On the way back from our daytrip to Praia das Catedrais, the “Cathedrals Beach” along Galicia’s northern coast, my friends and I stopped in the small village of Mondoñedo, hidden away in a mountain valley deep within Lugo province. By chance of history this tiny town has been home to a cathedral for a thousand years, although the one we can see today dates to the 1200s. The cathedral isn’t anything too exciting, just par for the course in Galician church architecture: a Romanesque foundation with a flowery façade added in the Baroque era.
A little interesting factoid: the cathedral guards the Virxe Inglesa, the “English Virgin,” a decorated Gothic statue of the Virgin Mary that was made in Tudor-era England. When the iconoclastic English Reformation blew through in the 1500s, this statue was saved from the destruction that befell similar religious artwork. It’s remained in Mondoñedo ever since 1555.
After exploring the cathedral, we sipped on coffee and tasted the local specialty, tarta de Mondoñedo. It had an overly-rich filling of cabello de ángel (a sweet, clear pumpkin jam; literally “angel’s hair”) and chopped almonds and was topped with pastry dough and candied fruits. As they say in Spanish…es una bomba. I’m glad I got to try it, but I won’t be having it again, despite my big sweet tooth.
A friend of mine who works in Mondoñedo was excited when I told her I was going to come for a visit the weekend I did. The town was getting ready for the horse-centric Festas de San Lucas, but when we visited the town was all shuttered up, with hardly anyone going for paseo or drinking coffee in terrace cafés. My friend had mentioned that we were going to get the “real” Mondoñedo experience as the town is normally “kind of spooky.” The fog rolling in from the mountainsides only added to the ethereal atmosphere once we hopped back in the car to go back home.