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A journey to medieval times

The human presence in El Bierzo goes back to the dawn of time. From the Palaeolithic to this day, the different towns that conquered the region left a rich legacy that grew even more with the strong influence of the Way of Saint James. Its castles, churches, monasteries and hermitages have witnessed this.
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Templar Castle of Ponferrada
It is the symbol of the city. Declared a National Historic Monument, it is located on what it used to be a Celtic hill-fort and later a Roman and Visigoth settlement.

The Templar history of the castle began in 1178, when Ferdinand II of León allowed the Templars to settle in the current city of Ponferrada. The current building is the heir of the previous Templar Castle, where part of the original wall and some factories are preserved.

It underwent great changes from the 14th and 15th centuries, first with the Castro family, and then with the Count of Lemos, who is owed most of the current structures..
The castle is made up of a large polygonal enclosure of more than 8,000 square metres with double and triple ramparts, along with barbicans, towers, rooms and a large low courtyard or albacar (enclosing bailey). The façade is flanked by two fortified towers joined by a double semi-circular arch.

The last archaeological excavations have discovered foundations of a pre-Roman settlement. The castle hosts the Templar Library and the Center for Research and Historical Studies of Ponferrada, with almost 1,400 books, including amongst them the facsimile editions of works by Leonardo Da Vinci.

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Castle of  Cornatel
In the vicinity of Las Médulas, the Castle of Cornatel, declared Cultural Heritage Site, stands out for being perched on the top of a hill that made it impregnable. Its military structures are built on the ancient Castle of Ulver, although remains of a Roman castrum have also been found.
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Castle of Sarracín
Located in Vega de Valcarce, tradition tells that a local noble named Sarraceno founded this castle in the time of Alfonso III. The current castle would be dated in the 14th century, ordered by the Marquis of Villafranca, being later owned by the Counts of Lemos. The fortress is strategically located on the right bank of the valley, opposite the Castle of Auctares, controlling both castles the crossing of all travellers. To guarantee the safety of the pilgrims, both fortresses were in the hands of the Order of Solomon's Temple between the 12th and 14th centuries.
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Monastery of San Pedro de Montes
It was the greatest of the monasteries of El Bierzo. It was erected by Saint Fructuoso in the 7th century. It remained active until the Muslim invasion. It was later rebuilt by Saint Genadio and its new construction dates back to the 12th and 13th centuries. Currently, it integrates several styles: pre-Romanesque, present in some of the preserved capitals; the Romanesque of the tower, the cloister and the façade of the church, which belong to the 18th century.
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Church of Santiago de Peñalba 
Located in Peñalba de Santiago, in the Valley of Silence (Valle del Silencio), it was built in the 10th century and was part of an original monastery. The church is one of the Spanish-style jewels of the pre-Romanesque Mozarabic art.
The decoration and the structure provide the church with a combination of Celtic elements (lunar and astral symbols), the Latin cross plan, Arab elements (a small umbrella dome covers the main altar) and Visigothic elements (the horseshoe arches). It was declared Heritage of Cultural Interest in 1931.
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Monastery of Santa María de Carradecelo
Cistercian monastery with a remarkable economic, religious and cultural influence in El Bierzo. It was the Cistercian Order who spread the culture of the vine and the production of wine throughout a vast part of the region.

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