The history of the region appears to go back to the Neolithic Age although the most significant remains belong to the Iron Age with the existence of several castros. These castros correspond to the typical morphology of the Castreño culture in Galicia. They are located in elevated areas where a village with circular houses surrounded by a defensive wall with embankments and terraces is situated. In Cambre there are still a dozen castros and there are only remains of walls and embankments. The most representative for its great size and location is castro de Sigrás, which dominates the valleys of River Mero and River Gaiteiro.
The Castreño and pre-Roman influence has given birth to interesting legends that are related to Cambre to some extent. One of them says that from the altar of the church of Santa María there was a passageway that lead directly to the castro located nearby. This meant that the Benedictine monks had an escape route in case of danger. Another legend “El pozo de la campana” (“The Well of the Bell”) tells that you can only hear the tolling of an enormous bell hidden in the River Mero when some danger is about to happen.
The remains of a possible Roman village, which perhaps used the Castreño structures for their strategic situation and for the communication routes associated with megalithic necropoles, have also been found. There are also remains of a Roman road that went from A Coruña to Betanzos, crossing the River Mero.
It is possible that in the Early Middle Ages these lands suffered pillaging raids by Norman pirates and later by Córdoba Muslim caliphs.
The first documented records are related to the construction of a church in a place known as “Calambre” and its endowment included the village of Cambre and its surroundings. Moreover, it became the passage route for pilgrims and goods so the Templar knights controlled and protected the path along its route.
According to historians it was either the Templars or the Benedictine monastery of Santa María de Cambre which gave the name to the municipality. This monastery, built in the twelfth century, is connected to the Templars, who had their castle-fortress next to the bridge of El Burgo, nowadays the parish of Temple; as a result the Camino Inglés (The English Route), which leads to Santiago de Compostela, became very important.
It is one of the most important churches in Galicia, considered as one of the jewels of the Romanesque art of Galicia in the twelfth century, and the only parish church in Galicia with the plan of a cathedral. It was commissioned by the Traba family and built over Roman and Early Middle Age remains (932 AD). The present church is a temple built on a Latin cross plan with three naves, a transept and ambulatory with chapels. In the seventeenth century it underwent several modifications. We must mention the baptismal font known as the Hidria de Jerusalén. It is classified as a National Monument and has a great historical and artistic value.
The Monastery of San Ciprián was established in the parish of Bribes. The only remains are the rectory with a rectangular plan and a granite chimney, and a dovecot and an hórreo (a small raised granary). It is surrounded by a stone wall with a gate and the shield of San Martiño Pinario.
Along the route, in the Valley of Lema, we can see the church of San Paio de Brexo, a construction from the eighteenth century. At the crossroad located in front of it, there is an interesting cruceiro (stone cruise) which perhaps points to one of the alternative routes of the Camino de Santiago. On the base that supports a cylindrical shaft there are two carved scallop shells, and it is one of the most ancient crosses in the village, combining an advanced Romanesque style with forms close to Baroque.
In the municipality of Cambre there are numerous pazos, beautiful stately homes such as the pazo de Anceis, built in the seventeenth century in Baroque style. Also, this river landscape leads to the construction of many mills. These rural constructions proliferated at the same time that maize was introduced in the region. They are flagstone buildings next to small waterfalls.
On this route we will pass by the mill de Peiraio which gives its name to the nearby bridge. Its construction is modernist; it is still in working order and is very well preserved. It is characterized by having an exterior vertical wheel and two cogged wheels that facilitate the circular movement of the millstone. On this site there used to be a chapel whose abbot, Gudesindo de “Pireaio”, received a donation in the year 917 AD from the King Ordoño II. The meaning of the term is equivalent to “pier”, and it is probable that some boats with goods or passengers arrived here.
Finally, we have to mention that the area of Cecebre became famous thanks to the writer Wenceslao Fernández Flórez with his book “El bosque animado” (“The Enchanted Forest”).