April 2020: Due to the Covid-19 health crisis travel on the Camino is not possible. We need to keep safe, and we need to keep those who live and work on the Camino safe. The Camino will not disappear, it is just temporarily inaccessible. Keep your Camino dreams on hold until such times as it is safe to travel. Read more
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Hórreos – mausoleum, granary, living quarters, garden ornament – what are they?
An hórreo is a typical granary from the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula (mainly Galicia, Asturias and Northern Portugal), built in wood and stone, raised from the ground by pillars ending in flat staddle stones to prevent access by rodents. There is always a gap between the top step and the storage room. Ventilation is allowed by the slits in its walls. Similar buildings (barns) on staddle stones are found in Southern England. They use stone near the sea to make them last longer.
There are an estimated 18,000 hórreos and paneras in Asturias: some are poorly preserved but there is a growing awareness from owners and authorities to maintain them in good shape.
I asked a Spaniard – why the cross on top? And he replied most were built in the 15th and 16th centuries when Spain was staunchly Catholic and they put crosses on the top of everything. As well as a cross at one end, you may see a pinnacle at the other. The cross represents protection and the pinnacle fertility!
In the Galician countryside you will see square hórreos used as houses by vaqueros (cowboys), which could be dismantled and transported when the cattle were moved south in winter.
The oldest document containing an image of an hórreo is the 12th century Cantigas de Santa Maria by Alfonso X “El Sabio”, in which three rectangular hórreos of Gothic style are illustrated.
Wooden hórreo on stone base — complete with cross and pinnacle
Wood and stone
Open door showing maize
Step up to the green door!
The oldest document containing an image of an hórreo is the 12th century Cantigas de Santa Maria by Alfonso X “El Sabio”, in which three rectangular hórreos of Gothic style are illustrated