Saint Rudesind and the Benedictines

In the whole of Europe monasteries that observed the rule of the Order of Saint Benedict (480-547) were founded.  His ideal was to establish self-sufficient and therefore independent monasteries. “Ora et labora” (pray and work): they prayed seven times a day and worked hard in several manual and agricultural activities – something that at that time was revolutionary, since it was considered to be degrading.

Saint Benedict contributed decisively to the Christian evangelization Europe, which is the reason why he’s the patron saint of Europe and the patriarch of western monasticism.

In Benedictine monasteries everything was of collective use: monasteries had refectories, choirs, dormitories, and a cloister – the movement of a monk should be carried out with the rest of the community by means of the “procession”.

Benedictine monasteries were run by a superior that depending on the category of the monastery was either a prior – running a priory – dependent of an abbey – or an abbot – running an abbey, the motherhouse of the priories. Superiors were chosen by the rest of the community.

Monks temporarily destined to a priory managed and sent the revenues to their abbeys. Priories possessed churches that were commissioned and supported by the motherhouse. The inhabitants of the district of a priory had to contribute a tithe to them.

Throughout the course of its history the Benedictine Order underwent many reforms due to the decline of discipline inside the monasteries. The first major reform took place in the 10th century: the Cluniac reform initiated by the monastery of Cluny, France. Cluniacs attained great economic and political power, its decadence started and a new reform took place:  the Cistercian reform.

King Alphonse III (c. 852 – 910) implemented the Benedictine Rule and made large donations to monasteries. During the 10th century in Galicia Saint Rudesind (907-977) spread the Rule of Saint Benedict with the help of Mozarabic population: he founded or reformed monasteries needed to escape from the influence of noble families, in order to guarantee their independence.

In Galicia the Black Monks of Cluny – called this way due to the color of their habit – had a lesser presence than those of the Cistercian Order (white monks). There was some resistance to the expansion of Benedictines, especially after the imposition of the Roman rite in the late 11th century and the arrival of the Cluniacs via the Way of St. James, who moved into already existing monasteries and created with them a network of priories all throughout Galicia.

In the late 15th century the Catholic Monarchs carried out a monastic reform that centralized Benedictine monasteries – making the big ones stronger at the expense of the smaller ones – as well as it integrated all of them into the Congregation of Saint Benedict the Royal in Valladolid with the consequent loss of their independence: from then on abbots and the head of the congregation of Galicia were appointed in Valladolid.



BIC*: National Historical Monument since 1931 (since 1932 the Chapel of Saint Michael) & Europa Nostra Award (1984)

Styles: Pre-Romanesque: Mozarabic (Chapel of Saint Michael), Romanesque, Renaissance & Baroque

  • This monastery is considered to be one of the most impressive samples of Baroque architecture in Galicia and it represents the Golden Age of monastic architecture in Galicia.
  • It was founded in the 10th century as a Benedictine monastery by Saint Rudesind – second abbot of the former after the passing of the first abbot, Franquila.
  • The church was consecrated in 942 and the works in the monastery followed.
  • The monastery was renewed first in the Romanesque style and later in the Renaissance and Baroque styles between the 16th and 18th
    Video of the Monastery’s Stages of Construction Mozarabic, Romanesque, Renaissance, and Baroque
  • On the main façade of the church – Baroque – there’s a figure of Saint Benedict flanked by that of Saint Torquatus (to the right) and by another depicting Saint Rudesind (to the left).


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  • The Baroque altarpiece of the high altar is one of the largest in Galicia.
  • The high wooden choir from the late 15th century is the only complete and well preserved Gothic choir in Galicia and nowadays it’s the second oldest in Galicia only after the former stone choir of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela – a work by Master Matthew.
  • The low wooden choir is Baroque and its stalls depict scenes of the life of Saint Benedict and Saint Rudesind.


