A Tower for Power Reduced to Ruins: The Forgotten Story of Torre San Sadurniño

A Tower for Power Reduced to Ruins: The Forgotten Story of Torre San Sadurniño

(Read the article on one page)

Tower ruins hidden in a bay near the waters of the Atlantic Ocean are one of the greatest treasures of a small community in Cambados, Galicia, Spain. The stones remember battles with Vikings and other aggressive warriors from history. Now, they remind those who visit of Galician bravery.

A Tower for Protection

Cambados is a small town in the Pontevedra District. It is famous for producing the most delicious white wine of Spanish Galicia, called Albariño. Moreover, it was a home to several incredibly talented writers and artists. But the site also witnessed fights that would make your blood run cold. It was a place where many ships arrived to plunder the town. However, the tower was a powerful weapon against those enemies. Torre de Sadurniño was also a lighthouse that helped friendly ships travel safely to the harbor.

The tower is located on the Ria de Arousa, where the land around it protects it somewhat from the dangerous waves of the Atlantic Ocean. However, the tower’s position also allowed enemies to easily attack it as well.

The Torre de San Sadurniño.

The Torre de San Sadurniño. (Contando Estrelas / CC BY SA 2.0 )

Lighthouses and towers to protect towns from sea attacks have always been very important parts of Galician urbanizations. They were not only very useful constructions, but symbols of social prestige too. Even now, people like to see them as monuments portraying the greatness of the Galician people and their historical strength in warfare. The most famous of these towers is the Torre de Hercules, which has been located in A Coruna since ancient times. It was built by the orders of Gaius Julius Caesar, who arrived in Galicia in 61 BC.

Torre de Hercules.

Torre de Hercules. (EDMAR LASTRA CASTILLEJOS/ CC BY SA 3.0 )

The Legendary Tower

The Torre de San Sadurniño was built during the 8th or 9th century AD, but it is possible that it was created on the site of an even older construction. Researchers who examined the site suggest the first tower was built by Romans or Phoenicians. Both ancient civilizations existed in Galicia, however the Roman impact was stronger.

Countless battles were fought using the tower. Local stories discuss many Viking sieges and attempts to rob the town. The arrivals of Nordic tribes created a huge problem during the early medieval period, and some researchers suggest that the tower was created to protect the settlement from these raids. It was also a way to inform other villages and towns, from Cambados to Santiago de Compostela, about imminent attacks. The tower was visible from Catoira, which was a strategic site for Santiago’s defense and protection. Through the centuries, it was used against the Normans, barbarians, and many others.

The Torre de San Sadurniño.

The Torre de San Sadurniño. (Contando Estrelas/ CC BY SA 2.0 )

The tower was rebuilt during the 12th century when it was owned by the archbishop of Santiago de Compostela, Diego Gelmirez. The archbishop had to purchase it, or he’d have lost the strategic point that protected his lands. He decided that the old tower needed some fixing up, and it was fortified with modern technology. It had a purpose for other people at that time too. They created a system of harbor infrastructure around the tower which allowed them to generate some wealth through trade in Cambados.

Romanesque Medieval Miniature of Didacus Gelmirici (Diego Gelmirez), from the illuminated manuscript of the Tumbo de Toxosoutos (Galicia), 13th century.

Romanesque Medieval Miniature of Didacus Gelmirici (Diego Gelmirez), from the illuminated manuscript of the Tumbo de Toxosoutos (Galicia), 13th century. ( Public Domain )

Falling into Ruins

During the 15th century, the Kingdom of Galicia faced rebellion by the peasantry, and the tower was destroyed during the battles of the Irmandiño Revolts (Irmandiño Wars), between 1466 and 1470. Some records suggest the tower was destroyed specifically in 1467.

It was purchased a few years later by the brother of a famous Galician rebel, Pedro Madruga. He rebuilt the tower. Over the centuries, the tower was visited by many important people, like bishops and political rulers.

With time, the tower was rebuilt and it even had a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It became a popular place to stay and enjoy the magnificent landscape of the bay. In 1755, there was a massive earthquake that damaged the whole western coast of the Iberic Peninsula, and the tower was damaged once again. No one decided to repair it after that.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

Detail of a self-portrait of Raphael, aged approximately 23.
Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (known more commonly as Raphael) was a painter and architect who lived in Italy between the late 15th and early 16th centuries, during a period known as the High Renaissance. According to the website of the National Gallery, Raphael has been recognized for centuries as “the supreme High Renaissance painter, more versatile than Michelangelo and more prolific than their older contemporary Leonardo.”

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article