Orense Tourist Attractions
Orense, chief town of its province and the see of a bishop, lies in southern Galicia. It has been famed since ancient times for its healing sulfurous springs (Las Burgas). It was known to the Romans as Aurium, a name probably derived from the legendary gold (Spanish oro) of the Río Miño. In the sixth and seventh Centuries it was the residence of the Suevian kings, and after the expulsion of the Moors it suffered for many years from Norman and Arab raids.
Near the Plaza Mayor stands the Cathedral of San Martín, the finest cathedral in Galicia after that of Santiago de Compostela. It was built in the 12th and 13th Centuries and rebuilt in the 16th and 17th Centuries after severe damage by earthquakes and war. Both the side doorways have rich sculptural decoration, and even finer is the rich Romanesque sculpture of the Pórtico del Paraíso ("Porch of Paradise") on the west front (accessible only from inside the cathedral), which is modeled on the Pórtico de la Gloria in Santiago. On the central arch can be seen figures of the 24 Elders of the Apocalypse, and on the central pier of the doorway are the Virgin and the Apostle St James (Santiago), with the four Evangelists to the right and four prophets to the left.
Opening hours: 12pm-1pm, 4:30pm-7pm; Sun: 12pm-1pm, 4:30pm-7pm
Cathedral - Interior
The presbytery, with an equestrian statue of St Martin, is closed off by a fine Plateresque screen. In the north transept is the tomb of Bishop Vasco Mariño. Behind the altar is a large Gothic retablo (14th C.). The Capilla del Cristo (1567-74), a masterpiece of Galician Baroque, has an altar with a baldachin and a very ancient figure of Christ with natural hair, traditionally believed to have been washed ashore on the Galician coast in the 14th century.
The Diocesan Museum in the chapterhouse contains fine 13th century enamels and eight 10th Century chessmen in rock crystal.
Around the Plaza Mayor
Archeological Museum and Provincial Archives
A few paces from the cathedral is the arcaded Plaza Mayor, the central feature of the old town. At its south end stands the Romanesque Palacio Episcopal (Bishop's Palace; scheduled as a national monument), with a beautiful arcaded courtyard, which now houses the Archeological Museum and Provincial Archives. The museum has two sections, one devoted to archeology (including prehistoric material) and the other to religious painting and sculpture.
Opening hours: 9am-2:30pm, 4:30pm-9:30pm; Closed: Mon
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Epiphany (3 Kings' Day ) - Christian (Jan 6), May Day / Labor Day (May 1), Letras Gallegas - Spain (May 17), Feast of St James - Christian (Jul 25), Columbus Day - Spanish Countries (Oct 12), New Year's Eve (Dec 31), Christmas Eve - Christian (Dec 24), Constitution Day - Spain (Dec 6), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec 8)
In the south of the town is the Romanesque church of La Trinidad (13th C.), with two round towers and a Gothic doorway.
North of the Plaza Mayor, on the way to the railroad station, the Puente Romano crosses the Miño; it was built in 1230 on Roman foundations and has been frequently renovated or rebuilt since then. The central arch, 38m/125ft high, has a span of 43m/141ft. A short distance upstream is the Puente Nuevo (New Bridge).
Campo de los Remedios
At the near end of the bridge, on the banks of the Miño, is the Campo de los Remedios, in which is the pilgrimage chapel of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, with a much revered image of the Virgen de los Remedios.
Leave Orense on N 540, going south, which comes in 26km/16mi to Celanova (alt. 645m/2,116ft).
In the Plaza Mayor in Celanova is the famous Benedictine monastery of San Rosendo, founded in 936 but now mainly Baroque. The church has a magnificent facade by Melchor de Velasco, and on entering it the visitor will be overwhelmed by the Baroque splendor of the retablos, particularly the one in the Capilla Mayor. The beautiful cloister (1550) and the panelled stair-wells are also magnificent examples of Baroque art. Of the original monastery there survives the church of San Miguel (10th C.) in the monastery garden.
Map of Orense Attractions