During medieval times, Monforte was the perfect example of a city-fortress. Located on the hill top, the city was built around the monastery and castle and surrounded by a defensive wall studded with watchtowers. At the foot of the hill the river Cabe was a source of wealth and life. Large sections of these walls are still preserved as are three city gateways and two towers, one of which – the imposing Torre del Homenaje –can be entered. The views of the city and the surrounding areas from the top of this tower are very impressive and help make this an important stop on any visit to Monforte.
Built between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, this was one of the most important buildings within the castle as it was here that the peasants swore an oath of allegiance to their feudal lord which gave the tower its name – The Homage Tower. It is a vantage point 30 m high and 13m square with 3m thick walls.
The tower and the medieval fortress walls were heavily damaged during the peasants’ uprising, (1467-1469) but were rebuilt after the fighting ended.
The Mansion of the Counts of Lemos was originally built in the 16th century but had to be rebuilt in the 17th, after suffering a devastating fire. The Counts of Lemos were one of the most important noble families of Spain. Of special relevance was the 7th Count, Don Pedro Fernandez de Castro, who became Viceroy of Naples (1610-1616) and who is remembered as a patron of the writer Cervantes, author of Don Quixote.
Today the title of Count of Lemos is part of the House of Alba and the building is part of the Parador hotel.
Although the monastery’s origins date back to the tenth century, the current building began to be constructed in the sixteenth century and is in a neoclassical style both in its façade and its cloisters. The monastic church building is in a typical Renaissance style with a gothic interior. There is a Baroque organ, out of use for decades, and over the altar an interesting allegorical painting that represents the torture of San Vicente.
There are also images of St. Anne with the Virgin and child and a Romanesque bas-relief. Currently much of the monastic building houses the Parador hotel.
Monforte's Jewish community with their synagogue, ritual bath house and businesses was one of the biggest in Galicia until the expulsion of 1492. They were mainly involved in the commerce of silks, cloth and silverware with the Gaibores being one of the most important families. Unlike many other towns in Spain the Jews of Monforte were never confined to one area and were free to live amongst the general population. However they tended to live together in specific streets close to the city gates and main markets. Streets such as Rúa Zapatería (Shoemaker Street), Rúa de los Herreros (Blacksmith Street) and Plaza de la Pescaderçia (Square of the Fishmongers). After visiting the Torre del Homenaje you can walk through the Jewish area on your way to the centre of Monforte and see the ritual baths, the place where the synagogue stood and the house of the Gaibores family. In Pescaderías street you have great views over the city and can see large parts of the still existing medieval wall and some of the watch towers. A little further down the same street is the old prison. The roof has been converted into a terrace for more panoramic views of the old city.
Monforte belongs to the Spanish Network of Jewish Quarters, within which are 25 other Spanish and Portuguese cities that have a past linked to Sephardic culture.
On September 4th as part of World Jewish day Monforte will have a festival in the streets of the historical centre that will recreate the atmosphere of those times.
The building was started in 1593 by Cardinal Rodrigo de Castro and is in the Herrer Renaissance style with two perfectly symmetrical wings and a central church with a generous dome. However it wasn’t finished until the Piarist fathers raised enough funds by selling the painting "Adoration of the Magi" by the Flemish painter Hugo van der Goes. This painting known as the Monforte Altarpiece, is now part of the collection of the Staatliche Museum in Berlin. Currently the building is the College of Piarist Fathers and houses a small but outstanding collection of paintings, the most famous of which are works by El Greco.
» more information: www.escolapiosmonforte.com
Tradition has it that the bridge is of Roman origin. What we know for certain is that it was rebuilt in the late 16th century by the master builder Pedro Rodriguez Remberde.
It has six semicircular arches, two of them obscured by later alterations. In its wide central arches you can see the marks of the stone masons’ guilds.
To one side of the bridge is the Museum of Sacred Art which is in the convent of the Clarissa nuns and on the other is the entry into the shopping area of the old town. There are paths by the side of the river which can be accessed from the bridge.