Landscapes on the Camino: Vilar de Donas and its monastery

Leaving the road to Pontevedra and heading towards Palas de Rei, we find a small architectural jewel of the Camino de Santiago: the monastery of Vilar de Donas.

We think that the name comes from the “donas” that are painted inside the apse and that according to some were its founders.

In the temple are buried the knights of the Order of Santiago who cleaned the Camino of bandits.

1) Its architecture

Its foundation dates back to the 12th century and its construction is a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic styles.

vilar-de-donas

It has a Latin cross plan with a single nave, topped by a triple apse of slender lines and harmonious proportions. Its construction may have begun around 1184 after the Military Order of Santiago took possession of the monastery. All its structure and decoration correspond to the purely Romanesque tradition.

As a legacy of the Gothic style we can glimpse its ribbed vault in the center of the transept and the triple arcade that closes the atrium, built around 1224.

Sepulcros de los Caballeros de la Orden de Santiago
2) Iconography and sculpture

The most spectacular iconographically we can see it in the main door, according to Vázquez Saco “one of the most beautiful doors of the Romanesque of the province”.

It is crowned with a semicircular flared arch formed by four archivolts decorated with vegetal motifs. The fourth archivolt also has an angel sculpted on its keystone.

puerta_vilar_donas

The beauty of its capitals stands out in a special way, some of them decorated with leaves turned in volutes and others with human figures of unknown interpretation.

Leaning on the elegant tornalluvias that protects the door appear three stone effigies: San Miguel with the devil at his feet and holding in his hands a scale and a cross, San Bartolomé carrying his own skin in a hand (symbol of the martyrdom) and the Virgin seated with the Boy on her knees.

The stone altarpiece is also very original. It is divided into two scenes by a central niche that opens over a chalice. On the right we see a representation of the Pietà and on the left is a portrait of the risen Christ with the cross and the instruments of the Passion, accompanied by a priest and an altar boy.

Finally we will make a tour to appreciate the paintings of the interior of the apse. Their subject matter is very varied but some scenes like the Annunciation of the Virgin and the representation of some prophets stand out. We also see ten female busts scattered throughout the apse and that gave rise to the name “Vilar de Donas”.

For its detail and originality the apse painting of this temple is considered the most important ancient painting in Galicia.

Our next destination will be Palas de Rei where we will have the opportunity to visit a settlement of castros. Our tour – Camino de Santiago, still reserves many surprises for you and places of incredible historical value. Do you dare to know them for yourself? Contact us.

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