Useful information about the Camino of Saint James Pilgrimage and Santiago de Compostela

St. John of Portomarín

Posted in The Camino Villages.

You shouldn’t miss the church of St. John de Portomarín, also known as Saint Nicholas, its name as a parish. It was built in the late twelfth century by the Knights of the Order of St. John of Malta, to whom Alfonso IX had donated the village. Portomarín was then a tiny village but with two enormous sources of wealth: the Way of St. James and a bridge that allowed pilgrims and traders to cross the Minho River.

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The church of St. John is a church-fortress, whose structure reflects the military spirit of the Order to which it belonged. Its construction began at the end of the twelfth century and continued during the first quarter of the thirteenth century. Some of the best workshops of the Galicia of the time were involved in its construction, including some of the Compostela sculpture workshops, such as the one run by Maestro Mateo, author of the famous Portico of Glory. The result was one of the best examples of Galician late Romanesque architecture.

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today the church stands in the centre of the main square of Portomarín, where it was transferred after the construction of the dam, stone by stone, each ashlar from its Romanesque facade and its three sculpted doorways were transported. Its main portico has a rich iconography with sculptures of the Christ Pantocrator and the Elders of the Apocalypse. The south side portico presents an enigmatic sculptural program, with the figure of a mitred bishop who has often been associated with St. Nicholas and several scenes and unidentified figures. A third front, the north side, has a beautiful relief of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel announced to the Virgin her destiny as the Mother of Christ.

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