As an architectural work in the Romanesque style transitioning to late Gothic, it is one of the most characteristic monuments of Galicia’s medieval art, influenced by Compostela’s artistic expressions, specifically the style that Maestro Mateo developed in Santiago cathedral.
It originated in the early 10th century (the year 936), on the property of a hermit called Egica, bought by the monastery’s founders, Doña Tareixa Eiriz and Don Gonzalo Betote, the count and countess of Deza. It was in the year 939, after construction was completed, when the presbyter Félix was chosen as the community’s first abbot, and the convent became well established thanks to the presence of the countess herself, her nephew St. Rosende and the bishop of Lugo, Don Ero, from then on coming under the royal protection of Ramiro I of Léon.
Built in the 12th century in the Romanesque style, it is considered one of the best and most avant-garde constructions of that time. It has a Latin cross ground plan and consists of four naves. The sanctuary lies on top of a crypt, the only one of its kind in the Iberia Peninsula’s Romanesque style. Both elements, sanctuary and crypt, have an ambulatory and three radial apses. To a certain extent, it is reminiscent of Santiago cathedral as a small basilica, difficult to conceive in such an isolated setting. The main façade also stands out due to the theme of the elders of the Apocalypse, but with 23 sculptures, and the early use of ribbed vaults, an architectural solution that announced the Gothic style.
According to P. Yepes, at the beginning of the 18th century, in Carboeiro “People venerated a thorn from the Lord’s crown that was in a piece of skilfully carved glass, made like the tip of a lance.” This item was stolen in the mid-16th century.
In 1965, a film was made here entitled“Cotolay,” the Compostela coalman who, at the beginning of the 12th century, helped St. Francis of Assisi to found in Santiago his first Galician convent. In 1973, it appeared in Valle Inclán’s “Flor de Santidad,” directed by Adolfo Marsillach. More recently, it was used as a recording studio for such interesting films as “La Ley de la Frontera” (1995) by Adolfo Aristarain, “Quart” (2006), based on Arturo Pérez Reverte’s book “Piel del tambor,” the TVG series “Reliquias” (2011) and Telecinco’s “Piratas” (2011), and a film set for famous actors such as Sancho Gracia, Agustín González, Aitana Sánchez Gijón, Achero Mañas, Luis Tosar or even Charlton Heston, who was in the monastery in 1999 to film a miniseries about the Way of St. James.