This town forms part of the Pilgrims’ Route to Santiago and is located at the confl uence of the rivers Valcarce and Burbia. It is the historical centre of El Bierzo par excellence and its artistic heritage includes six Sites of Cultural Interest and the designation of the old part of the town as a Historical Site. It was briefl y capital of the fi fth province of Galicia in 1822. The town today has 2346 inhabitants
WHAT TO SEE:
- Church of San Francisco. Highlights include the 13th century Romanesque façade and the nave with a Mudejar coffered ceiling. A fire in 1968 destroyed the church archives.
- Church of Santiago. 12th century Romanesque single-nave church. The authentic treasure of this church is the Door of Pardon situated on the side façade facing north. It was restored in 1958 under the orders of the architect Ramón Cañas del Río. The Door of Pardon takes its name because pilgrims who were unable to continue on to Compostela obtained and still obtain today the same indulgences as they do at the apostle’s tomb.
- Castle Palace of Los Marqueses. With a rectangular layout, its construction started at the beginning of the 16th century. During the Peninsular War, it was affected by a great fi re, but the original towers survived and it was refurbished in the middle of the 19th century.
- Convent of La Anunciada. Founded by the fi fth Marquis of Villafranca, Pedro de Toledo y Colonna. It has a collection of Flemish paintings from the beginning of the 17th century, known as ‘Los Ermitaños de la Anunciada’.
- Convent of San José. Founded in the 17th century by the Canon of the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Don Luís de Castro, the interior boasts a splendid Baroque altarpiece, the work of José Ovalle, Andrés de Benavente and Isidro Valcarce. Collegiate
- Church of Santa María. This church stands on the site of the former
- Monastery of Santa María de Cluniaco or Cruñego and was built in the 16th century in the Late Gothic style and also features Plateresque elements.
- San Nicolás el Real. This was once a Jesuit convent, but today it is run by the Paulist Fathers. It is of Italian Baroque style. Inside, it has a noteworthy Churrigueresque- style altarpiece, Baroque cloister and a statue of the patron saint of Villafranca: The Christ of La Esperanza.
- Calle del Agua. On this street we can admire the palaces of Torquemada and Álvarez de Toledo and the Chapel of Omañas. It is also the birthplace of Fray Martín Sarmiento and the novelist Gil y Carrasco.
- Convent of La Concepción. Founded by Don Pedro de Toledo and Doña María Osorio. For a brief period between 1868 and 1892 it was used as a prison, before being restored to its original use.
- Monastery of San Francisco. Its 13th-century Romanesque front is worthy of particular mention, together with the Mudejar-style coffered ceiling above the nave, the Gothic upper end from the 15th century and chapels from the 16th. It is the burial place of interesting characters, such as Gil y Carrasco, a Romantic poet from the 19th century.
- Church of San Juan or San Fiz de Viso. Built on the site of a Roman cistern, it is in keeping with the rural Romanesque style of the late 12th and early 13th centuries.