European Year of Cultural Heritage

A walk through 10 emblematic spaces of the city, all declared of Cultural Interest, to understand what is the cultural heritage and how it has helped to define our history and collective identity.

What are we talking about when we speak of  Cultural Heritage? The concept is very broad and refers to all those elements that we inherit from the past and shed light on our history, whether material, immaterial, natural or even digital. Heritage is not something static and obsolete, but a living and dynamic cultural reality that fulfills an important role in the construction of the Europe of the future.

For all these reasons, the European institutions, unanimously, have declared 2018 as the European Year of Cultural Heritage, a celebration emphasizing this shared resource that contributes to “sensitize us to a common history and values, reinforcing the feeling of belonging to a common European space”. Throughout the year, a broad programme of activities seeks to connect the public with their heritage, promoting sustainable tourism practices that make it accessible to all.

On the occasion of this anniversary, we propose a tour of ten landmarks of Ourense which, for their unique value and contribution to the city’s history, have deserved the category of maximum patrimonial protection, the so-called Assets of Cultural Interest. They deserve a visit for themselves, but it is also important to see them together, as touches of that painting that is Ourense, a thermal city with more than 2,000 years of history, a land of poets and intellectuals and the gateway to Galicia.

  • 1 Art & Heritage
  • 1 Thermal Baths
As Burgas
  • 2 Art & Heritage
Historic Centre
  • 3 Art & Heritage
Former Bishop's Palace
  • 4 Art & Heritage
Provincial Archaeological Museum
  • 5 Art & Heritage
Oca-Valladares Palace
  • 6 Art & Heritage
St. Martin’s Cathedral
  • 7 Art & Heritage
St Francis’ Cemetery
  • 8 Art & Heritage
St Francis’ Cloister
  • 9 Art & Heritage
Franciscans’ Church
  • 10 Art & Heritage
Old Bridge

It was the last to obtain its recognition as an Asset of Cultural Interest, in 2007, by a decree that states that “the thermal set of As Burgas, its hot springs and the site where they are located constitute a unique and representative element directly related to the origins of the city, forming the original housing nucleus”. A differentiating element, linked to the history of Ourense and its collective identity, the thermal Ourense by definition.

In 1975 the monumental Ourense was recognized, in its entirety, as a “historical-artistic ensemble”, understood as “a small city” in which the great monuments coexist with other singular but less known spaces: Temes House, the Prison of the Crown, Boán House … This recognition sought to “preserve its values from reforms and innovations that could harm them”, something specially relevant at those times, the 1970s, of major urban transformations in the city.

In 1931, with the aim of “protecting, conserving and increasing the National Artistic Treasure”, the government of the Republic made a broad declaration of historic and artistic monuments throughout the country. In the case of Ourense, it included the Cathedral and the Old Bishop’s Palace, which at that time still functioned as such. Other places in the province that enjoyed the same fate were the monasteries of Celanova and Melón or the churches of Santa Eufemia de Ambía and Santa Mariña de Augas Santas.

In the 1950s the old Bishop’s Palace became the headquarters of the Provincial Archaeological Museum, a fact that motivated a new recognition for this building, this time with the focus on the assets it treasured. The new declaration arrived in 1962 from the hand of a generic decree that elevated the museums of Spain to the category of “Historical-Artistic Patrimony” for “conserving valuable collections of remarkable artistic, historical, archaeological and ethnological interest.”

Recognized as Asset of Cultural Interest in 2002, the former Oca-Valladares Palace is a magnificent example of an element that combines tangible and intangible heritage. A gem of Renaissance architecture from the 16th century, identifiable in elements such as its façade or the columned courtyard, since the 19th century it has been the headquarters of the Liceo, the oldest cultural society in the city, with illustrious members such as writers Curros Enríquez and Carlos Casares.

The aforementioned decree of 1931 included as elements to protect all the cathedrals of Spain, including that of Ourense. Reasons are not lacking: an example of transition between the Romanesque and Gothic styles, it contains spaces and elements of great beauty and majesty, such as the Gate of Paradise, the Main Chapel or its unfinished Gothic cloister, not to mention the treasures it holds, including the Misal Auriense, possibly the oldest book printed in Galicia that is preserved.

The decree of  2000 responded to a long demand by the Association of Friends of the St. Francis’ Cemetery, whose members included poet José Ángel Valente,requesting this space to be recognized and protected for the future. This cemetery of gothic and romantic style not only has value as a monument, but also for the important amount of intellectuals and artists who are buried here.

Next to the cemetery is the cloister, both part of the old Franciscan convent. It was the first element of this group to achieve the declaration of historical-artistic monument, in 1923. Today it can be visited, to enjoy the magnificent ensemble formed by its columns crowned by capitals, preserved by virtue of a decree stipulating that “it will not be possible to proceed, under no circumstances, to its demolition, neither total nor partial”.

It’s a pity the church of the convent wasn’t so lucky, as in 1929 it was moved to its current location, at St. Lazarus’ Park. The fact did not prevent it to be declared historical-artistic monument in 1951, in a text that emphasized that “its factory is of the purest 16th-century Gothic style: its apses have daring and slender ribbed vaults built in granite, and are illuminated by high and elegant windows”.

The Old Bridge, Main Bridge or Roman Bridge was declared a historical-artistic monument in 1961. The decree described it as “one of the most monumental, ancient and beautiful in Europe”, a reason that would justify “its choice for the coat of arms of the capital city and the province of Ourense”.

It forms a unique ensemble with the annexed chapel, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Remedies, which according to the text dates from 1522. In 2014 it was restored, after a devastating fire.