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Monumental Ensemble of O Hío


O Igrexario. 36945 - O Hío

[18th Century-1807]


There is a monumental ensemble of extraordinary importance in Cangas, which is the one at the parish of O Hío, located in a unique setting of the beautiful Ría de Aldán. Along the road from Cangas to Bueu, before arriving at Aldán, we turn left at the crossing that leads to O Hío and we follow the signs to the church of O Hío.

Santo André do Hío is a very interesting church due to its antiquity. The church is a compendium of many varied styles, resulting from the alterations and modifications it has undergone throughout its history. From the Romanesque era, it preserves the decoration of the façade, the corbels on the roof and its floor plan in the shape of a Latin cross. The interior features Gothic vaults combined with Baroque coffer vaults - on the crossing and the chancel - that resemble those of San Martiño Pinario in Santiago de Compostela. 

Its Romanesque origin is still visible today on its front. It has a splayed structure accentuated by means of two round archivolts with a double torus supported by an impost. The capitals are decorated with vegetal motifs, except for one with carved ribbons. The shafts of the columns are smooth, with Tuscan bases. The outer archivolt, which closes the ensemble, has a small band with a decorated moulding.

The tympanum draws our interest for the motif depicted: the “X” in Xristus. On each side, child-like figures stand out holding a book or musical instruments. The motifs on the corbels are identical to those of Santa María de Cela.

The church of Hío is very important for its famous cruceiro, the work of the master Cerviño. The cruceiro, as Hipólito de Sá Bravo points out, is a poem of theology written in stone. The cruceiros are some of the most characteristic and original manifestations of Galician folk architecture, usually located in the forecourt of the churches, at the entrance to the cemeteries, at crossroads for the protection of wayfarers pedestrians, and also to sanctify spaces related to pagan beliefs. The magical and the divine mingle in the origin and history of these emblematic sculptures erected with great devotion by master craftsmen.

One of the best examples is in Cangas, the Cruceiro do Hío, a masterpiece by the sculptor Cerviño dating from 1872 and one of the most exquisite creations ever made by man. Its construction date is known thanks to the angel on the top of a column on the side. The angel holds a parchment where it is written: “Alms for the holy Christ of Light 1872”. This was the date on which the cruceiro was finished, commemorating the feast of Christ.

After beholding this wonder, carved in three blocks of stone, we reach the conclusion that Cerviño was possessed by genius: only so may we understood that he created a timeless work that will reach the highest level of Galician artistic expressiveness. One must carefully contemplate the carvings, the multiple faces that animate the ensemble and give it life, composing the History of Salvation of Humankind.

One must admire slowly the multiple carved faces and figures composing the story of the redemption of Humankind. 

The Cruceiro stands on a stepped octagonal plinth, followed by the main structure consisting of a base, shaft and cross. Each of these is carved in one block.

The base is formed by four niches oriented to the cardinal points. The one on the south face depicts Eve holding the apple when she was being tempted by the serpent. The reading of the ensemble goes from beginning to end, starting with Original Sin and ending at the highest point, with the Redemption by the death on the cross of the Son of God. The niche facing west represents Adam in Paradise. In the following scene, Jesus, after dying on the cross, goes to Limbo in search of the Righteous ones to lead them to Heaven. Here, we must pay attention to the way in which the gates of Limbo are carved. Looking towards the church is the fourth niche depicting our Lady of Carmen as the redeemer of the Poor Souls in Purgatory. If we look closely, we see how she reaches out to a figure wearing a priest’s biretta.
At its lowest part, the shaft bears an inscription in which one can barely make out a name, which may well be that of the Archbishop of Santiago; and below it, engraved letters that say the following: “Granted one hundred days of indulgence”, as the Archbishop of the time granted a hundred days of indulgence to all those who recite the Creed before the cruceiro.

Further up the column, we come across Adam and Eve as they were being expelled from Paradise. If we look at the images from their sides, we may see how they are attached to the column only by their feet, and we may thus appreciate how well both figures are carved.

Above them is the Immaculate Virgin defeating the serpent, who embodies evil. This invocation is represented with its habitual symbols made in this case of metal (lead): a half moon on Her feet and a crown of twelve stars on Her head. At the top we may see Archangel Gabriel, a guardian angel, holding the hand of a boy who represents Innocence saved from Evil; and on the other side is Archangel Michael, who is depicted, as usual, fighting against the Devil. Finally, underneath the corbel that holds the final set, are the four angels that uphold the sacred city of Jerusalem.

At the highest point of the cruceiro, the descent of Christ from the Cross is portrayed. This is the most important part of the ensemble. It was all carved from a single granite rock brought from the Liméns area. It is a must to contemplate the details of the garments and the proportions of the bodies, though an essential feature is the expression that the author has managed to give to the figures. To describe the scene, we see Jesus being taken down from the Cross by Joseph of Arimathea, who owned the tomb where the body of Christ was deposited, and Nicodemus. Below, Saint John holds His feet, while Magdalen takes her hands to her head and the Virgin Mary kneels looking at Her hands, which we assume held the crown of thorns or was preparing to hold the body of Her Son. The scene is completed with two cherubim who hold the nails (the one on the right) and the plate (on the left) with the inscription “INRI” IESVS NAZARENVS REX IVDAEORVM (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews). The implements are also made of lead.

In addition to the cruceiro, in this wonderful environment there are two other important architectural works: the Church of Santo André, a compendium of varied styles, which preserves the corbels, a floor plan in the shape of a Latin cross, and a beautiful 12th-century façade from Romanesque times, in which the tympanum depicts the “X” motif of Xristus, also hinting to the way in which St. Andrew, the patron saint of the parish, was crucified. Inside it possesses Gothic groined vaults combined with Baroque coffer vaults, and the High Altar is built entirely of polychrome stone; and the Rectory, a true rural manor or pazo, built by Ventura de Aldao more than 300 years ago. It is located next to the church, it is made of stone, as are the portal and the balcony whose balusters are also in stone. The patio is paved in stone too. It contains a round fountain and a dovecote. The rectory dates back to the 18th century and is of Baroque style.