The South Ways
Neftalí Platas García
The Southeast Way. Vía da Prata
This is the longest of all the ways in Galicia. It crosses nature reserves of great beauty, with a wealth of cultural and ecological heritage. Due to its length, this itinerary offers alternatives and a number of accesses into Galicia from Northeast Portugal and through the basin of the Sil river that come together in the city of Ourense. The Southeast way is an extension of the Roman road known with the same name, which connected Emerita Augusta (Mérida) with Asturica Augusta (Astorga).
We’ll begin the explanation of the different alternatives of the Southeast way with the small section A Canda-A Gudiña where we can enjoy very beautiful landscapes and the churches dedicated to Santa María da Cabeza and San Martiño.
The next section is the one from A Gudiña to Laza. Leaving behind A Gudiña we can travel across the spectacular landscapes of A Serra Seca. The mountain range finishes in the parish of Santiago de Campo Becerros. We can deviate from the route in A Mourisca to visit the Marian Shrine of Pena Tallada and after that we can climb to the summit of the Serra de San Mamede to see the Cistercian monastery of Montederramo (16-17th centuries).
The next important stop is the Marian shrine of Os Milagres de Monte Medo.
After crossing Eiras we go into the town of Laza and there we link with the pilgrimage route from Chaves (Portugal) and pass through Feces de Abaixo. Laza is famous for its popular carnival festivities and for the church of San Xoán de Laza (1701).
Once in the municipality of Verin, the way continues on to Tamaguelos , the city centre of the town and the Castle of Monterrei. Later, in Mixós, we can visit the famous 9th century pre-Romanesque church.
The following section we are going to talk about is Laza- Vilar do Barrio- Xunqueira de Ambía.
The first stop in this part should be the parish church of A Albergaría from the 17th century. In the village of Santa María de Bóveda we found the stately home of the Marquis of Boveda de Limia, knight of Santiago and a chapel founded by this nobleman.
Xunqueira de Ambía is one of the high points along the Southeast way. It is, in fact, a spiritual centre dating back to medieval times. There is a splendid Romanesque church, a cloister with attached outbuildings and, in the past, the complex had a pilgrim hospital. When it was first built (9th century) it housed both monks and nuns. The Romanesque church of Xunqueira de Ambía was begun in 1164. Adjacent to the church it was built in the 16th century a splendid cloister in the late Gothic style and with Portuguese influence.
Xunqueira de Ambía-Ourense
In the section from Xunqueira de Ambía to Ourense we found the chapel of A Virxe do Camiño, the church of Santa Mariña de Augas Santas (taking a deviation) and the church of San Mamede de Cantoña. We should point up the place called Vilanova with houses that bear coats of arms with the crosses of military orders and the scallop shells of Saint James.
Other alternative route is A Gudiña- Verín- Monterrei.
On leaving A Gudiña and crossing different small villages we arrive to As Vendas da Barreira, where we can visit the chapel of San Mauro.
The town of Verin is a crossroads for several pilgrim’s ways. It boasts a Baroque church belonging to the convent, several manor houses of interest, namely the Casa do Asistente, that today has been converted into a pilgrim’s hostel.
The way continues on to Monterrei, with the Fortress that dominates the area. This castle still preserves its medieval walls, the 13th century church, the 15th century keep and the 16th century Count’s Palace.
The following section goes from Monterrei to Ourense crossing the villages of Trasmirás, Xinzo de Limia and Allariz.
Leaving Monterrei behind and after crossing some villages we reach Xinzo de Limia whose church of Santa Maria has a column with a capital bearing a scallop shell. The way continues on to Vilar de Sandiás where we can point up the parish church of Santo Estevo (16th century). Penedós is located in a place of great natural beauty and there we can visit the Romanesque image of the crucified Christ found in its church.
In the town of Allariz we should point up the Romanesque churches of San Pedro, Santiago, Santo Estevo and San Xoán de Vilanova. The pilgrim continues on to Augas Santas where we can visit the hillfort of Armeá and the church of Santa Mariña. The way, before going into Ourense city centre, crosses San Breixo de Seixalbo where we can find an interesting Baroque church, a medieval chapel and a wayside cross (cruceiro).
The way takes the pilgrim into the city centre of Ourense to visit the cathedral and its chapel of the Holy Christ, the fountain of As Burgas, the streets, squares and the bridges over the Miño river. This town boasts a considerable historic and artistic heritage: a Roman bridge (1st century), the convent church of San Francisco and its 14th century cloister, the church of A Trindade (16th century), manor houses built between the 16th and 18th centuries, Baroque churches with excellent alterpieces and sculptures and the group of buildings belonging to the cathedral with its Romanesque church (12th century). Different ways to arrive to Santiago join in this city.
