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The Sacred Bank (Ourense)

Since the Middle Ages, the area which stretches along the southern bank of the River Sil, from Castro Caldelas to Ourense, has been known in Galician as Rivoira Sacrata and in Spanish as Ribeira Sacra (the Sacred Bank) because of the monasteries sited there.
You can visit them by leaving Ourense on the Ponferrada road, admiring the spectacular countryside of the Gorge of the Sil on the way. The oldest - dating from the sixth century - is to be found in Esgos, hewn out of the rocks and thus named San Pedro de Rocas. Next comes the Xunqueira de Espadañedo, a Romanesque building which has seen various additions, and further on lies the Monasterio de Montederramo, built in the sixteenth century in the herreriano style.

After visiting Castro Caldelas and its castle, the journey continues on towards the Sil to take in the ruins of the Monasterio de San Paio de Abeleda. Walking along the banks of the river, we discover, tucked away in a picturesque spot, the Monasterio de Santa Cristiña de Ribas de Sil, whose church is a perfect replica of the Romanesque architecture of Santiago de Compostela. We finish off at the grandest and best-conserved of all, the Monasterio de San Estevo de Ribas de Sil, a medley of all architectural styles.

Here, a scenic road leads down by the Gorge of the Sil to meet up with the River Miño - the main river in Galicia - and the Ribeira Sacra at Os Peares, the site of the amazing Romanesque church-fortress of Portomarín, the intricately adorned facade of San Estevo de Ribas de Miño and some small churches, such as the one at Cova, which were rescued from the waters of the reservoir. The countryside from here all the way back to Ourense is beautiful.

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