As the Real Monasterio de San Julián is known, it is located in a narrow valley flanked by mountains, next to the river Sarria, also called river Oribio, and to the north of the village of the same name. The Abbey of Samos has its origin in the Visigoth period. Its foundation is attributed to San Martín Dumiense in the 6th century, but the first writing about its existence is an inscription found in the 13th century that tells how the bishop of Lugo ordered the restoration of the old monastery in the 7th century. In the 8th century, during the Muslim domination, it was abandoned by the monks for a short period of time, as King Fruela, in the same century, restored it and it was once again a monastery. Here he spent his childhood and was educated by Alfonso II the Chaste before being crowned king of Galicia. Years later Ramiro I repopulated it with monks fleeing from Andalusia, and again important royal donations make it gain importance.
At the beginning of the 10th century, the bishop Ero de Lugo reduced the monastery to a simple parish, but Ordoño II got it to resurface with the collaboration of new Benedictine monks and so this religious community lived under the Order of Saint Benedict since that century, then in the 12th century they joined the reform of Cluny. In the 16th century the monastery underwent the reform promoted by the Catholic Monarchs in the Benedictine monasteries, and that of Samos immediately saw a great change with an economic and monastic revival. In the following centuries, XVII and XVIII, it reached its greatest historical importance and the community faced a great building activity. It was at this time that kings, nobles and bishops were welcomed to the hospitality of the monastery, among them was Father Benito Jerónimo Feijóo, famous for his essays and precursor of the Spanish Enlightenment. During the War of Independence the Abbey of Samos became a war hospital. And the Disentailment of Mendizábal caused the monks to abandon their millenary dwelling, returning to it in 1880, and after a hard daily struggle, they restored it. Today they have been able to adapt to the demands of society by fitting out a hostelry and a minor school while continuing their monastic life.
The Abbey of Samos welcomes beautiful artistic creations, many of them the fruit of the work of successive generations of monks who have lived in this monastery, more than 1500 years old. The first thing the visitor admires is the grandiosity of the building. Looking for the access door to the church, built in the eighteenth century but with neoclassical architecture and keeps a precious collection of altarpieces of different styles, Renaissance, Baroque and classicist and a great organ that floods the temple with its majestic sound, it's found with the Baroque facade of it; curiously lacking side towers but not without character and beauty, which adds to its staircase access reminiscent of the Obradoiro of the Cathedral of Santiago. In the interior of the Abbey of Samos two very different cloisters stand out, the small or Cloister of the Nereidas was constructed in century XVI, is of Gothic style and late in being constructed twenty years, around it revolved the life of the abbey. In its center stands a beautiful baroque fountain, whose Nereidas, mythological figures, give name to the cloister. This fountain is the work of Fray Xoán, who worked on it from 1713 to 1717. At one corner of the cloister there is a Romanesque façade from the 13th century, which formed part of the old monastery. Around the courtyard are the rooms of the kitchen, the refectory and the library. The large cloister, or Padre Feijóo's cloister, is classicist in style from the end of the 17th century, with its 54 metres and a half on one side, and is considered one of the largest in Spain. In the center, a statue of the monk from whom it receives its name. On the first floor of the cloister some curious mural paintings about the life of San Benito fill it with colour, apart from the great artistic nuance they have, their figures impress because as the visitor changes perspective and walking along the corridor gives the sensation that they follow one with their eyes. These two cloisters are joined together by flattened towers.
Also noteworthy is the sacristy of the temple, which is classicist of the eighteenth century, its octagonal floor is crowned by a dome and its beautiful neoclassical furniture surrounds a polychrome baroque table located in the center of the room. If you walk around the perimeter of the Abbey of Samos, which is invited by the beautiful promenade that runs across the river, you can see how the monastery was supplied with water through an aqueduct, which was rebuilt according to the guidelines given by the Directorate General of Heritage in 2004, carrying water from a nearby spring to him. Water that after being used in the day to day of the monks, was returned to the river by now blind exits.
To this day, the quality and healing properties of the liqueurs and eaux-de-vie distilled by the monks of the Abbey of Samos have become famous. But the monks also acquired a reputation among pilgrims and local people as apothecaries, whose magisterial formulas were intimately related to the knowledge of plants. Some of them were cultivated in the own garden of the apothecary of the monastery and needed special care because they came from very far away. The monks' vows allowed them to be apothecaries but not doctors.
In the Abbey of Samos, in the eighteenth century, pilgrims who came here could eat in the refectory of the monastery, for three days, the same food and quantity taken by the monks and then could stay in a house that the monks had enabled for it in the village. But if the pilgrims were priests or people with some social relevance, the accommodation was offered inside the monastery's premises. The monastery, in addition to having a pilgrims' hospital, with the passage of time, became a burial place for walkers who died on the Way as they passed through Lugo.
Legend has it that one day, a pious abbot of the monastery thinking about the spiritual and soul tranquillity of his monks ordered them to dismantle the fountain that adorned the cloister of Nereidas, because he considered that the vision of these mythological beings could disturb it. Then the monks began to dismantle it with the intention of moving it piece by piece, but soon realized that the stones weighed more and more and there came a moment when they could not even move them with a crane. Withdrawing his attempt it was decided, with great care, that the precious fountain remained where it had always been.
Samos can be reached via the LU-633 road that joins Pedrafita do Cebreiro, in the A-6, with Sarria, partly following the route of the Way of Saint James. Also the LU-P-5601 and 5602 are in charge of communicating Samos with the neighboring localities. Samos has a bus service that connects it with Piedrafita do Cebreiro, Sarria and Lugo from Monday to Saturday. The nearest bus and train stations are in Sarria.
The Abbey of Samos can be found right on the LU-633 road as it passes through the town, more specifically at the entrance to it as it arrives from O Cebreiro, passing through Triacastela. Around the monastery we will be able to find the spaces habiltados to be able to stop our vehicle.
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