From Ourense, in the way that takes us to Cea, we found a manor house-castle near the place called Sobreira. After crossing the picturesque villages of Faramontaos, Biduedo and Casas Novas we arrive to San Cristovo de Cea, that boasts a noteworthy ethnographic group of traditional houses, community ovens, raised granaries and sheds; from medieval times we can find in the vicinity of the village the Romanesque church of San Facundo built after 1206.
On leaving Cea we can deviate a little bit to visit the monastery of Oseira, a Cistercian monastery traditionally known for its hospitality to pilgrims. Worthy of note is its 12th century church, one of the best examples of Galician Romanesque style. After this visit we can rejoin the route until Castro de Dozón and the nearby village called Mosteiro with its monastery church of San Pedro de Vilanova de Dozón (12th century). The way reaches the hillock of San Domingos where we can find a chapel dedicated to this saint.
The city of Lalín still conserves the Romanesque church of San Martiño that was part of a monastery founded in the 10th century. In the way to Silleda we can stop to visit the Romanesque churches of Fiestras and Ansemil. In the village we can take a detour to see the sanctuary of A Saleta and the ruins of the Monastery of Carboeiro.
In the final section of the way (Silleda-Santiago) we should visit the church dedicated to San Cibrao in Chapa, the ancient hillfort and the chapel of Santa Mariña in Castrovite and the Romanesque church of Santa María de Loimil. In the parish called Santo Estevo de Oca we can stop to see the Pazo de Oca (manor house) with its harmonious architectural, ponds and gardens. In Ponte Ulla we can point up the Romanesque church and some manor houses. Near the elevation called Pico Sacro, with very good views, we can see the chapel of San Sebastián (10th century).
Leaving Rubial and Deseiro de Arriba, the way reaches the municipality of Santiago.
The Portuguese Way
The pilgrimage from Portugal to Santiago has been existed from the Late Middle Ages.
Tui, in the Galician bank of the River Miño, may be considered the starting point of this way. Here we should visit the old part of the city, specially the cathedral of Santa Maria, the Diocesan Museum of Tui-Vigo, the Convent “das encerradas”, the church of San Domingos and the Romanesque church of San Bartolomé de Rebordáns.
In the section from Tui to Redondela we will find some interesting places like the Chapel of the Virxe do Camiño, a bridge known as the Ponte das Febres, the chapel A Virxe da Guía and the chapel of Santiaguiño de Antas.
In Redondela we should visit the church of Santiago, with a beautiful star-shaped ceiling. Going out the village we’ll find the chapel of As Angustias or Santa Mariña and then, after crossing a forest, we arrive to the historic site of Ponte Sampaio, where, during the War of Independence, the army of Napoleon suffered one of its greatest defeats in Galicia at the hands of the armed populace.
After crossing the places called Balteiro, A Carballa and Lusquiños we arrive to the town of Pontevedra. It’s a city of 80,000 inhabitants where we should visit monuments like the Sanctuary of the Virxe Peregrina (18th century), the ruins of the Convent of San Domingos (14-15th centuries), the Museum of Pontevedra (this visit is a must for the pilgrim), the Basilica of Santa María a Grande and the convent church of San Francisco (14th century). In this last church there are several tombs of members of the local nobility dating from the Early Middle Ages. One of the most important is the one of Paio Gómez Chariño, one eminent poet of the 13th century, that make a reference in one of his poems to the Apostle Saint James:
Ai, Sant’Iago, padrom sabido
vós mi adugades o meu amigo!
sobre mar vem quem frores d’amor tem:
mirarei, madre, as torres de Geen.
Ai, Sant’Iago, padrom provado
vós mi adugades o meu amado!
sobre mar vem quem frores d’amor tem:
mirarei, madre, as torres de Geen
From Pontevedra we go to the north. The first place of interest is the church and rectory of Santa María. From Ponte Balbón the route travels along smoothly. Also of note along this stretch is the church of San Martín de Agudelo (13th century).
The lovely village of Tibo, with its fountain, stone cross and public washing place brings the pilgrim to Caldas de Reis. Here we found the interesting church of Santa María de Caldas (13th century) and, in the old town, the church of Saint Thomas Becket, the only Galician church consecrated to the Holy Archbishop of Canterbury and the great Chancellor of England, assassinated in his cathedral by the royal attendants of King Henry II of England. Later we will find the Bermaña Bridge, an enchanting medieval structure.
The Way makes its way gently uphill until it reaches the group of buildings of Santa Mariña de Carracedo. In Ponte Cesures we find a medieval bridge. After crossing it we go until Padrón , the most important town we find until reaching Santiago. Here we should point up the church of Santiago de Padrón, the Convent of O Carme and, at the foot of this building, the fountain with the same name. Other interesting monument is the Baroque palace of the Bishop of Quito.
Going out the town the Way comes to the Collegiate Church of Iria, surrounded by the cemetery of Adina.
In the last section of the Way we can visit the Marian Sanctuary of A Escravitude, the picturesque village of Angueira de Suso. In the forest close to Rúa de Francos we will find the mysterious, abandoned ruins of the hillfort Castro Lupario.