Ribadavia

Home of the Jews and the Heart of Ribeiro

In the heart of the Ribeiro wine region, this historic and monumental village maintains the legacy of its Jewish community.

Planning Your Trip to Ribadavia

This interesting old town, the nearby church of San Ginés and the surroundings marsh in the village of Miño can be visited in a full day. Wine lovers can spend one or more days visiting the wineries in the area. A good choice for a full-time excursion is to head south to the Baixa Limia Serra dos Xurés Natural Park.  Fans of eating octopus in all its various forms also have the option of heading north and going to lunch in O Carballiño. To know where to eat and where to stay in Ribadavia, check out our pages on where to sleep and eat here.

Do you want to learn more about this place?

The municipality of Ribadavia rests on the right side of the Miño River and on the last stretch of its Avia tributary, hence the name of the village: rippa avie, which means “on the banks of the Avia.” The first settlers of Ribadavia arrived on the left bank of the river, on the bank opposite of the current location. The Roman historian Strabo had already given notice of wine making in this region.

In the year 793, after being occupied by the Muslim warlord Abdul-Malek, it was reconquered by King Alfonso II, “The Chaste,” a few years later. Between 1065-1071, it obtained the title of capital of the Kingdom of Galicia during the reign of Don García.

Since the founders were Jews, they were increasing in population, as they became half of the population in the 14th century. Among the different trades they carried out, wine trading was big in the region, which they sent to the northern Europe.

In 1375, King Enrique II handed over rule of Ribadavia to one of his supporters, Don Pedro Ruiz Sarmiento. Thereafter, this family maintained its jurisdiction over the region.

In the year 1386, the village suffered an attack and looting from the English army under the command of the Duke of Lancaster, who sought the Castilian throne by marrying a daughter of Pedro I; in defense of highlighting the Jewish community.

Qué ver en Ribadavia

The decree of the expulsion of the Jews in 1492, forced an important part of the population to leave Ribadavia. Others converted, but continued with their religion; This motivated the Court of the Inquisition (based in Santiago de Compostela) to start in Ribadavia a permanent group in charge of persecuting them.

Its Historic-Artistic Ensemble is a network of medieval streets and ‘porticadas’ squares, with different viewpoints of the Avia River and a series of temples and country houses from all periods and styles (from the 9th to the 19th century).

The Fortress of the Counts of Ribadavia played a decisive role in the history of Galicia as it was one of the main medieval castles. Its origin dates back to the 9th century, although most of the castle was built in the second half of the 15th century when the county of Ribadavia was created. From the highest viewpoint, you have a worthwhile view of the Avia River and the Miño.  There is still an important stone necropolis preserved from the 9th-12th century, as well as anthropoid rock burials excavated in the 9th century and a sepulchre of the 12th century. However, it no longer has the battlements, the homage tower and other signs of protection. The wall still retains three of its five gates: the Porta da Cerca (entrance to the castle), the Porta Nova (road to the river) and the Porta Falsa (which leads to the mill). Currently, because of its ruinous state, restoration work is being carried out. An auditorium was built inside, where the famous International Theatre Exhibition during the month of July is held.

In the vicinity of the fortress, there are churches and chapels aplenty. The first temple of the locality was erected in the 12th century and was naturally devoted to the Apostle Santiago. It still has its wooden roof and it has superb Romanesque and Gothic decor. Its 24-hole rosette ceiling and the decoration on the doors and windows, as well as a 14th century Santiago stone belonging to the Maestro Mateo School, stand out.  We can also find, in the place previously occupied by a hermitage, the Chapel of Our Lady of the Portal, with a neoclassical facade that is preceded by the atrium and stairway, which houses a Baroque altarpiece (1737) with an excellent image of the Virgin of the Portal, who wanders through Ribadavia every 8th of September, during the festivities. Next to it are the Convent and Church of Santo Domingo, in Gothic style with Romanesque details.  The temple consists of three large naves with their corresponding apses. On the inside, the front of the altar carved with stone draws attention. Finally, the Romanesque Church of San Juan, received by the hospitable Knights of the Order of St. John at the end of the 13th century. Inside is the original wooden ceiling, an altarpiece by San Miguel and an image of the Virgin of Anguish.

In the Plaza Mayor is the current town hall building. It is a 16th century building that added a neoclassical façade in the nineteenth century, as well as an elegant tower with a clock. Another important building is the “Country House of the Counts” (from Sarmiento), from the 17th century, where the tourist office and the Sefardi Interpretation Center  are, with a permanent exhibition where visitors can learn about the history of Galician Jews during their Expulsion. The ‘Pazo’ (Home of the Counts) is a baroque building with two courtyards of great beauty, with an artistic balcony and viewpoint of the Miño River.

At the end of the street of San Martín is the House of the Inquisition, a building of the 16th century, with an admirable facade with the shields of the four local families that played the role of “relatives” of the Holy Office and carried out the persecution of the converted Jews who continued practicing their faith.

It is interesting to visit the old Jewish Quarter, formed around the 12th and 13th centuries around the New Door of the old wall, which still retains its medieval characteristics.

In the House of the Foundation is the Etnological Museum of Ribeiro, whose collections range from things from the end of the nineteenth century to the present, especially highlighting photographs, native ceramics, artisanal textile production and objects representative of traditional trades of the province of Orense.

Calle típica

Two kilometers from the village – ask for the place of Francelos – and you will find an architectural jewel, the small church of San Ginés (late 8th century-early 9th century); It was declared a Historical-Artistic Site because of its decorative Romanesque elements: a beautiful lattice, a horseshoe arch and two magnificent reliefs about the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem and the Flight from Egypt.

For almost fifty years, the Ribeiro Fair is celebrated in the locality in early May, with numerous events related to wine and cultural performances that multiply the attractions to see in Ribadivia.

On August 24th and 25th, the Festa da Istoria (Festival of History), of Jewish origin, is celebrated, in which a large part of the population is disguised as soldiers and medieval peasants, performing dances, dinners, and demonstrations of artisan goods. For the commercial transactions during this celebration, you get to use a currency of your own, the Maravedí (an old Spanish coin), while promoting different crafts or those that are no longer practiced. The most interesting and highlighted events are the medieval tournament, the simulation of a Jewish wedding and a medieval dinner, which finishes out the celebration.

The Essentials

Puerta medieval
Restos del castillo

Important Information

Coordinates

42° 17’ 16’’ N, 8° 8’ 33’’ W

Distances

28 km from Ourense, 66 km from Vigo, 120 km from Lugo, 109 km from Santiago de Compostela, 524 km from Madrid

Parking

Easy to do so in the villa and its surrounding area

Altitude

100 m

Inhabitants

5,230 (2013)

Festa da Istoria (Celebration of History, on the final Saturday of August), in honor of the Virgin of the Portal (from the 7th to the 11th of September), Celebration of the Pepper of Arnoia (first weekend in August), of the Harvest (last Sunday of August), of the Coffee Liqueur (last weekend in October), Ribeiro Wine Celebration (late April or early May)

International Theatre Exhibition (one week in July), Nights do Castelo (various performances on the weekends in July, August and September)

Conde pastries, Herminia (sweet Hebrew desserts)

As Casiñas (goldsmith and Galician pottery)

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