In northwest Spain thrust sheets occur in an arcuate fold belt. The fault style consists of an array of thrusts, merging downdip into a single décollement surface. Most of the thrust sheets were initiated as thrusts cutting across flat lying beds. Folds above the hanging-wall ramps and some minor structures indicate that the body of the nappes has been subjected to an inhomogeneous simple shear parallel to bedding (y = 1.15), with slip concentrated along bedding planes. This allows the rocks forming the nappe to remain unstrained. At the base of the nappes a thin zone of deformed rock exists. The thrust sheets die out laterally against an anticline-syncline couple, oblique to the thrust direction. A geometrical analysis shows that if anticline and syncline axes are oblique, the thrust sheet was emplaced with a rotational movement, which can be evaluated. As deformation progressed two sets of folds were formed: a circumferential set, following the arc, and a radial set. An arcuate trace of the thrust structures remains after unfolding the radial folds. With a rotational emplacement, the displacement vector for successive points has a progressively greater length, and forms a progressively lower angle with the thrust. The main thrust units are broken into several slices with rotational movements, so that each unit was curved as it was being emplaced, producing a first tightening of the arc. Later folding increased the arc curvature to its present shape. The palaeomagnetic data available support the above conclusions. © 1984.