Santiago de Compostela, in the far Northwest corner of Spain, is the destination of a 490 mile pilgrim’s route from the hills of the Pyrenees mountains in France. Click here for more details of The Camino, the Way of St James. Needless to say, it’s a long walk, whether you start in France, Portugal or Spain.
We drove to Santiago and had energy to walk all over the town for a couple days.
The medieval city of Santiago surrounds the cathedral. Its narrow streets are very picturesque.
The Cathedral of Santiago is not the largest in Spain but it is impressive. There is a square on each side of the cathedral. We came from the south into the plaza of Praterias, the Silversmith’s Square.
There is a pretty fountain here.
The Praza da Quintana is on the east side of the cathedral. The Holy Door faces this square.
On the north side is the Praza da Inmaculada. This is the way most medieval pilgrims would have come.
You can barely see the small cross and lamb between the dome and the tower. Rick Steves’ book says this is where the clothes of filthy medieval pilgrims were burned, a ritual created to curb diseases they may have carried with them. I could not find this mentioned in other descriptions of the cathedral. Did they really haul these clothes to the top of the roof? Did I read this wrong?
Across the plaza is St Martin’s Monastery.
Finally, around the last corner, we came to the front of the cathedral and the Praza do Obradoiro. They are doing some major renovations on the Cathedral.
This huge plaza is the final stop on the Camino de Santiago.
This scallop shell in the center of the plaza marks the end of the pilgrimage that the faithful have been making for over a thousand years.
Across from the cathedral is the City Hall. St. James is on the top.
The building on the north side of the plaza is now a hotel. It was originally a hospital for the pilgrims, set up by Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand in 1501. It was used as a hospital until 1952.
At the other end of the plaza is the original University building. The University of Santiago is now the third largest university in Spain.
The Cathedral of Santiago (St. James) de Compostela (field of stars) began as a simple chapel founded in 813 when the long lost tomb of St. James was found here. It has been added to for over 12 centuries.
St. James, dressed as a pilgrim, is at the top of the center steeple.
You can walk through a small hallway behind the gold altar to peak over St. James’ shoulder – notice the head next to the saint.
The Botafumeiro is a huge 120 lb. incense burner that is swung in a wide arc up and down the transept at the end of the pilgrims’ Mass.
The Holy Door is decorated with carvings that depict 6 scenes from the life of St. James.
The Cathedral dominates the old city. We could see it from our hotel.
In my next blog I’ll feature some other sites in Santiago.