Lugo’s Old Town is surrounded by the only remaining completely intact Roman walls left in the world.
The Autonomous Community of Galicia is made up of 4 provinces and we have visited and previously written – A Coruña, Pontevedra and Ourense. This writing is about our visit to the 4th province, the Province of Lugo. The city of Lugo, with its population of 100,000, is the capital of the Province of Lugo and where we spent a handful of days.
History claims the Celts were the earliest inhabitants in this are, naming their settlement Lugus, after their powerful Celtic god Lugus. When the Romans conquered the region in 13 BCE, they altered the city’s name slightly to Lucus Augusti. Lugo became an important city to the Romans because it was in the center of a large active gold mining region.
During the Middle Ages, Lugo was an important stop for pilgrims to visit the remains of St. Froilán, before traveling on to Santiago de Compostela. San Froilán is often depicted with a wolf by his side because he tamed a starving wolf after the wild animal had devoured the Saint’s donkey.
San Froilán was born inside the walled area of the city of Lugo where he began his religious training but he would abandon his studies in order to live the life of a hermit, giving himself the freedom to pray and strengthen his relationship with God. He eventually returned to public life as a gifted speaker and began to travel and evangelize, converting many to Christianity.
In 900 CE King Alfonso III convinced the reluctant San Froilán, who had no formal training as a priest, to accept the position of Bishop of León. San Froilán is patron saint to both his hometown, Lugo and to León, Spain, where he was Bishop and a some of his relics reside in each city’s Cathedral.
Walking down a flight of stairs from the Roman wall we arrived at the front entrance of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, generally referred to as Lugo Cathedral. A church has been on the site from 755 but the current church began to be built in 1129 and was eventually finished 150 years later, in 1273. There have, of course, been many renovations and additional elements added over the centuries. We were surprised to learn that the 1755 8.4 Lisbon earthquake caused a fair amount of damage to this Cathedral, which is more than 500 miles north and west of the epicenter.
Inside the church there were a number of resplendent pieces of art and sculpture, including a generous sized museum that we took our time browsing through. This beautiful statue caught our eye – we felt the artist captured something so gentle and touching in it.
Muralla Romana de Lugo
The Romans built the huge walls between 263 and 276 CE to encircle, protect and defend their town against local tribesmen and northern Germanic invaders. The 1.5 mile long wall ranges in height from 26-39 feet tall (8-12m) and is 14 feet thick (4.2m). There are 10 gates in the walls today but during the Roman occupation there were only 5.
The beautiful semi-circular defensive towers that remain – 88 in fact, are only partially intact. Each tower would have had 2 stories with a series of windows with arches. The Torre da Mosqueira is the only example that remains of the second level of the tower. We found this painting below giving an example of what each tower may have originally looked like.
All along the top of the walls today there is a well maintained walkway that visitors and local use. It is the perfect place to get fresh air, exercise, sit and visit, enjoy the sites of the city and catch a sunrise or sunset. How lucky are the residents to have such a pleasant place to go for a stroll.
Lugo’s Plaza Mayor also called the Plaza de España is surrounded by large attractive buildings and the baroque styled Town Hall called Pazo do Concello, built in 1738, is the biggest and brightest.
This large square, in the heart of the city, was where the city market was held in medieval times. Today there is a fountain, a gazebo, a handful of statues, gardens and benches surrounded by cafes where we often sat and enjoyed the activities in this bustling square. Once we spotted a couple of cats perched high above us on a tree branch, like birds. Another day we watched a young mother with her preschool child. As soon as the little girl spotted this cool children’s chariot, she climbed up into the seat and pretended to take her ride.
We began our morning with a sobering visit to the Old Prison. Each former cell was filled with art, some with portraits of prisoners and human rights activists, others with graphic works that showed the injustice and violence prisoners are subjected to.
The artist, Xaime Quessada Porto (1937-2007), created a group of paintings that showed his commitment to the defense of human rights and called them the “Yellow Series”. At first glance the paintings are beautiful, but the subject matter shows man’s horrific injustices against defenseless men and women, including far too many genocide and “ethnic cleansing” events that have happened around the world in just the past 40 years.
As we solemnly walked out of this former prison, our emotions were similar to how we felt as we toured the Auschwitz concentration camp. It was an emotional and harsh way to begin the day but an experience to remind us all we need to work to prevent these atrocities.
Museo Universitario A Domus do Mitreo
This University Museum is called Domus do Mitreo because a domus was discovered during an excavation for a new building. A domus was a Roman house where the wealthy Romans lived. (The word domestic is a derivative of the word domus.) This particular domus had been partially modified to use as a Mithraeum – a natural cave, cavern or underground structure built beneath buildings to look like a cave. Mithra worshippers would gather here for communal ritual meals.
Mithraism or the ‘Mithraic Mysteries’ as Roman historians referred to it, was a Roman religion centered on the god Mithras. Worshippers called themselves syndexioi, those that were “united by the handshake”. They met in large numbers in their underground temples or Mithraea. It is believed the religion had its center in Rome but was popular throughout the Roman empire. Mithraism was a rival of early Christianity but would eventually die out. No written theology survived although many monuments, artifacts, inscriptions and partial Mithraic temples have been found.
The most common scenes of Mithras show him being born from a rock, slaughtering a bull, and sharing a banquet with the god Sol (the Sun).
Museo Provincial de Lugo
The Provincial museum was created in 1932 and is located in a beautiful old convent. To visit the museum, you are required to join a tour. Photos were not permitted throughout the tour of the museum’s collection although the original convent kitchen and cloister were the exceptions. As we have mentioned before we enjoy the immense variety of solar clocks we find and there were a number of unique ones lined against a wall in the cloister, some dating to the early 1700’s but a number without dates looked even older.
Lugo was the 4th province and 6th city we visited in the Autonomous Community of Galicia. Good memories are always a combination of the places we visit and the people we meet. Lugo ticked all the boxes and we are lucky to have spent a few days in this picturesque city.
Boa saúde from these Lucense,
Ted + Julia
View the Old Jail photo album here (see note below)
There is some great art displayed in the Old Jail that is part of this album but there is also some very difficult content relating to the Spanish Civil War. The information displayed in the Old Jail is both very honest and very startling (as it should be) making the experience very worthwhile but in this album we have displayed only the more informational pieces.
View the Rest of Lugo photo album here
– including the San Roque Archaeological Center