building began to be rebuilt in Neo - classical style. This reconstruction could not be finished because of secularization. That’s why the head of the temple and its five polygonal apses of Gothic style could be preserved. The façade of the chapter house from the 15th century is also preserved. The rest of the building was pulled down in the late 19th century to build the Secondary School.

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Inside there are still tombs leant against the walls with reclining statues of illustrious characters in Pontevedra’s history. In the first chapel, Tristán de Montenegro; in the last one on the right, Payo Gómez de Soutomaior and in the central chapel, Suero Gómez de Soutomaior. All of them were illustrious people of Pontevedra, who wanted to be buried here and today share the room with part of the archaeological section of Pontevedra’s Museum. This section was created in 1927 and officially opened in 1938. Wonderful Roman, Visigothic and Medieval remains are exhibited in this museum.

In an annexe to this building we find the medieval arches of St Bartholomew, the Old (San Bartolomé el Viejo), which is a church pulled down in the middle of the 19th century to build the present-day Curros Enríquez Square.

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Long ago, Pontevedra was one of the most important military centres in Galicia. The famous Galician ballad says:

Anque vou a Pontevedra
non vou por ver os Soldados;
vou por ver a Pelengrina
a dos Pendentes Dourados.

The brotherhood called Nuestra Señora del Refugio y Divina Peregrina was founded in the 18th century. This worship was promoted by Franciscans and came from Sahagún.

On 18th June 1778 the first stone of the Pilgrim Virgin Church was placed. Tradition has it that the pilgrim came from Efeso to go on a pilgrimage to Jacob’s tomb and stopped in Pontevedra for a rest.

The origin of tradition is linked to the Southern Route or Portuguese Road to Santiago de Compostela, which could be also called the Route of the Pilgrim Virgin. The route arrived here through the old entrance called Porta de Trabancas or Porta da Vila.

The church, of Baroque and Neo - classical styles, has scallop - shaped circular floor and original curved façade.

The Virgin, Jacob and St Joseph appear in the main front.

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We can also see the image of the patron saint of Pontevedra with the hat with pilgrim shells and the pilgrim’s staff and the gourd on her hand. The Child is on her left arm.

The holy water stoup is a great shell, which was donated by Admiral Méndez Núñez.

It is the most characteristic church in Pontevedra.

pontevedra turismogaliciaThis is Herrería Square. The famous poem says:

Pontevedra é boa vila
dá de beber a quen pasa
a fonte da ferrería
san bartolomé na plaza.

The fountain lies nowadays on the surroundings of St Francis. Here were the ironworks under the arcades that sheltered the market later and today form a unique monumental whole.

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St Francis Convent - Church is ogival with a Romanesque appearance. Although it is thought to have been founded by Francis of Assisi himself at the beginning of the 13th century, the construction dates from the 14th except for the main front and some remains from the 13th century. It has Latin-cross floor.

It lies on plots that belonged to Soutomayor family next to the site of the old wall making use of some of the towers. Archbishop Malvar enlarged it in the late 18th century replacing the cloister and leaning against it the building of the present - day Local Tax Office. In the entrance of this office we find St Domenic’s Gate from the old wall.

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The burials inside are especially outstanding, mainly the one of Payo Gómez Charino (from Soutomayor family), who rests his foot on a lion and holding firmly its back. There is also a memory of his great deed: ‘Aquí yace el muy noble caballero Payo Gómez Charino el primero Señor de Rianjo que ganó a Sevilla siendo de moros y los privilegios de esta villa’.

The so-called Admiral of the Sea (Almirante do Mar) sent ships from Pontevedra, which broke the boat bridge and the chains that crossed the river Guadalquivir to defend Seville.

Ferdinand III, the Saint granted privileges to Pontevedra to thank Payo Gómez Charino, a great warrior and poet.

St Mary and St Francis are placed on the humps that long before had been occupied by the two fort hills of Pontevedra.

Outside the old Pontevedra, we find the church of St Clare’s Convent with nuns of the Order of St Clare. It dates from the late 14th century and has ogival style. It is thought to have been founded in the late 13th century. At that moment, this area was near the gate and battlemented tower of the Wall called Rocha Forte.

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We must stand out the polygonal apse, which is higher than the nave, and the entrance to the northern side. It is Gothic and is flanked by columns that represent the Last Judgement. The rest of the church is hidden by the convent building. Inside there are Baroque altars and leather pediments.

