The history of St. Martin’s Cathedral is a journey of more than 8 centuries of construction and alterations that have shaped its structure: a temple of Latin cross with influences of Compostela and Cistercian art, made in late Romanesque style with notes of Gothic. Its elevation is usually dated between the 12th and 13th centuries. Certainly, it is one of Ourense’s main monuments, around which the streets of the historic centre are articulated.
Monumental and majestic, Ourense’s Cathedral still retains an air of the fortress that was in his past, which may be suspected from the towers and battlements of the southern façade.
A tour of its exterior is a real trip back in time for the attentive eye. The chevet, initially with three apses of which only one preserved, transports us to the 12th century. The southern façade, with access to Wheat Square, recalls with its battlements the power that historically had the bishop in Ourense. The western façade, where King David plucks his harp, had no access stairway until the 20th century. And the northern façade, on Lepanto street, evokes the changes suffered by the city during the turbulent 15th century. At the top stands out, for its spectacular height, the beautiful late Gothic dome, built in the 16th century.
On the western façade, from St. Martin’s Square, you can see the Bell Tower, more than 40 metres high. The visit to the tower is included in the tour of the temple: crowned by the 8bells of the Cathedral, from its highest point you can see magnificent views of Ourense. The majesty of the tower breaks the symmetry of this gate, since in its right corner remains the never-built St. Martin’s Tower.
Inside, with austere and elegant lines, the atmosphere of serenity and seclusion invites to walk around the ambulatory and its various chapels, stopping in its Romanesque Christ and the treasures of the Cathedral Museum. We should also stop to admire the colours of the Gate of Paradise, the majesty of the Main Chapel and the ornamentation of the Chapel of the Holy Christ.
Access to the Cathedral is through the southern gate, in Wheat Square. During mass, it can also be accessed through the northern gate (Lepanto street).
Cathedral’s Northern Gate
The northern gate, originally Romanesque, has Gothic additions from different sources. In in the tympanum, under the cross, the Virgin is holding the body of a descended Christ. To the left of the scene is the oft-repeated miracle of St Martin sharing his cloak and to the right the pilgrim apostle St James. The portico is flanked by two towers that give a certain aspect of strength to the cathedral, perhaps evoking its destruction in 1471 by Rodrigo Alonso Pimentel, Count of Benavente, in an attack on the city, then under the protection of the Count of Lemos.
If we look closely, the authors of this gate have left a joke for posterity. We must find a character showing us his back. If we lower the view vertically from this figure to the ground we will see a small gap that remains curiously with water almost all year …
Monday - Friday: 10.00 to 15.00 | Saturday: 10.00 to 16.00 h
Sunday: closed for tourist visits.
6€ – Includes audioguide & visit to the Museum and Bell Towe
Seniors (+65): 5.50€. |
Pilgrims / Groups (+20), 3.50€
Under 12, disabled people, residents: free access