The defensive enclosure of Torres de Oeste is one of the most important archaeological and historical sites in Galicia. It is located on a rocky promontory on the south bank of the Ulla River, linked to the mainland by a marsh zone. It almost becomes an island with high tide, contributing to its insularity. It was declared a Historic and Artistic Monument in 1931.
Its origin dates back to the culture of castros (pre-Roman settlements), and later was used by the Romans.
Defending Against Attack
Defending the port from pirates' attacks, and controlling the course of the Ulla River as a natural entry into Galicia, were the main reasons why the military architecture turrem Augusti was constructed. The same preventive arguments were considered in the High Middle Ages to reinforce this enclave with the construction of Castellum Honesti, later called Torres de Oeste.
The fortress was part of a defensive system that could stop attacks from Vikings and Saracens. It was organised by the monarchy and Compostela's bishops. In addition to its defensive function, the fortress also served for the administration of the surrounding land and control of the toll of goods that went up by the Ulla. It was also Compostela´s mitre residence and prison of episcopal lordship.
The general structure of this medieval fortress consisted of a double enclosure. The inside space is a real castle, polygonal, with four crenellated towers, flanking towers and courtyard with a central homage tower. Other architectural structures were attached to the walls, where two narrow doors were opened, housing kitchens, warehouses, dormitories etc.
Chapel of Santiago
The Chapel of Santiago, attached to one of the flanking towers, is a small Romanesque church with a single nave and semi-circular apse, built in 1122 by order of Archbishop Gelmírez.
Outside is a large fenced enclosure which delimits the lower courtyard; a multipurpose space used for occasional shelter of the population in case of danger and as a parade ground. The findings are concentrated in the area of Torre de Lugo. Built into the wall was a defensive bastion of the entrance and, according to the sources, it had a drawbridge over the marsh.
In the Modern Ages, the remains of masonry were used as quarry materials for other buildings, except for the chapel which continued to be used and was even part of the French Way of pilgrimage to Compostela. In the 18th century it was used against the 1719 English invasion as a defensive element, but it was a sporadic use.
Nowadays, the basic structures of two towers of the 9th century and ruins of two others of the 12th century are preserved. The remains from the former Iron Age and Roman buildings are conserved too.
The site sees a "battle" every year during the Romaría Vikinga: a celebration that recreates one of the Viking landings on these shores.
Torres de Oeste, s/n, 26612 Catoira (Pontevedra), Spain