Along the Camino del Norte, 3 stages before you reach Santiago de Compostela, you find yourself in the town of Sobrado. It is a small town of just over 2,000 people but at the centre of the town sits the Cistercian Monastery of our Lady of Sobrado.
The building was founded in 952 by a magnate and distinguished member of a noble family in Galicia, Count Hermenegildo Aloitez and his wife Paterna. Documents reference a double monastery of Benedictine monks and nuns on the site during this time. When Hermenegildo retired, and became a monk himself, he handed the outstanding structure over to his descendants. Later, in 1142 the Abbey was handed over to the Cistercian monks and the name was changed to Our Lady of Sobrado.
During the 12th and 13th centuries the Abbey thrived and from that created Valdedios Abbey, its daughter house located in the province of Asturias. Following those years, the Abbey went into a decline and the building began to deteriorate. By 1834, due to the government suppressing all male monasteries in Spain, the monks left the site and the building was completely abandoned and partially demolished.
In 1954 restoration started and in July 1966 a small group of Cistercian monks from Cantabria entered and brought life back into the monastery. UNESCO pronounced the site as a World Heritage Site due to its association with the pilgrimage of Saint James on the Camino del Norte.
Currently, it functions as a monastery of around 20 monks. There is a large 18th Century cloister that is used today as a pilgrims’ albergue.
Visits are available but are limited to the ground floor. One of our favorite parts of the Abbey is the Gothic kitchen dating back to 1250. Within sits a large central chimney and fireplace where you can just imagine the monks in the 1st Century huddling around to keep warm from the brutal Galician weather.
Should you visit you will also notice many of the walls covered in a green coat of moss. Although the Abbey has worked on cleaning the walls over the past few years, we think the color adds to the mystical vibe of this very old and diverse establishment.
Even if you do not plan to sleep amongst these old walls during your Camino del Norte, this is a must see!