This monastery, which is unique due to the fact that it is excavated in the natural rock, displays none of the delicate Gothic structures nor the harmonious proportions of the Renaissance style. It is a very ancient, rough, almost primitive construction, which witnessed the first hermit settlements in the area. The historical value of San Pedro de Rocas (St. Peter of the Rocks) is more anthropological.
The presence of the first inhabitants here can be traced back to the year 573. According to the inscriptions on its foundation tablet, which is kept at the Provincial Archaeological Museum, its founders were seven men who chose this beautiful spot as a retreat to lead a life of prayer. Later, in the 9th century, the place was rediscovered by the Knight Gemodus during a hunting trip. He settled there and was appointed Abbot by his colleagues. Legend or not, the fact is that there is proof of the existence of Gemodus, as shown in the privilege granted to Rocas by Alfonso V in 1007. In later centuries this monastery, which was never very wealthy nor had a great number of inhabitants, came under the jurisdiction of those of Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil and San Salvador de Celanova. In 1923 it was declared a Historical Artistic Monument.
The monastery's church, which dates back to the 6th century, is one of the oldest known Christian temples. Its three naves were excavated in the rock. The ceiling of the central nave has an opening that allows light in from the outside. A pilaster serves as the altar. On the wall of the chapel to the left, a small area of 5 x 3.40 m, there is a hollow that supposedly contained the tomb of Gemodus. There, a fresco mural painting was discovered, dating from between 1175 and 1200, with images of the Apostles and a map of the world.
We can also see sculptured sepulchres with images of recumbent figures. On the floor of the church and the atrium there are numerous tombs excavated in the rock. The church was later expanded with the addition of a nave. The bell tower, designed by Gonzalo de Penalva in the 15th century, is located on the upper part of an enormous rock formation almost 20 m high, from which the place takes its name.
An arch serves as access to a small area, used until recently as parish cemetery. It has a quadrangular layout and is enclosed by a wall. From here a path descends down the mountainside to the San Bieito Fountain, also excavated in the rock.
Contact: 988372020 (Ourense Tourism Office)
Price: Ask for details
Opening hours: Weekends from 10.00 to 14.00 and from 16.00 to 20.00 h. From July probably it will open every day.