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Ourense is a town in northwestern Spain, the capital of the province of Ourense in Galicia. Its population of 109,001 (2002) constitutes 30% of the population of the province.

Location and Climate

The ancient city of Auria is located on both banks of the Minho River in the south-central part of Galicia, at an elevation of 128 mts. above sea level. The city has a microclimate that brings abundant rainfall and allows for verdant vegetation on the nearby hills. Winters are mild with lows rarely falling below zero Celsius. Because of the location in the river valley summers can be quite hot, often equalling temperatures of Andalucia. Many local families have apartments on the coast (Vigo is only an hour away by car)where they can escape the heat of July and August.

The river divides a rather industrial western suburb which contains the railroad station from the main town. Three highway and one railroad bridge cross the river in addition to the famous Roman Bridge, which is now closed to vehicle traffic.


The origin of the town can be traced to the Romans and the presence of hot springs called the Burgas. These can still be seen today. There was also the need to fortify the place to protect one of the easiest ways to cross the Miņo River. After the Romans, Ourense was part of the Suebi (Suevi) kingdom during most of the 5th, 6th, and 7th centuries and was destroyed by the Moors in 716. It was later rebuilt by Alfonso III of Asturias about 877. The Norse invasions as well as attacks from the Arab warlord Al-Mansur once more laid the city to waste. It was only under Sancho II and his sister Doņa Elvira that the city was resettled (eleventh century). The definitive urban impulse did not arrive until the twentieth century when Ourense became an important center of services.


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 which 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 faįade 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 Miņo is crossed at Orense by one of the most remarkable bridges in Spain, the Ponte Vella. 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 150 feet (45 m). Now closed to automobile traffic, it is worth a crossing to contemplate the swirling waters of the Miņo 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.


Traditionally the town had sawmills, flour mills, iron foundries, and some light industries, but most of this has disappeared. Nearby in the industrial zone of São Ciprião das Viņas are many light industries including several important clothing factories. One of the most important fashion designers of Spain, Adolpho Domingues, is from Ourense.

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