The term "Romanesque" is a relatively recent word. It was thought to first be used around the seventeenth century. The basic principles of Romanesque architecture is are the semicircular arches, thick walls and decorative arcading. The style of this architecture can be seen all over Europe. Here in the Ribeira Sacra it is said that one can find the greatest concentration of buildings in this style.
A document written in 1124 cites the "ryboira sacrata". This is the first evidence that this area was called (in today's language) The Ribeira Sacra. There are various theories about the origin the term Ribeira Sacra. While some historians explain this by the abundance of monasteries and churches in the area, others link it to a Latin word robur, oak. "In land Montederramo are the so-called Roboyra Sacrata". Oaks are known to have been held as sacred back to Roman times.
There are something like 18 monasteries plus many churches and chapels dotted all around this area. Some of the most important are: San Pedro de Bembibre, Taboada dos Freires, San Paio de Diomondi, Santo Estevo de Ribas de Miño, Santa María de Pesqueiras, Montederramo, San Pedro de Rocas, Ferreira de Pantón, San Paio de Abeleda, Santa Cristina de Ribas de Sil and Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil. Some are in ruins, some are preserved and others are still working. Some have been converted into hotels.
The uniqueness of the Ribeira Sacra is determined by its natural areas. Immense river flows have resulted in them carving deep ravines into the landscape. Together with the once dense forests that covered the land this area made access difficult. This could explain the early presence in the Ribeira Sacra for monks and hermits that were seeking an easy way of finding an ascetic life style.