Don’t forget this: the truly emblematic architecture of Portomarín is its bridge. Although only some remains are visible while most of it is covered by the waters of the reservoir, they are sufficient to bear witness to the grandeur of its original Roman architecture. The original Roman bridge, rebuilt in 1126 by Pedro Peregrino (Peter Pilgrim), was the real origin and raison d’être of the town, because it allowed passage to travelers and pilgrims which then was essential and recorded rates or tolls have been found. Without the profits generated by the bridge the Order of St. John of Malta never would have settled in the village and Portomarín would not exist.
Thus, the passage of the river and the tolls that were charged helped Portomarín to grow and flourish, so that the original village soon became one of the richest towns of the Way. There are some descriptions of pilgrims which confirm Partomarin’s former wealth, for instance, the French pilgrim Brosenval who passed through Portomarín in 1532 wrote: “… a fortified village called Portomarin, which is divided by a wide river called Minho which flows beneath a large, stone very high bridge “. We can also refer to the impressions of Ballarini, an Italian monk who made a pilgrimage to Compostela in the sixteenth century, who wrote “Portomarín, villa very generous”. The Italians continued leaving testimonies of their admiration for the village in the following centuries, Domenico Laffi in s. XVII praised its rich river, referring to its excellent eels, and in 1718 Giacomo Antonio Naia referred to Portomarín saying “this land is as large as a city.”
Along with these pilgrims, unknown to most, some big names have passed through the village following the Way of St. James. For example, on March the 23rd in 1520 a very young Emperor Charles V dined and slept in Portomarín; while his son, Philip II , would do the same on the May 19 in 1554.
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Text: Rosa Vázquez
Photos: Commons Wikipedia (HombreDHojalata, Pmk58)
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