The town of Noia is located in the innermost part of the inlet that bears the same name, at a crossroads and 35km away from Santiago de Compostela, the Galician capital.
Noia’s origin dates back to the times of prehistoric cultures. Populated during the megalithic and Celtic ages, the town preserves some traces of its Roman past, and in the Middle Ages it became one of the main Galician towns when the sepulchre of the apostle St James was discovered in Santiago.
Having turned into the port of Compostela, the town saw a great development of its commercial activities. The original population, who lived in the burg of A Barquiña, was integrated into the jurisdiction of the Domain of Terra de Santiago when queen Urraca granted the Santiago Mitre the lands between rivers Tambre and Ulla.
The current burg was created by the Founding Charter of 1168, granted by Ferdinand II. This burg was the scene of medieval battles involving Santiago prelates and the noblemen who fought for the control of the medieval town.
It was at that time when the churches of Santa María a Nova and San Martiño were built, as well as the Casas Góticas (Gothic Houses) of the lords of the town, and the Castelo or Fortaleza do Tapal (O Tapal Castle or Fortress), where Santiago archbishops used to stay for the summer.
One of the archbishops who lived in Noia was the Frenchman Berenger de Landorre, who, in the early 14th century, sought refuge in the town in view of Santiago bourgeoisie’ refusal to open the town gates and let him in. As a reward for Noia’s help, Berenger ordered that the church of Santa María a Nova be built, together with the 12-gate wall that would protect the church from any potential attacks, such as the one commanded by the Duke of Lancaster (14th c.) as he tried to take possession of Galicia in order to come to the throne of Castile.
The town was also the scene of the Revolta Irmandiña, or Irmandiño Revolt – the fight of the people against the abuses of lay and ecclesiastical noblemen. ‘Irmandiños’ were the members of brotherhoods (‘irmandades’ in Galician) who rose up against oppression and attacked O Tapal Fortress. The fortress had become the identity sign of the powerful Mitre, which was the actual owner of the town until the year 1812 (Constitution of Cádiz) and had subjected the town to numerous instances of financial pressures.
The Modern Age saw pirate Francis Drake came to the inlet as an answer to the Armada Invencible’s expedition, and the arrival of Catalan industrialists at our shores. Several figures linked to the town were remarkably relevant at that time: Lorenzo de Armada and Xoán de Noia (seafarers in the Indies), Sebastián Docampo (who was the first to prove that Cuba is an island), sculptor Felipe de Castro (president of San Fernando Royal Academy) and Basilio Vilariño (who explored Patagonia).
The Contemporary Age was the time when the town was occupied by the French army, the people revolted against Catalan industrialists, sculpture witnessed the rising importance of Xosé Ferreiro, and the town supported the Galician Revolt of 1846.