Historic-artistic patrimony


Among Terras do Miño there is a big amount of patrimonial traces from past periods of time, the result of human presence since very ancient eras, that contrast with the most modern artistic movements.

One of the most outstanding elements is the Roman Walls of Lugo, declared World Heritage Site, which is the principal tourist attraction in what concerns the cultural patrimony.

In order to study the existent patrimonial elements in the area of Terras do Miño Biosphere Reserve, these elements have been grouped in thematic units that set a particular era and that are described as follows.


The first human presence in the area dates back to the beginning of the superior palaeolithic, between 150-120000 years ago, with many occupations related to the end of the last state of the Würm (Magdalenian occupations and Azilian) and the Mesolithic. The occupations are both cave sites (A Valiña, Castroverde), rock shelters (Pena Grande, Vilalba) as outdoor camps (Xestido, Abadín).

The research focuses on this period in the Vilalba Museum of Prehistory and Archaeology that now houses the best Galician collection concerning the first settlers.


The post-paleolithic settlements related to the acquisition of farming practices, the use of metals, ceramics and polished stones are equally plentiful in the territory, including both occupational fields (Prado do Inferno, Muras), and funerary items known locally as “Medoñas”.

The funerary monuments are located in isolated and preferentially high places; they are significantly oriented and sometimes ornamented, that point out the existence of religious beliefs and associated rituals.

In the Reserve there are over 200 ruins and funerary monuments associated to the Metal Age. These remains are mainly concentrated in the downtown area, noted for its abundance the municipalities of Vilalba and Guntín (See map Artistic Heritage I).

The presence of rock carvings representing both hunting scenes, war or cosmic interpretations are linked to this cultural period.

These engravings in the rocks were made by direct percussion techniques and, with the passing of time and erosion, have acquired a smooth and rounded texture. The topic of these is usually very varied, from animals to geometric figures of obscure meaning.

Inside the area studied, Guitiriz is the municipality where there is a better representation of the features mentioned above (see Plane Artistic Heritage I).

Vestiges of this period are in the Provincial Museum of Lugo and the Museum of Prehistory and Archaeology in Vilalba.


The complex cultural period that includes the Bronze Age, the Iron Age and Romanization is accentuated by an intensification of agriculture and livestock production that led to an increase of the population in the territory and the emergence of defensive fortifications around the major population centres, the “castros” (rounded fortified settlements).

The “castros” are settlements located in high and inaccessible places, preferably on the tops of mountains. These villages, whose design had no previous planning, are protected by solid defensive systems, which is a sign of belligerence prevailing at that time.

There are a large number of forts catalogued, concretely, within the proposed reserve we have a total of 302, although only a few have been excavated and show visible structures.

The Celtic culture is complemented by a rudimentary plastic and metalwork at its peak moment, remnants of which are in the Provincial Museum of Lugo, Museum of Prehistory and Archaeology, in Vilalba, and the Monographical Museum and Viladonga's Castro.


Since the main objective of the Roman Empire in the area of study was mining and control of infrastructures, there are abundant functional structures (bridges, walls...), and, on the contrary, there are great monuments (circuses, theatres... ).

The city of Lucus Augusti stands out among others. Founded in 25 BC with the aim of strategic interests of conquering, and, between 260 and 310, was surrounded by a wall of 2,140 m of perimeter; this wall was latter declared a World Heritage Site in year 2000.

Among the most important vestiges of the romanization in this city there are works such as the Roman Bridge, the Roman Baths or the numerous ruins exhibited in the provincial museum.

It's important too the existence of Roman remains in other areas of the country, such as the nymphaeum of Santa Eulalia vault, that dates back to the late third century.


The Diocesan Museum and the Provincial Museum of Lugo have a collection of ruins from this era, such as the Crismón (Monogram of Christ) of A Hermida, great piece of marble perfection


This era begins with the inclusion of the studied area to the Visigoth kingdom. Except some decorative remains in museums, the artistic legacy is very small. The Provincial Museum of Lugo has preserved interesting pieces from this era, as is the case of the Reliefs of the Saamasas (sixth century) or the Booch of Baamorto (seventh century).


For Galicia, Romanesque represents the primordial art, as it coincides with the most glorious era of its history, when Santiago de Compostela became the third centre of Christianity along with Rome and Jerusalem.

It must be noted the large number of churches dating from this period, most of them with a unique floor and an apse.

The great constructive impulse has as its major example the Cathedral of Lugo, whose construction began in 1129.


In the middle of the twelfth century, new construction solutions began to be tested, among which the mendicant orders acquire a main role with works such as the Monastery of Santo Domingo (XIII century) and the Cloister of the Convent of San Francisco (XV), both located in Lugo, or the façade of the Monastery of Santa Maria of Meira.

As discussed in the previous epigraph, Lugo's Cathedral was initially Romanesque, but the Gothic influence triumphed from the fifth section of the main hall; the original header was reformed in the fourteenth century to make way for a more spacious ambulatory, with new hexagonal chapels.

Also the imagery, painting and jewellery, stand out among them, which in many cases is preserved "in situ" in the numerous churches of Terras do Miño, as well as in the Museums.


Most of the fortifications of the area studied are medieval. In the area, there are numerous defensive towers, but at the same time, there are also a lot of castles and fortresses.


From this period of time dates the Torre Vella (Old Tower) of the Cathedral of Lugo and the cloister of the Monastery of Meira.

In turn, paintings and sculptures of the time are preserved in Parga, Fonteita, Ferreira de Pallares and Lugo.