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(Ramirás (Freás de Eiras))

BIC*: National Historical Monument since 1982
Styles: Romanesque (12th century) & Gothic

  • This church is what remains of a monastery founded in the 10th century and where Benedictine nuns lived since 1137.
  • In the High Middle Ages this monastery was the center of the lordship of Ramirás – grounds of the former monastery of Saint Peter in Ramirás and also San Martiño de Valongo and Santiago de Xacebás – and there were frequent conflicts with the monastery of Celanova.
  • After the reform carried out by the Catholic Monarchs it became a priory of the Benedictine monastery of San Paio de Antealtares in Santiago de Compostela.
  • One of the archivolts on the main façade is decorated with the so-called “ajedrezado” – chessboard decorative motive – characteristic of Romanesque architecture along the Way of Saint James.
  • In front of the church there’s a “cruceiro” (wayside stone cross) and within its base there’s a “peto de ánimas” (wayside offertory box devoted to the souls in Purgatory).
    Igrexa de San Pedro de Ramirás
    Photo Gallery



BIC*: National Historical Monument since 1982
Styles: Pre-Romanesque: rock-cut & Mozarabic (altar), Romanesque and Gothic (recumbent figures on stone
coverscov esepulcher cover)

  • This monastery is the oldest hermitage and monastic ensemble in Galicia and one of the oldest in the whole of Europe (ca. 573 AD)
  • Its origin is linked to the expansion of monastic life and to Saint Martin of Braga (510/5 – 579/80) – the Apostle of the Suevi – who tried to group hermits together and to make them follow the same code of conduct.
  • The church is the only sample of rock-cut church in Galicia and one of the few in Spain.
  • Within the Suevian cloister there are anthropomorphic graves and the so-called “Mapamundi dos Beatos” (1175-1200) – the only known sample in Europe of a Romanesque world map mural. It depicts the places where the apostles preached after the death of Jesus Christ using the characteristic iconography of the so-called “beatos” – medieval illuminated manuscripts by Beato de Liébana or its copies. It seems that the source of inspiration was a miniature illustration of a “beato” that existed in the library of the Monastery of Celanova.
  • During the 10th century it became dependent on the monastery of Celanova. During the 12th century it was temporarily dependent on the monastery of Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil.
  • After the reform carried out by the Catholic Monarchs its status as a priory of the monastery of Celanova was reaffirmed.
  • The former rectory houses the “Centro de Interpretación de la Ribeira Sacra” (Visitor Interpretative Center of the Ribeira Sacra) that allows us to learn among other topics about the history of monasticism and about this area – known as “Ribeira Sacra”.
    Centro de Interpretacion da Ribeira Sacra I
    Centro de Interpretacion da Ribeira Sacra II
  • Close to the monastery there is the so-called “Fuente de San Benito” (Saint Benedict’s Fountain) which locals consider to have curative properties.
    Mosteiro de San Pedro de Rocas
    Photo Gallery
    Video of the Monastery’s History


(Nogueira de Ramuín)

BIC*: National Historical Monument since 1923
Styles: Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance & Baroque

  • This Benedictine monastery was the most important within the “Ribeira Sacra” area and one of the largest and most important Galician monasteries in the Middle Ages and in the Modern Era.
  • Its origin dates back to the 6th century and is related to Saint Martin of Braga (510/5 – 579/80) – the “Apostle of the Suevi”.
  • In 921 King Ordoño II ( 871- 924) commissioned Saint Rudesind’s father – count Gutier Menéndez – the restoration of this monastery, at that time uninhabited. In return count Gutier Menéndez obtained the grounds that later his son Froila inherited and gave to his brother – Saint Rudesind – in order to build the monastery of Celanova.
  • The restoration was carried out by abbot Franquila who was later summoned by Saint Rudesind to be the first abbot of the monastery of Celanova.
  • The stone altarpiece is remarkable and it’s a work by a disciple of Master Matthew (Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela).
  • This monastery has three cloisters: the “Claustro de los Obispos” (Bishops’ Cloister) – one of the best preserved medieval cloisters in Galicia, the “Claustro de los Caballeros” (Knights’ Cloister), and the “Claustro do Viveiro”.
    Mosteiro de Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil
    Photo Gallery





*BIC (Bien de interés cultural) – “Heritage of Cultural Interest” – applies to classified heritage in Spain.


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