Portomarín stands on the right bank of the Minho river. In 1955 the town had to be completely rebuilt. The reservoir of Belesar which pilgrims cross today was built then and its construction involved shifting the stones piece by piece to its present location and building new homes for the residents, who saw their old houses sink under water.
The historical importance of the town was due mainly to the rise of pilgrimages to Compostela in the XII century and to its location on the river. We know that in 1126 a certain Pedro Peregrino (Peter Pilgrim), linked to a religious congregation who built bridges and facilitated the passage for pilgrims, took up the reconstruction of an existing Roman bridge and founded the Domus Dei hospital. These properties were donated at the end of the twelfth century to the Order of St. John of Malta, the most powerful military order, which foundeded in Portomarín a priory (similar to a monastic center) and began the construction of the St. John Church.
Today the village center consists of squares and streets surrounding the church-fortress of St. John (or St. Nicholas, its name as a parish), which remains its most famous monument. The magnificent Romanesque church architecture has two sculpted porches attributed to the workshop of Master Mateo, the craftsman responsible for the Compostela Portico of Glory.
In the past, next to the church there were other constructions belonging to the priory: monks and knights of St. John lived in a palace known as the priory houses and beside them there was a hospital for pilgrims dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, saint especially linked to the pilgrimage.
Among the civil buildings moved from the old village there are two manors or noble houses: the so-called manor of Berbetoros and the Casa del Conde or of the General de la Maza. The parish church of San Pedro, a small Romanesque building with a decorated front porch, was also moved.
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Text: Rosa Vázquez
Photos: Commons Wikipedia (José Antonio Gil Martínez, Pmk58)
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