Historic centres


Ribadavia - Ourense

42º 17' 15.9" N - 8º 08' 35.7" W

To know

Castelo dos Sarmiento: a fifteenth-century castle situated in the high part of the town. It served as the main bastion of the town walls, and still bears the coat of arms of its owners over the main door. Inside are the remains of a necropolis and the fireplace used to heat the inside of the castle. Nearby, outside of the walls, is the Church of the convent of San Domingos, dating from the thirteenth to fourteenth centuries, and one of the finest Galician ?Ogival? Churches, containing mediaeval sarcophagi and curious carvings of angels playing bagpipes. Inside the walls, next to the castle, is the Praza Maior or main square, with a harmonious collection of traditional buildings from the nineteenth century, which include the Renaissance Torre do Concello and the Pazo dos Condes, a seventeenthcentury mansion with the coat of arms of the Sarmiento family on its façade, which contains the Sephardic information centre and tourist office.

Church of Santiago: the twelfth-century building is a beautiful example of popular Romanesque architecture, with several doors with semi-circular arches, a rose window in the façade and a semi-circular apse with splendid modillions. It is now a small religious museum, with its most important works including a seated statue of St. James from the fourteenth century, and the Cristo da Humildade from the sixteenth century. The neighbouring Casa do Marqués de Bahamonde contains the Ethnological Museum (or Casa da Fundación) which includes a large library that contains music, documents and a wide range of ethnographic material. Close to the building, in the García Boente square, is the splendid Casa da Inquisición from the sixteenth century, with a late Gothic façade and five coats of arms carved over the monumental door. Also nearby are the church of San Xoán, a Romanesque building from the twelfth century, and the old Hospital de Peregrinos, both of which were under the former custody of the Order of Malta.

Church and convent of San Francisco: a beautiful Baroque building outside the town?s walls, on the left bank of the River Avia.

San Xes de Francelos: near the town, in the wine-growing valley of Valparaiso. From the late ninth to tenth centuries it contained a nunnery, of which some pre-Romanesque elements are included in the present-day church, such as a horseshoe arch with two carvings on the side, representing scenes from the life of Christ, and a beautiful lattice window.

Do not miss

Festa da Istoria (History Festival): held on the last Saturday of August or the first in September, when locals dress in typical Christian or Jewish mediaeval attire. The times of the guilds and Jewish quarter are recreated in the old town, with the streets filled with entertainers, knights, craftsmen and jugglers. The whole town is turned into a great theatre, and on the day of the festival the only coin in circulation is the ancient Maravedí. The festival has been declared of National Tourist Interest.

Ribeiro Wine Exhibition: a festival held in celebration of the Ribeiro wine, over four days at the end of April or early May. Declared a Festival of National Tourist Interest.

International Theatre Festival: one of the most important in Galicia, with the twenty-second edition celebrated in 2006. For one week in mid-July, the town is turned into a theatre, with numerous plays staged in the streets and in the auditorium of the Castle, with companies from all over the world presenting performances of all kinds for every type of public.

Singular village

If there is one thing that gives Ribadavia its character, it is its mediaeval Jewish quarter. The historic centre of the Alxama (as the neighbourhood is known) is formed by the Praza da Magdalena square and the streets that lead off from it, with houses with archways and the old Synagogue, around which all of the centres of Jewish social life existed: the Talmud school, the oven for baking unleavened bread, the pool for ritual bathing purposes, the butcher?s and the town hall. Walking through these winding streets, especially Fornos Street, one of the most picturesque, and through the Praza do Buxón square, with magnificent views over the River Avia, allows us to evoke a past that is very present in the life of the town.

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Last update: 04/05/2015