Some of the major artistic representations of this period are located in Lugo and Mondoñedo. In Lugo, we can find the Chapel of Our Lady of the Big Eyes and the Cloister, both in the Cathedral, the Church of San Roque and the City Hall. In Mondoñedo, we must mention the Sanctuary of Remedios and its main altarpiece and organs of the cathedral.

From this period there are also numerous sculptures, paintings and golden pieces.


Galician country houses (Pazos) are lordly buildings located mostly in rural areas due to the need to exercise control over the land. These lordly houses, despite having civilian structures, were influenced by monastic (doors framed with volutes, coffered corbels...) and military architecture (towers).

Some of the elements that characterize the manors are large chimneys –symbol of power and wealth, usually ornamented with showy spikes of granite pinnacles—, blazons as identifying marks of lordly lineage and the chapel as a sign of the importance of religion. Other significant elements are the fountains, large barns, dovecotes and in some cases the presence of unique trees like palm trees or cypresses.

Most manors were built by local masons and stonecutters, and their architectural form is the usual rectangular or square block.

At the level 4.2. we can see the location of the manors in Terras do Miño.


This period is when the façade of the Cathedral of Lugo is built; this façade is the most neoclassical of all the Galician ones, and the chapel and altarpiece are also built at this time. From this period, Las Dominicanas (Lugo), the Frescos of Terán (Cathedral of Mondoñedo) and the Pazo of Dome also date.


Ignoring the chronological study explained so far on the existing art forms in the area of application, in this section, the study of medieval roads existing in the area studied is emphasised. With this, we attempt to approach the structure of the road network in the Middle Ages and identify those areas where roads are kept in good condition.

This section of the historic road has been made from the study of Elisa Ferreira Priegue, published in her book Medieval Paths of Galicia (Los Caminos Medievales de Galicia), based on written sources, old maps, archaeological and iconographic representations. From this information, the author has identified three different types of ways, depending on a number of parameters, which are shown in the figure on the next page:

MEDIEVAL SAFE PASSAGE: Those of which, either for being mentioned in a written document or other similar causes, there is evidence that they correspond to a medieval way.

MEDIEVAL PROBABLE ROAD: These routes were documented in the first third of the sixteenth century.

ROYAL ROAD: Those that are documented from the second third of the sixteenth century.

The paths have been defined by Soria y Puig (1991) as "the result of the combination of topography with historical events among which we can find technical events. Having set the borders that a direction or desire line marks, we attempt to make it compatible with the characteristics of the land and the settlements."


The condition of public roads was accentuated repeatedly in medieval legislation, so that its police, maintenance and construction corresponded to the King, he also had to take care of the building of bridges, and the payment of toll rents.

The toll was the most widespread medieval tax of Galicia, and included gate tolls, bridge tolls and other road taxes on the movement of people and goods. This tax, of which many citizens were excluded, was made mainly for merchants, craftsmen and farmers, and was used in part to deal with building tasks and road repairs.


The kind of distribution of the roads in the study area is radial with several centres of junction.

The most important core network is Lugo. However, we must also highlight other minor centres such as Vilalba, Portomarín, Meira, Mondoñedo, which irradiate a considerable number of roads.

caminos medievales

Medieval Roads

Nowadays, many of the roads that connected the main population centres have evolved over the years leading to the existing road network, so that in some cases the layout is very similar.

Although at present it is difficult to find well-preserved remains of roads, the bridges which went over the main watercourses are indeed kept. Thus, within the study area it is worth noting the Bridge of Portomarín, the Bridge of Lugo or the one in Ombreiro.

Within the network of roads, it should be mentioned the French way, for being an indisputable point of entry for imported goods, unlike the rest of the road network, by which consumer goods traffic was performed.


The origin of this road is the pilgrimage to the city of Compostela in which it was discovered the tomb of the apostle St. James in the year 813.

The roads to Compostela were different depending on the location of the start of the pilgrimage and the pilgrims themselves, since as has been repeatedly said, the path taken between two points was not unique, as it changed over time, and even at the same moment, depending on if the pilgrim searched a less arduous and less painful, safer road, or to visit temples or monasteries preferred by pilgrims. Yet, these roads slowly came together in a main road system, bounded principally by the existence of definite sites, like rivers or mountain passes.

The main road out of all is the so-called French Route, that leads to Northern Spain from Roncesvalles in the Pyrenees, through Logroño, Burgos and León, and once in Galicia, leads to the South of the proposed territory of the Biosphere Reserve of Terras do Miño.

A fairly visited road that runs through this territory is called The Northern Route. This runs parallel to the Cantabrian coast, heading north, and continues inland to get to the province of Lugo, along the northwest edge of the proposed area.

The end of all these paths is Santiago, however, following a tradition prior to the discovery of the body of the Apostle, this path would end in the Finis Terrae of the known world at the time, the place where "the sizzling sun faded at sea, noise that resembled that of iron being tempered in the forge ", as stated by Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus upon contemplating it. Some claimed that doing the route to Finis Terrae was part of the rites of the "old religion", previous to Christianity.

These paths generated from the beginning an extraordinary spiritual, cultural and economic vitality, being a meeting point for different cultures and transmitters of new and current ideas, the first common European consciousness. It inspired literature, music, art and history and cities, towns and bridges, hospitals and hostels were born. Trade routes emerged, and cathedrals, churches and chapels were built following the Romanesque art.

caminos de santiago

Sections of the Way of St. James that go over the proposed area