I've been just once in Santiago de Compostela, but I loved the city.
Its main attraction is the huge cathedral that drags thousands of pilgrims each year, but I think that, arriving so tired they can't appreciate. the place. I did, and wish to return with more time.
The cathedral is started in the 11th century, and it is today a very beautiful complex with many adding and embellishments, from different epochs and styles. It deserves much more time than the few hours I could spend there.
The main entrance (west façade), was completed in the year 1.188 with the masterpiece of Romanesque sculpture: The "Pórtico de la Gloria." Conceived as a vestibule of the Cathedral, this complex work sculpted by Maestro Mateo in only 20 years consists of three arches. It has more than 200 granite figures making a theological message centred on the idea of salvation.
Note: Unfortunately, it was under restoration, so, just three pics.
I went to Santiago again in October 2010 (Holy Year there), and there was a temporary exhibition were you can admire The Pórtico (although just through pics; third one).
The ultimate purpose of the "Camino", St. James's Way, is to arrive on the plaza of the Obradoiro at the opening (07.00 h) of the cathedral, to walk up the stairs, enter the cathedral and to place one’s hand in the imprint on the central column of the Portico of the Glory under the statue of St Jacques.
This gesture, reproduced by millions of pilgrims through centuries, dug into the marble of the central column; the fingers of the pilgrims are profoundly marked there.
For the believer or the unbeliever, this gesture marks the membership of a thousand year old cultural community.
Behind the mullion of the "Portico de la Gloria" is a small statue called "the saint with the hump" (Santos do Croques). According to tradition, this statue would have the virtue to impart intelligence and memory to those who press their heads against the head of the statue. Is it effective? I shall tell you in ten years.
The rite of the visit continues at the crypt, in the centre of the cathedral, which is the grave of the apostle St. James. By a small stair the pilgrims go behind the altar and touch the golden statue of the saint, a gesture of worship repeated through the centuries.
There are other beautiful cathedrals in Europe, but Santiago of Compostela has kept an unequalled mystic side which impresses even the most rational beings.
Open every day 7 - 21 h.
Among the chapels, I'd ike to point out four of them:
- Capilla de la Virgen del Pilar (main pic):
This chapel was the sacristy until 1.713 when Arbishop Antonio de Monroy dedicated it to the Virgen del Pilar, who is the Patroness of Spain.
- Capilla de San Antonio (second pic):
Parish of San Fructuoso in the past, the altarpiece dates back to the XVIIIth century.
- Capilla de Santiago Matamoros (third pic):
Sculpture from the second half of the XVIIIth century.
- Capilla de Santa Catalina (fourth pic):
Former Royal Pantheon.
The East Facade of the Cathedral faces onto Quintana Square (see my previous tip).
Here can be seen the Holy Door or Puerte Santo. This door is only opened in years of grace when the Feast of Santiago - July 25th falls on a Sunday. It is also opened on 31st December of the Year prior to a Holy Year.
Holy Years fall in sequences of 6,5,6 and 11 years.
The most recent time the door was opened was in 2004 and will next fall in 2010*.
2012, 2027, 2032, 2038, 2049, 2055, 2060, 2066, 2077, 2083, 2088 and 2094 are the years for the rest of this century!
The door is walled in the following year
The privilege of holding a Holy Year was granted by Pope Collixtus 11 in 1119, and confirmed with the papal bull 'Rejus Acterni' by Pope Alexander 111 in 1179. This meant that Santiago de Compostela was equal to Rome and Jerusalems Saint status.
The Baroque Facade was built by Fernandez Lechuga in 1611.
Above the Holy Door is a statue of St James and disciples. Surrounding the doorway are statues of prophets and patriarchs sculpted by Master Mateo.
The Royal door, which is to the left of the Holy Door, is named after the Royal escutcheon above it.
This facade is through the entrance door from the Obradoiro Square.
It was the first scene to greet early pilgrims, as it was the original facade to the Cathedral, before being covered with the 18th century Baroque outer wall.
I was quite fascinated by it, and spent quite a while looking at the various sculptures
This is an outstanding piece containing hundreds of finely sculpted statues and carvings which cover the columns and archways of the portico.
It was created in the 12th century by Master Mateo, between 1168 and 1188, on the orders of King Ferdinand 11 of Leon.
The sculptures depict the Last Judgement, with scenes and characters from the Old Testament.
Left arch - Joel and Hosea face Ezekiel and Habbakuk. At the top is Limbo
At the base of the 1st and 2nd column are Vices
Central Arch Left- Jeramiah, Daniel, Isaiah and Moses
Above the arch - The elderly Musicians of the Apocalypse sit above - Angels, The Faithful, Luke, John, Seated Christ, Mark and Matthew.
The Tree of Jesse, is between The apostle James ( Santiago) and The Heavenly Father on the thinner column.
The figure at the base is often mistaken for Maestro Mateo, where traditionally You bump Your head on it 3 times to acquire some of his genius -'MM' is actually to be found behind the portico, kneeling facing the altar
Another tradition is to place Your fingers in the 5 holes created in the marble above the sculptured head, and offer a brief prayer.
I didn't know of this tradition (until I read my guide book later) but I had instinctively placed my fingers in the eroded holes!
Central arch Right -Saints Peter, Paul, James the Pilgrim and John. Around the base are Vices
Saints Andrew, and Matthew face Philip and James the Lesser
Above these are Purgatory and Hell
UPDATE, as mentioned elsewhere in my page- visiting in Summer is a very different experience to 'off peak' You might have a long wait, and a battle to reach Mateo - I was quite surprised to see how crowded the Cathedral was.(pic 4 gives you an idea)
La Catedral está dedicada a Santiago Apostol que según la " leyenda" vino a España a predicar el Evangelio , y al volver a Palestina , en el año 44 , fue decapitado por herodes Agripa que prohibió que fuese enterrado . Sus discípulos depositaron sus restos en un sepulcro de marmol que estaba en un barco y que navegando , sin tripulación , llegó hasta la costa Gallega donde fue enterrado .
