Portomarín is dramatically placed above the banks of the Miño River—called the Minho River by the Portuguese—which ultimately flows westward and becomes a natural border between Portugal and Spain before flowing out to the ocean.
Portomarín’s location was more dramatic before the 1950’s when the government built a reservoir and relocated the entire town to new housing on higher ground. They also relocated the Romanesque churches, stone by stone, preserving the original buildings in minute detail.
The most stunning structure is the church of San Nicolás. It is also known by the name Iglesia de San Juan, reflecting its association with the knightly order, the Knights of Saint John. Solid, rectangular, and fortified, the church speaks as much of defense as of prayer.
It’s 12th and 13th century Romanesque carvings are delightful, such as the bulls’ heads on the western portal. The west entrance’s tympanum shows Christ Pantocrator (Christ All-Powerful) in the center surrounded by the 24 Elders of the Apocalypse with their musical instruments. The entrance on the north side shows the Annunciation, and the entrance on the south side shows the church’s namesake, San Nicolás.
The other surviving Romanesque church in Portomarín is dedicated to San Pedro, Saint Peter, from the late 12th century.
Standing on Portomarín’s bridge over the Miño River and reservoir gives a stunning view of some of the remains of the old town below on the river bank (that are not submerged), not to mention the layered beauty of the river valley.
Continue on the Camino toward Palas de Rei and Leboreiro.