Peñalba de Santiago and its rural architecture

Peñalba de Santiago is a town and district of the municipality of Ponferrada, in the Bierzo region, province of León, autonomous community of Castile and León, Spain.

The town has been an Asset of Cultural Interest since 2008 with the category of Ethnological Ensemble.

Since 2016 it is also part of the network of The most beautiful villages of Spain.

Main attractions

The urban complex is an example of the rural architecture of El Bierzo in a good state of conservation, on which a file has been initiated for its elevation to the rank of a historical-artistic complex.

The church of Santiago de Peñalba is one of the architectural jewels of the Art of repopulation.

The designation “art or architecture of repopulation” was first proposed by José Camón Aznar in 1949 to replace the term Mozarabic as applied to certain works of architecture from the Christian kingdoms of northern Spain between the end of the 9th and beginning of the 11th centuries.

Camón argued that these buildings were related stylistically to the architecture of Asturias and owed little to Andalusian styles.

Moreover, since they were built by Christians living under Christian rule, neither were they Mozarabic (the Mozarabs being the Christians of Muslim Spain).

In Spanish historiography, the Repoblación is the expansion of Christian settlement in the Duero basin and the Meseta Central in the 9th–10th centuries.

The church is located in the heart of the Oza Valley, 14 kilometers from Ponferrada. The area, full of monasteries and hermitic churches since the 8th century, was once called the “Tebaida berciana”.

Its location in the center of the Aquilanos Mountains, the most rugged area of the León Mountains, facilitated the isolation sought by ascetic saints of the 9th and 10th centuries, such as San Fructuoso and San Genadio.

The church was founded by San Genadio, a hermit who retired to a cave near the town, after being bishop of Astorga.

Asset of Cultural Interest (BIC), it has been a National Historic-Artistic Monument since 1931.

Cave of San Genadio, where it is said that the holy founder of the town retired to meditate.

How to get to?

From León 1 hr 50 min (136 km) via AP-71 and A-6

From Valladolid 3 hr 4 min (257 km) via A-6

From Madrid 4 hr 38 min (418 km) via A-6

Main information

Area: 3 sq. km

GPS coordinates: 42°25′37″N 6°32′26″W

Language: Spanish

Population: 14

Currency: Euro

Visa: Schengen

Time: Central European UTC +1, in summer +2

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