Taking advantage of your visit to the wonderful Rias Baixas, make a short stop and visit the Castillo de Monterrey in Verín a town and municipality in the southeast of the province of Ourense, autonomous community of Galicia, Spain. The population of the municipality is about 14,433. It is located 70 kilometers east of the provincial capital of Ourense and 15 kilometers north of the Portuguese city of Chaves. The Tâmega River flows through the town. In the Middle Ages it was known as Santa María de Verín.
It is one of the best preserved fortresses in Galicia. It was declared a National Monument on June 3, 1931 and is currently a Property of Cultural Interest, within the catalog of monuments of Spain’s historical heritage.
The fortress is located on the remains of the Castro de Baroncelli or Baroncelle, and throughout its history, some of the most powerful lineages such as the Romay, Ulloa, Zúñiga, Viedma, Fonseca, Acevedo, settled in its strategic complex. or the Dukes of Alba.
Documentally, the first news of the place comes from the towns settled in the valley at the beginning of the 10th century and about the castle, in the year 950.
In 1506 Felipe el Hermoso and Cardinal Cisneros meet at this place.
It is considered by many authors as the largest Galician acropolis, being mainly a strategic enclave for the defense of the border with nearby Portugal. The oldest conserved elements correspond to the years of Alfonso IX’s reign, most of them corresponding to the time of the first Count of Monterrey, Sancho Sánchez de Ulloa.
It consists of three walled enclosures on a long hill. At the first and furthest from the central nucleus is currently the Verín National Parador, and between it and the nucleus there is a 17th century transept. The second enclosure is accessed through a door flanked by two open guardhouses, reinforcing the rest of the enclosure with several bastions. The last enclosure is accessed through a door with a pointed arch formed by large voussoirs, being the best preserved in the complex. Above it is the Monterrey shield, which consists of four barracks with the arms of the Acevedo, Ulloa, Viedma and Zúñiga, and on them the shield of the Fonseca and the Romay.
Of the outstanding buildings of the complex is the Pilgrims Hospital, founded by Gaspar de Zúñiga Acevedo y Velasco and built in 1391 according to the date inscribed on the frieze, by the abbot Vasco Pérez. It is dedicated to the Holy Trinity and originates from a hostel dependent on the Montederramo monastery, built in 1327.
It is a small two-storey building, which was recently restored and the barely preserved Gothic doorway, with a pointed arch, flared with four archivolts. The key to the bow is decorated with an angel with its head down. On the tympanum a triumphant majestic Christ is seen surrounded by the figures of the tetramorphs and figures of the Annunciation under pointed canopies, which represent one of the later Romanesque manifestations with Gothic details. In the spandrels, several founder coats of arms.
Located within the last enclosure, its access door is located in the Plaza de Monterrey. This door is finished with a semicircular arch and features the coats of arms of the counts. It is flanked by two cylindrical towers, partially preserved, with loopholes.
Through this door you access the parade ground, where there is a well and a tunnel that served as a cistern and that a legend said communicated with the Watchtower. During the restoration works carried out in recent years, the tunnel entrance has been covered. The mouth of the well, 14 meters deep, is maintained. On the west side of the wall, remains of large stone furnaces are preserved.
Monterrey Castle played an important role throughout the Portuguese-Spanish wars, having been strategically built on the frontier for the purpose. It was more than a castle since included within the perimeter were a monastery, a hospital and a small town which was abandoned in the 19th century. The castle itself is more impressive from afar than at closer look, but the view from the heights is worth the drive up. At night it is lit up and you can see it for miles on clear nights, even from the hills of Chaves in neighboring Portugal.
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