The municipality of Catoira, with nearly 3.500 inhabitants, is located in the Ría de Arousa, on a privileged site where the areas of O Barbanza, Ulla-Umia and O Salnés converge. Its proximity to Vilagarcía de Arousa (10 km), Santiago de Compostela (40 km) and Pontevedra (35 km), together with its connection with Vigo (62 km) and A Coruña (113 km) through the AP-9 motorway have a positive effect on the development of a growing economic and industrial activity.
Catoira in the History of Galicia
The privileged location of Catoira at the mouth of the Ulla River, the very heart of the Ría de Arousa, and also its mild climate conditions were the compelling reasons for the establishment of settlements since ancient times, as it is testified by some petroglyph stations dating back to the Bronze Age and which are hidden in the humid depths of its woods.
The Castro Culture was established in Coaxe, parish of Dimo, and also in the location of Oeste, where the well-known fortress Torres de Oeste stands nowadays. It was a Prehistoric settlement dating back to the Iron Age (centuries I to II BC) which was developed within an economy based on the gathering of wild fruits and cattle farming, underpinned by bank fishing.
Several years later, after the violent age of the Roman occupation, the Augustus Pax transformed the small Coastal Castro into an important Empire’s commercial port during the century I of our Age. All the above mentioned information has been accurately reported by the classic writer Pomponio Mela and also confirmed by many archaeological remains.
The history of Catoira has been closely related to the strategic importance of the Oeste military complex. The Torres de Oeste fortress served as a defensive shield for Galicia, from the beginning of the Middle Ages until the reign of the Catholic Monarchs, starting a period of progressive decay from then on.
It should be stressed that, after the attack of the English Normans in 1112, Diego Xelmírez decided to establish a shipyard in order to build the weapons for fighting the invaders in the water, as he already had sent a small combined fleet of marine boats. According to some researchers, the archbishop ordered to build these shipyard in Catoira, in the vicinity of the Torres de Oeste, where the docks for this new small fleet which would be the seed of the Spanish army of Diego Xelmírez were also built.
Over the centuries, the commercial activitie ended and the enclave is exploited for its stategical value.
Today, this ancient reality can be observed during a visit to the site; what comes there -into the mists of both the legend and History- is one of the most important archaeological and historical ensembles in Galicia.
The area can be accessed by foot, through a new walk, under the pillars of the Ulla bridge, or through an older one, recently paved. Both of them cross a marshy field which was flooded by the estuary waters, contributing to the insularity of the impregnable Torres de Oeste fortress.
During the High Middle Ages, several waves of Normans entered into the Arousa estuary, causing great damage with their looting expeditions. In 850, Normans ransacked Iria Flavia, forcing the bishop and the chapter to escape to Compostela. Other expeditions took place in 859 and 968, but the pirates had to face first the men at the Castellum Honesti (fortress of Oeste). The aim of the Scandinavian attacks was to reach Jakobsland (land of Jakob) and conquer the city of Santiago, whose myth was cultivated by previous invaders as was supposed to be a land of great wealth.
For further information about the history of Catoira, the mobile app “Torres de Oeste” can be downloaded.