Towards the centre of the city we find St Bartholomew ‘o Novo’, which was built in the late 17th century to be a church and college for Jesuits. Its Baroque style is a mixture of Galician Baroque and the most international patterns of this style.

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The convent’s vegetable garden reaches the river Lérez.

Many important Baroque altarpieces arepreserved inside.

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In the convent building, annexe to the church (Sarmiento building) we can find nowadays the Provincial Museum of Pontevedra.

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In the square called Plaza de la Leña (Wood Square) there are two Baroque stately homes that shelter the Museum: the House of Castro Monteagudo and the Palace of García Flórez, both of them date from the 18th century and an original modern arch join them.

It is one of the most important provincial museums in Spain thanks to the work of illustrious people of Pontevedra since its foundation in 1927. Castro Sampedro, Sánchez Cantón and Filgueira Valverde are names related to the Museum and Pontevedra’s history.

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In the building Castro Monteagudo we can find galleries about:

- Archaeology and Prehistory with treasures from Caldas, A Golada and Foxados that consist of torcs, glasses, axes...
- Collection of Galician and Portuguese parish crosses.
- Painting... we can practically observe the development of painting in Spain.

In the Palace of García Flórez we can find:

- The most valuable collection of Compostela’s jet that exists in Galicia.
- Golden pieces that belong to the so-called ‘Tesoro de Caldas’ (Caldas Treasure).
- A collection of 650 silver objects, which is the most varied that have been exhibited in Spain.
- A wide range of popular gold and silver work.
- An exceptional collection of Sargadelos pottery.
- Documents about the brotherhood ‘Cofradía do Corpo Santo’.
- Castelao Gallery...
- and a replica of the chamber of the frigate Numancia, which was the first Spanish battleship that went round the world led by Admiral Méndez Núñez.

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The so-called Casa Fernández López, in honour of his great benefactor, is the present - day building next to Pazo Castro Monteagudo. Here is the library and register office of the Museum. This building is being enlarged extending to the nearby streets.

We must also refer to the great cultural activity that Pontevedra’s Museum has been holding since it was created showing that it is a great organization with influence not only on Pontevedra but also on the whole Southern Galicia.

We fill ourselves with the spirit of the city and get lost among the streets and squares... No Galician city gathers so much nobility...

This street can be considered the main street, the essential part of the old city that goes from St Clare to St Mary with the names Padre Sarmiento and Isabel II street.

In any street we can find homesteads that belonged to noblemen of Pontevedra. There are some examples such as Pazo de Mugartegui, on the square of the same name; the Baroque ‘pazo’ with Renaissance decoration that belong to the family Barbeito, the central office of the ethnological Museum of Liste, which is also called Casa de las Caras; the house of the family Méndez Núñez, built in the site of the Churruchaos Castle, or the ‘Pazo’ del Barón de Casa Goda, which today is a State Hotel. We must not forget the Main Theatre, a jewel for the cultural life of Pontevedra.

But beyond all doubt, the most important places of interest in Pontevedra are the squares. They are made of stones sculpted by stonemasons of this land. Squares are basic units of urban relationships, squares are unique in Pontevedra.

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Ferrería, the main square... La Leña, where fuel for stoves was sold long ago... Cinco Calles... and Teucro.


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The old Plaza del Pan (Bread Square) is called Plaza de Teucro (Teucro’s Square) nowadays in honour of the mythical founder of the city.

He was Telamón and Hesíone’s son and Ajax’s brother. Teucro went to Troya into exile and tradition has it that he found the old Helenes here. Estrabón and Plinio gave evidence of it. During Corpus Christi festivity, people of Pontevedra carried Teucro on a procession.

This square was given his name to show evidence of his role in Pontevedra’s mythology.

Let’s pay attention now to the present-day life in Pontevedra... industry... business... people... in the daily life of a city full of vitality.

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We started our visit on the banks of the river Lérez and we are going back there again to go through the promenade that leads us to the Sculpture Island (Isla de las Esculturas) with twelve works of art of the most famous contemporary artists next to Pazo da Cultura and University. The beauty of the city reminds us of Castroviejo who said: ‘Pontevedra is not a big city, but it is not necessary either, it is a Spiritual Village’. At the end of our visit, we also listen to Cunqueiro’s words:

 ‘Pontevedra is made for man and peacefulness, the daily leisure time. it is an ideal city for a nostalgic artist’.