Most of Galicia’s most famous monuments are mentioned in conjunction with the city or town in which they are found (i.e. within the appropriate city or town guide section), however descriptions of some them are also included here.
The monuments mentioned include, cathedrals, churches, bridges, city walls, lighthouses, castros, forts, monasteries, petrogliphs and dolmens and all are scattered across the region, and in great abundance.
Galicia has five cathedrals with the most spectacular being the one at Santiago de Compostela. Those at Lugo and Ourense also provide a worth while visual spectacle, as does the smaller cathedral in Tui.
Other religious monuments include numerous churches that document a variety of architectural styles and can be found in abundence throughout the region, from the big cities to the smallest towns.
Castros are the stone remains of what it is believed were once small Celtic settlements. They represent some of the earliest civilizations in Galicia and there are several notable examples including a large castro in Lugo called Viladonga and another in la Coruna province called Barona.
Some of the better known and larger castros have museums or visitor centres associated with them. Although not mentioned too frequently, similar collections of celtic village buildings are also found in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
Galicia has a number of bridges with sections dating back to the medieval period and even the Roman occupation of almost 2000 years ago.
One of the largest and most famous is the Ponte bridge on the outskirts of Ourense, but many smaller and less renovated examples are dotted in the regions numerous towns and villages.
Forts and castles
Galicia has a number of hill forts and castles with some of the better known examples defending strategic coastal positions along the region’s many rias. Other castles occupy higher ground and many are connected to the remains of town walls or other battlements. All are built of the region’s traditional granite and a few survive in good condition.
Two good examples include the castles at La Coruna bay (on the sea front) and another castle at Santa Cruz island with a spectacular location and a bridged walkway leading to it.
Dolmens are ancient collections of stones, usually in the form of 3 or 4 uprights with a horizontal, or table top like, flat stone on top of them. They are thought to signify the burial ground of someone, usually of importance, from the Celtic period.
Most dolmen burial spots are attributed to Celtic chiefs or warriors and their possessions, including armour and weapons, are often found within (under) the monument. Dolmens are also known as megaliths and there are many prominent ones throughout the region with new finds being discovered all the time.
Two examples are the dolmen at Axietos and another near the town of Noia, however they are scattered across the region.
Monastery and convent buildings
Galicia, as a catholic nation and one subjected to the extremes of the Spanish inquisition, has a large number of monasteries and convents. Today most of these building have been reassigned as schools, hotels and offices, but many can still be visited and a small number retain their original use as religious havens. Some of the best examples have become state run hotels called Paradors and when this is the case you can even book a stay in them.
Called Petroglyphes or petrogliphs, these are stone rock carvings (and paintings) that predate recorded history and act as evidence of very early civilisations in the area. There are a number in Galicia, although some have suffered at the hands of 18th and 19th century vandals.
Lighthouses, Roman walls granite grain stores (horreo) and cruceiros (stone crosses) are just four of the many other monuments encountered in Galicia and all have an appearance that makes them distinctive to the region.
The horreos in particular is seen as a symbol of Galicia and you will find small replicas of these traditional grain and produce stores in gifts shops and tourist offices. The real horreos are liberally scattered across the region and can be seen everywhere from people’s gardens to farmer’s fields. Many are still in use and they make a significant impact on Galicia’s rural scenery.
Cruceiros are stone crosses, normally two or more metres high and they are found in town squares, at the side of roads and even in gardens. For those who are experts in the study of the cruceiro there are many styles and all date from different periods in the region’s history.