This monastery is possibly the most famous of all the medieval religious constructions that are scattered around the so-called Galician Ribeira Sacra. An area of ravines excavated by the Sil River before reaching its mouth in the Miño River, between the provinces of Lugo and Orense, where there are up to twenty churches, monasteries, convents and anchorite caves, and which is a set of Romanesque art of the first order. Although its origins date back to before the arrival of Romanesque architecture, and its evolution also shows examples and reforms of other later styles such as Gothicor the Rebirth.
Cloister of the Monastery of Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil
A good example of this is the Monasterio de Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil, since its origins date back to a place of cave worship opened in the distant 6th century, while currently the monastic buildings have been transformed for new uses, since it opens its doors today as Parador de Turismo.
One of the most valuable areas is its late Romanesque style church. A temple with three naves in which pointed arches can be seen. But its greatest peculiarity is that it has three apses, but the two lateral ones are higher than the central one,something quite unusual. Currently it also has a pentagonal stone altarpiece in which Christ is seen accompanied by the Twelve Apostles. But regarding this Romanesque piece, scholars think that originally it would be part of the tympanum of the entrance and would form part of an altar.
In the church, specifically on the shaft of a column at the head, you can read an inscription that gives us the date the temple works began. There you can read the year 1183, although it is true that the works would take a long time to finish, practically until the 15th century. Even later it was reformed, hence the Gothic ribbed roof that is preserved.
But in addition to the church, the historical value of this monument is also manifested in its three cloisters. Each of a style: Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance. Possibly the most valuable is the oldest, called Claustro de los Obispos. Its name comes from the fact that during the 10th century up to nine bishops decided to retire to this monastery to end their lives.
However, although that is the name of the oldest cloister of the monastery, it was not built during the lifetime of those bishops. It is estimated that its opening began around the year 1220. And although it is from the 13th century, it is Romanesque in shape, hence its semicircular arches supported by pillars and twin columns. And above all, its capitals with plant motifs are identifiable as Romanesque.
Also the two later cloisters have their own name. One is the Claustro Grande or the Portería, and it has up tothree heights. While the third is the Pequeño or Do Viveiro, and is two stories high and clearly in Renaissance style, since its construction was contracted in 1595.