This building of such great historical heritage was made a national monument way back in 1931. Once there was a monastery, but all that is left of this is the church. The overall first impression is of the strength of architectural harmony and elegance of the decorative elements of this building. You will also be impressed by its size. We love to have this important building as a neighbour.
It is believed that St. Estevo de Ribas de Miño was an early medieval monastery linked to the one in nearby Diomondi. From the early part of the 9th century up until its heyday in the twelfth century the monastic life formed a very important part of everyday life in the area we know as the Ribeira Sacra. Today these monastic settlements have become exceptional architectural expressions of Romanesque art, leaving a deep impression on this area.
You have to image that this was once a wild place, full of forest and steep hillsides. The slope of the terrain meant that the builders had to dig into the hillside to allow sufficient height for the apsis and they also had to build a crypt at the front to make the structure even. This allowed the builders to show off the magnificent façade to all of those that travelled up and down the valley.
The rectangular nave is divided into four compartments by arches and barrel-vaulted apsis. There is a semicircular altar. It has two doors. The main entrance is monumental for the western façade, while the South is an auxiliary small door compact.
The church has one of the most spectacular Romanesque façades of the Ribeira Sacra and may be in Galicia. Outside highlights the main front door flared semicircular archivolts, all decorated with differing patterns. The lower one has a row of musicians; some say several are symbols of the sun and/or moon too. The archivolts are supported by four marble columns. The decoration of the capitals are plant motifs, except the two inner, being of fictitious birds.
The main door is flanked by two arches. These are now empty, but it is thought that some sort of wooden tablets were hung from the holes within these arches. Either side of the main door and supporting the stone above are two figures: one a representation of the devil; the other an angel.
There is a row of decorations between the archivolts and the rose window. This also acts as a rain drip, thus protecting the main door. There is also has a rose window of about four metres diameter. This was filled in with stained glass in the 1980s. This was to stop birds and bats entering the building. The result is a on sunny summer evening and you are inside you see a spectacular rainbow projected on the walls.
The rear of the building is supported by two flying buttresses.
There are architectural elements that link the church Santo Estevo de Ribas de Miño to the nearby San Pelayo de Diomondi, Santa Maria de Pesqueiras and farthest from Portomarín. The most famous church to which this church has a link is the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. It is belived that the same stonemason who made the façade of this church and the Porta del Gloria in the cathedral is the same person; his name is Master Mateo.