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Ourense, Galacia, Spain

Ourense  is a city in northwestern Spain, the capital of the province of the same name in Galicia.

Although mainly a town of services, Ourense is not without its tourist sites. The town has three parts: the medieval, the area of 19th-century expansion, and the modern perimeter. Many who pass by on the highway linking Madrid to Vigo are unaware of the medieval quarter, with its narrow streets and tiny plazas. Once an area of a certain dilapidated charm the area is now undergoing renovation and is full of typical restaurants and bars patronized by the university students of the town. The Plaza Mayor is the center of city life with its arcaded shops and the simple, but beautiful Town Hall.

The cathedral is the most important monument in Ourense. This cathedral (founded 572; rebuilt in the 13th century) is the second oldest in Galicia. It occupies the same site as the Suevian basilica that stood there in earlier times. Romanesque in structure, but with a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic styles, it is rather hidden away but, contains a façade with the Door of Paradise in imitation of the Door of Glory of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Inside, the Capilla del Cristo, or Christ’s Chapel (16th century), contains a crucifix venerated throughout Galicia.

The Miño is crossed at Ourense by one of the most remarkable bridges in Spain, the Ponte Vella (Old Bridge). With Roman foundations, it was reconstructed by Bishop Lorenzo in 1230 but frequently repaired since then; it has seven arches and a central span of 141 feet (43 m). Now closed to automobile traffic, it is worth a crossing to contemplate the swirling waters of the Miño below.

Another must is the former episcopal palace, which houses the Provincial Archaeological Museum. The collections found therein comprise an interesting series of the Bronze Age, as well as various Roman and Romanesque objects.

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