Mosteiro de Aciveiro
The Monastery of Aciveiro has been considered a Historic-Artistic Monument since 1931 and is currently considered an Asset of Cultural Interest.
The total surface area of the enclosure is 46,658m2, of which 5,896m2 correspond to the actual monastery building and the adjoining church, 2,125m2 to the atrium of the complex and 37,629m2 to the three adjoining farms.
The monastery stands in a gorge through which the river Lérez flows.
“Mosteiro” and “parroquia” are named after the place where they are located and the predominant plant variety (the toponym is an abundance of “acivro”).
In ancient times, Aciveira’s mountains and lands were heavily populated. Evidence of this can be found in the abundant prehistoric monuments, such as mámoas and castros (fortified settlements), some of which are mentioned in medieval documents.
It is possible that at the time of the arrival of the friars there was a small population living from shepherding, but this parish began to exist and reached its peak, both in demographic and cultural and economic-agricultural terms, with the foundation of the monastery, and continued until the disentailment of 1835. All the hamlets that make up the parish, always governed by a vicar friar, obey a certain organisational idea in their location and livelihood, which is worth bearing in mind. They surround the monastery in a radius of about 1500 metres or more, with a proportionate separation between them.
An inscription preserved on one of the walls facing the cloister of the processions sets 2 February 1135 as the founding date, detailing that the initial community was made up of twelve friars who had come to found the monastery.
Years later, the Bieite community of Aciveiro, like many others in Galicia and throughout Spain, accepted the Cistercian reform. There is no documentary evidence to help us know the year in which the Bieite friars of Aciveiro joined the Cistercian order. We only know that in 1170 the monastery was already a Cistercian monastery, and an inscription states the day in September on which the church is said to have been built and dedicated to the mother of God, the Virgin Mary, as is the case in all Cistercian churches.
the toponym “Aciveiro” denotes an abundance of “acivro”.
The church of Aciveiro
The coenobial church is of notable architectural interest, as its structure does not reflect the layout or the ornamental sobriety of other Cistercian churches, being rather marked by the influences of the Compostela school. It resembles the churches built in Galicia in the second half of the 12th century.
Basilica plan, three naves and three apses at the chevet in correspondence with the three chapels it has. The position of the chapels is gradual, with the larger apse being pentagonal and the smaller ones semicircular. The naves are divided into five sections, with the central one being the highest, whose wooden roof rests on the walls that separate it from the side naves. In the aisles, the roof is also made of wood, and rests on transversal arches that mark the separation of the sections into which the naves are divided.
It is necessary to highlight the false triforium or gallery over the side vaults, a somewhat unusual construction in Galicia, which is also found in the churches of Xunqueira de Ambía and Santa Mariña de Augas Santas, in the province of Ourense. Its structure resembles the galleries of cathedral churches. The arches of the gallery are semicircular and start from columns with capitals of simple ornamentation.
The central chapel has a polygonal floor plan and is connected to the nave by a graceful semicircular triumphal arch. It is covered with a star-shaped vault.
The altarpiece reflects the baroque design of the majority of the cenobiabilis altarpieces built between the 17th and 18th centuries. Two superimposed bodies, divided into sections by columns that frame the lateral niches and the central hollows. Its authorship is attributed to Miguel de Romay.
Today, two sarcophagi remain on the sides of the church, one on each side of the door. In the north nave is the grain stone sarcophagus of Frei Gonzalo das Penas, who governed the monastery in the second half of the 15th century. In the south nave is the tomb of a noble lord, possibly Don Pedro Martínez, Lord of the house of Soutomaior, a great benefactor of the monastery.
the architectural ensemble
The façade of the entire Romanesque church stands out from the rest of the building, which was modified in the 18th century, leaving behind a very modest doorway framing the semicircular opening of the door.
Externally, the walls of the church have four buttresses on the north side, which support the spirit of the arches of the naves.
The opposite wall, on the south side, is attached to the cloister of the Processions.
Opposite the large esplanade and at right angles to the façade of the church is the parish priest’s house. This is also the entrance portico to the house, vaulted and in the classical style.
Once we have crossed the vaulted threshold, we find ourselves in the first of the cloisters, rectangular in shape and large in size, once used for the reception of fruit, wool, corn, etc.
To the right, the courts, alpendres, poleiros, pigeon lofts and shepherds’ dwellings were located. Facing it, and located in the middle of the cloister, is a beautiful fountain completed in 1802.
On the left is the passage to the monastery’s rooms, which is through a vaulted section five metres long, with a half-barrel vault, which leads to a rectangular room. To the left is another rectangular room where the stairs leading up to the former upper flats of the monastery begin.
To the right is the old kitchen, which was the most beautiful room along with the horse courts. It was rectangular, with two large windows and all the necessary services: running water in two basins, cupboards and a fireplace. The chimney and the heavy bell were supported by strong columns. The entire outbuilding is covered with a graceful vault. It was the most beautiful part of the house, admired by all those who visited the monastery. It was completed in 1801.
Next to the kitchen was the refectory, of regular dimensions. It did not have a vault. It was completed in 1802. Next to it were the courts, covered with a half-barrel vault. The floor was paved with cobblestones, and the centre of the floor was covered with eight stone steps. Continuing along the route through the cloister and to the right is the entrance to the present-day piano room, which was the old Scriptorium. Next to this is the fireplace room and at the back the stairs that lead to the rooms of the east wing.
One of the most healthy sources of the Mosteiro’s income was the “neveiras” that the Candán’s highlands possessed.
Due to the author’s interest in the Tumbo Grande, by sorting through all the existing documents scattered in the hundreds of drawers of the monastery, it is possible to reconstruct quite faithfully the history of the convent, saved from the fire of 1649, from the sacking and fire of 1809 and then from the very difficult moments of the dispersion of the religious in 1835. In 1973 it was taken to the Mosteiro de Oseira and a copy was deposited in the Museum of Pontevedra and photocopied copies in the Town Hall of Forcarei and in the Padre Sarmiento Institute of Galician Studies.