Located just five kilometers from Allariz, Xunqueira de Ambía revolves around one of the most remarkable and interesting buildings of Romanesque-medieval architecture in the province of Orense: the collegiate church of Santa María la Real.

For the researcher, or simply for the traveler who moves around the province seeking not only preeminent and magical places, but also chasing the elusive shadow of the enigmatic Templar knights, it is almost necessary to stop there to have a look, especially if He intends to continue on his way, heading towards one of the most unique places in the region: Santa Mariña de Augas Santas.

Observe, then, the obvious architectural similarities that exist between the main temples of both places, and begin to become familiar with the stories that speak of the presence -suspectedly coincident, as in many cases spread throughout the peninsular territory (1) - of regular canons of San Agustín, of templars and of an Order of the Císter that, taking the relief to the Benedictines, also began to settle in places of strategic, when not mediatic situation, not alien, in any way, to that Marian phenomenology , of those who were notoriously promoters (2).

If we stick to the details that there was a megalithic and castreña presence in the area; that a Roman military road circulated through it and that tradition maintains that the place originated as a result of an apparition of the Virgin in the fourth century, we will have enough elements, even hypothetically speaking, so as not to be surprised, at least in excess , by a probable presence of the Templars in the place, taking into account that, as they have been described in numerous occasions, not only they were monks and warriors, but also of authentic guardians and custodians of the Tradition.

And do not forget that, although it is known that the place was donated by King Alfonso VII to the regular canons of San Agustín in the 12th century, the construction of the current church -which stands on the hermitage and the monastery that was in times - in 1164, we also know that it was precisely through this king, and also in the twelfth century, that the Templars were officially established in Orense, being custodians not only of that gate of Castile, but also guaranteeing the path of the pilgrims who were going to Santiago using the so-called Via or Ruta de la Plata -also known as Camino Mozárabe-, and above all, watching carefully another very particular door: that of Portugal, as already commented in the entry dedicated to San Pedro It gives Mosque.

A remarkable detail, which attracts a lot of attention and invites us to examine with more interest the funeral architecture applied to medieval sarcophagi, here in Orense, is the proliferation of recumbent figures at whose feet the image of a dog has been sculpted.

Figures, both of which, generally and unofficially, are interpreted as respecting a sentimental affinity of the gentleman in question towards his dog. And here, however, another question arises, no less interesting, relative to that double language or alternative symbolic world, to which the masters and stonemasons guilds were so enthusiastic that they were raising the immense Romanesque-Gothic heritage along the different medieval historical periods-High or Late Middle Ages-, with particular perseverance in the sphere of influence of roads and routes of communication to Santiago de Compostela.

The dog, tame and at the same time Christianized version of that primordial companion of the gods - let's say as an example, what affects Galicia, the Celtic god Lug - and guide of souls in the underworld, which is the wolf. And although there are a diversity of figures in the Christian saints to which we can refer, without a doubt, the best known and related to the subject and place we are dealing with, we find them in those enigmatic but at the same time persistent road saints, such as San Roque and San Lazaro, as well as a no less mysterious female representative, in the figure of Santa Quiteria.

On the other hand, and to add a bit of morbidity to the matter, it is also worth noting the presence in the cloister, of a mysterious sarcophagus that sports a formidable sword in its central part (3), showing, as a novel detail, a singular shield in the one that appears two birds, located this in its left lateral part.

Within the artistic wealth that can be seen inside this magnificent church, and apart from the beautiful Baroque or
Renaissance carving of the Pilgrim MTA - figure that enjoys great devotion, as expected, by the numerous pilgrims that go through here-, it is worth mentioning, also, the presence of a representative figure of San Antón (4), a saint very venerated by the Temple who, in turn, maintained fraternal ties with the Antonians or Order of San Antón.

Also, and from the baroque or later period, in the iconography of the different altarpieces, you can see characters and symbols of certain relevant interest, such as those that refer to the four evangelists - two of whose symbols, the ox and the eagle, that is, , Luke and John, are also located as guardians of the threshold in the main portico of access to the temple, as well as a curious representation of the Annunciation, in which the archangel Gabriel, appearing to Mary to convey the good news, by a staff on which a snake is seen curled.

Unfortunately, the right hand is amputated. Independently of all this, there is also a great symbolic richness in the capitals and corbels of the exterior, which deserves to be studied with a certain calm and attention.
Among her, there is no shortage of solar allusions, varied Celtic symbolism, animals with rich symbolism such as the wolf and the ox, and the always enigmatic presence of these supposed devouring monsters, in which many authors notice a more than probable relationship with access and the difficulties involved in the always thorny path to Knowledge.

Be as it is and the liking of relation that could or not to have had in the past with the Order of the Temple, of which there is no doubt whatsoever is that we are in one of the most representative places of the Orensan Romanesque, whose visit and contemplation paused is recommended, in the conviction that it will not leave anyone indifferent, being, in addition, as has been said at the beginning of the present entry, an extraordinary host, if you also plan to visit the mysterious-cultural group of Santa Mariña de Augas Santas, topic that will be discussed in a next post.

Notes, References and Bibliography:

(1) They serve as an example, the church of Santa Coloma de Albendiego, or the Marian shrines located in different places of the Alto Tajo - such as Cobeta and the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Montesinos, the Barranco de la Hoz and the Sanctuary of the Virgin of same name, and even the monastery of Cistercian nuns of Buenafuente del Sistal-, all located in the province of Guadalajara.
(2) Phenomenology that, if we observe carefully the places where it is produced, we will observe that in these, generally - and this is one of the cases - there were cults to the primordial figure of the Great Mother Goddess. In addition, and as a fact to take into account also, it is known that Bernard of Clairvaux, great promoter of the Cister and spiritual godfather of the Order of the Temple, was a passionate devotee of the Black Virgins.
(3) Detail that refers to the many stories and legends about Templar tombs, which look like the only distinctive sword, which are located in various places like Valdeande (Burgos), the cloister of the monastery of Santa María, in Valdedios ( Villaviciosa, Asturias), or without going any further, in that tombstone, reused as a lintel on the exterior wall that crosses the entrance to the church of San Miguel de Eiré, in O Mosteiro, province of Lugo.
(4) Remember, that San Antón is also represented among the paintings that decorate the head of the church of the monastery of Santa Cristina de Ribas de Sil, where the sarcophagi of some of its abbots, show beside the staff a magnificent cross registered pâté in its corresponding circle.

NOTICE: Originally published in my blog LA ESPAÑA DE LOS TEMPLARIOS. Both the text and the photographs that accompany it are my exclusive intellectual property. The original entry, where you can check the authorship of juancar347, can be found at the following address: https://juancarlosmenendez.blogspot.com/2013/07/xunqueira-de-ambia-colegiata-de-santa.html

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