Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Oseira (Galician) or Monastery of Santa Maria de Oseira (Bear in Latin), is one of many National Monuments in Galicia, Spain and imbued with the old Romanesque culture. This medieval Catholic Monastery is located in one of the most beautiful parts of Galicia and known for its historic and artistic value. Surrounded by the San Martina mountains (Serra da Martina) and nestled on the banks of the Oseira river all add to its beauty and splendor. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that Queen Sofia awarded it the Europe Nostra prize on the 15th of October 1989. Situated in the isolated Arenteiro Valley, 22km from Ourense in the municipality of San Cristovo de Cea this Trappist monastery forms part of the very famous and popular Camino de Compostela silver route.
It was established in 1137 by Alfonso VII and integrated into the Cistercian Order in 1141 when Saint Bernard of France, sent a group of monks to occupy the monastery. Sadly they had to leave the monastery again in 1835 because it was confiscated under the law (the law of desamortizaciόn) of the Prime Minister, Juan Alvarez Mendizabal. The monastery was plundered and left abandoned till 1929 when the monks returned and the reconstruction of this impressive building started again with the help of both the French and Spanish monks.
The church, which forms the central part of the monument, together with the ceremonial staircase and the Main Chamber or Palm Tree Room, feature both Baroque and Gothic styles. The Palm Tree Room is absolutely magnificent with its palm vaulting and twisted columns. The Renaissance influence can be seen in The Sacristy, the Bishops staircase and the courtyards of the Pinnacles while the Baroque style can be seen in the Caballero en Madalones Court Yards.
The Monastery is still home to approximately 11 Monks, each with his own defined profession and function, spending most of their day in chanting prayers and the upkeep of the gardens, the liquor production, and the bakery shop. They produce a lovely Eucalyptus liqueur, Eucaliptine, made of the eucalyptus leaves from the trees in the area.
Daily guided tours are done by the monks themselves, although on my visit during July, the busiest month of the year, our guide was a Spanish lady and of course a disappointment for the visitors not familiar with Spanish. The curio shop sells delectable pastries and cookies, wine and liqueur produced by the monks themselves, and souvenirs like bracelets, Rosaries, and chocolates.
Romanesque and Gothic gems are scattered all over Galicia but Monasteria de Oseira stands out as a gem of immense value and majestic beauty, where history and religion live in harmony.
With my chocolates and my bracelets and the chanting prayers in the background, I left the monastery knowing that I will be back.