Su tumba fue olvidada hasta el año 813 , en que el ermita Pelayo , observó luces y cánticos , que llamaría Campo de la Estrella ( campus stellae ) y es de donde proviene el nombre de Compostela
A partir de aquí el Rey Alfonso II proclamó al apóstol Santiago patrono del Reino e inició la construcción de un Santuario que con los años llegaría a ser la actual Catedral
Dentro de la Catedral con planta de Cruz latina , se puede ver sepulcro del santo , ver sus tesoros , el botafumeiro , pasear por sus naves visitando el Altar Mayor , los laterales y como no , dándole al final , un abrazo al Santo
The Cathedral is dedicated to Santiago Apostle, that according to the " legend" came to Spain to preach the Gospel, and when he returned to Palestine , in the year 44, it was beheaded by Herod Agrippa , who forbade to bury him . His disciples placed his remains in a marble tomb that was in a boat and sailing without a crew, came to the coast of Galicia, where he was buried.
His grave was forgotten until the year 813, when the hermitage Pelayo, observed lights and songs, which called Campo de la Estrella ( campus stellae ), and hence the name of Compostela
From here , the King Alfonso II , declared the Apostle Santiago the patron of the Kingdom and began the construction of a sanctuary that over the years would become the current Cathedral
Inside the cathedral with a Latin cross plan, you can see the tomb of the Saint, see their treasures, the botafumeiro, stroll through its ships visiting the Mayor altar, and those on the sides, giving at the end, a hug to the Saint
Los peregrinos llegaban a la catedral después de meses de caminar y como las condiciones higiénicas no eran las mejores , para evitar los malos olores decidieron aromatizar el ambiente con un incensario .
El botafumeiro de 50kgs de peso y 1,5m de alto, se instaló en el centro de la nave central , delante del altar mayor a 28m de altura y desde allí se balancea de nave a nave esparciendo su olor a incienso .
Son necesarios ocho hombres tirando de las sogas para mover el Botafumeiro
Se le puede ver en movimiento , en las grandes ocasiones , en la misa del peregino ( a las 12 ) o incluso si hay un grupo puede solicitar que lo muevan durante una misa pagando una cierta cantidad
Es impresionante !!!
The pilgrims arrived at the cathedral after months of walking and the hygienic conditions were not the best, to avoid odors they decided to flavore the atmosphere with incense.
The "Botafumeiro" , 50kgs of weight and 1.5 m high, was installed at the centre of the nave in front of the Mayor altar at 28m high and then swinging from bay to bay spreading its scent of incense.
Eight men are needed to pull the ropes to move the Botafumeiro
It can be seen moving in big the occasions, the pilgrim mass (at 12h ) or even if there is a group that can request that they move during mass by paying a certain amount
Entrance to the Cathedral is free and is open daily from 0700 - 2100hrs.
It is 97m long and 22m high, the largest romanesque church in Spain, and one of the largest in Europe.
Around the cathedral are information booths where a 1 euro coin gives a taped commentary.
Most visitors, including thousands of pilgrims who've completed one of the arduous caminos, enter through the doors on the Western Obradoiro side. Other entrances are the Acibecheria and Praterias. If it's a Holy year - the next one will be 2010, you may enter through the Puerta Santa.
The Cathedral is in the shape of a Latin cross, and at the far end is the high altar, framed within the organs pipes. In the main nave, looking upto the ceiling, You'll see the hoist for the famed Botofumeiro - the huge incense burner that takes 8 priests, assisted by ropes and pulleys to swing through the air.
This was my initial reason for visiting Santiago de Compostela, and I was a bit disappointed to find out that this wasn't a regular feature of the services. I wasn't able to find out when it would be in operation from the few people I asked. However, there was plenty to see other than this.
In the crypt with the marble casket are the remains of St James and 2 of his disciples, viewed by descending a few steps. Somehow I managed to miss the image of the Saint, which is traditionally embraced or its feet kissed by the pilgrims.
I'm afraid I had to stifle a giggle while wandering around one of the chapels- either the Chapel of the Saviour or the Corticelo chapel I think, there was a display of some of the campest looking statues, including one that looked like Rowan Atkinson as the priest in Four Weddings and a Funeral!
I quite enjoyed the peace and quiet of the airy Cathedral, and visited twice- the 2nd time as part of the audio guided walk, so I learnt a lot more about the history and architecture.
I was particularly impressed with the Portico of Glory - more info in my next tip.
UPDATE - Just returned from SDC, where I was looking forward to visiting the Cathedral again- Hmmmm.... just had to smile at my comment of 'enjoying the peace and quiet' it was more like Bedlam this time- thronging with chattering visitors, plus a recorded 'Monastic choir' and announcements over the tannoy - I'm glad that saw it the first time, when I could look around in peace.- I'm afraid that I left quite quickly this time! I'm not sure which was the worse experience, this or Sevilles Cathedral, which was also overrun by jostling crowds - Well at least it's still free entrance here!
The southern façade is situated at the Praza das Praterias where, in olden days silver jewels were sold. This two-arched Romanesque portal shows a series of juxtaposed scenes in bas-relief, sculpted between 1.112 and 1.117. On the right side is the Baroque Clock Tower (Torre del Reloj) by Domindo de Andrade, from the 17th century.
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