Twelve centuries of art and architecture are chronicled in the buildings found in the hills of northwestern Spain. The Pazo de San Miguel das Penas lies 70 kilometers from Santiago de Compostela and the oldest portions of the villa were built before the 9th century. It is thought these could be the only remains of Swabian civil construction in the region. In the later medieval period, a church and a fortified tower were added to the structure in an evolution typical to Galician manor houses. In the 18th century, the building was converted into a pazo, or a Galician manor house, for the Marquis of Camarasa. It also contains valuable Renaissance mural paintings and the only surviving example of scrafitto decoration in the province that could be dated as back as to the Swabian kingdom in the 6th century. Over the years, the mural paintings deteriorated, principally because of the humidity. However, inadequate maintenance, neglect, and vandalism also damaged the murals and scrafitto decoration.
2004 World Monuments Watch
WMF placed Pazo de San Miguel das Penas on the 2004 Watch and, in a collaborative effort with American Express and Fundación Casa Ducal de Medinaceli, initiated a conservation project that included photographic documentation and surface cleaning of mural paintings and scrafitto decoration, stabilization of the structures, and installation of waterproofing and electricity.
Pazo de San Miguel das Penas is emblematic of the complex social, political, and artistic influences that left their mark on the architecture of the region. It is an important example of the layers of culture found in Spain and the interesting intermingling of traditions that can be identified in buildings that adapted to the changing ruling influences.