Santiago de Compostela(Touristic Zone)
Galician Cultural Capital
Santiago de Compostela is hard to compare since there are not many similar sites in other cities. In fact, Western European pilgrimage points are really scarce. Santiago is one of them since the Middle Ages, when the city was founded to worship the grave of the biblical apostle St. James. The first constructions where strictly religious, including churches and convents, and the rest of the city was built around these in a demographic outburst that was mainly due to the peregrination. Nowadays, the Galician city proudly shows its splendid medieval past and continues to be the final destination of the St. James' Way (Camino de Santiago in Spanish), a web of roads that converge in faith and in the city’s Cathedral.
We would like to thank the Santiago de Compostela Tourism Board for the information and photographs provided.
Even the city acknowledges its origins as a pilgrimage mecca, today, centuries later this journey is an institution, and due to that, a museum exists that shows historic facts since the late Middle Ages.
The Pilgrimage Museum, State-owned and whose administration was transferred to the Xunta de Galicia -Galician regional government-, was created in 1951 thanks to Manuel Chamoso Lamas. However, it was not opened permanently until February 1996. It is housed in the building known as the Gothic House, with construction features from the 14th century, including, however, important remodelling from later years. The significance that worship and pilgrimage have for European and Latin American cultures, from its origin until today, is showed in an exhibition distributed along eight different halls.
Santiago de Compostela Cathedral
The temple is the pilgrimage axis, starting and finishing point. According to the legend when the apostle St. James’ grave was discovered and his presence confirmed in the area, a church and the first monasteries were built around it. The great temple that exists nowadays, was built in 1075 when the bishop Diego Peláez got king Alfonso VI's support to start the construction.
The cathedral has three naves and a Latin cross ground plan that covers 8.300 m2. Several additions to the original structure have provided eclecticism to it, with a mixture of Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, Plateresque and Neo-classic styles. The “Obradoiro” (west façade) was designed by Fernando de Casa y Novoa, and it is a major sample of the Spanish Baroque.
Santo Domingo de Bonaval Church and Convent
According to old documents, the convent was built in 1228, which means that it was erected along with the city and the St. James discovery. The actual name of Santo Domingo was given in the 15th century. The building shows an intermediate style that corresponds to the Romanesque and Gothic transition.
It has three naves separated by semicircular arches and a major chapel with high windows and a ribbed vault. The interior can be accessed through the convent, in which four Gothic sepulchres stand out on either side of the altar.
The “Panteón de Gallegos Ilustres” (Illustrious Galician Pantheon) is located in one of the lateral chapels, where Rosalía de Castro, Castelao, Alfredo Brañas, Ramón Cabanillas and Francisco Asorey are buried, among others. This the reason why this temple is associated with the Galician memoire.
Santa Maria Real del Sar Collegiate Church
Built in the 12th century, on the Sar river bank, this church, together with the Cathedral, preserves most of its ancient Romanesque features. In spite its main part is from the 12th century, several alterations and additions, such as the sturdy flying buttresses, were done during the 17th and 18th centuries. Plant motifs prevail in the ornamentation and the main lighting is provided by the entrance rose window.
San Martin Pinario Monastery and Church
This monastery rises on the Plaza de la Inmaculada, and was founded by a group of Benedictine monks that established themselves in a place called Pignario, next to the Corticela Chapel (nowadays integrated to the cathedral) where they celebrated the masses, shortly after the discovery of the apostle’s mortal remains. After the cathedral, the monastery and church of San Martín Pinario constitute the most important religious complex. The building, which exhibits an impressive 100 meter Plateresque façade takes us back to the 16th century, but was built in the 17th century although it was erected over a previous one built in the 12th century. The whole complex has an area of over 20.000 m2.
Plaza del Obradorio
The Plaza del Obradorio is Santiago de Compostela’s urban, architectural, cultural, touristic and religious core. Hundreds of pilgrims arrive each day, all year long, except during the summer when they arrive in thousands. It is flanked by the Cathedral, the Hostal de los Reyes Católicos -nowadays a State-owned hotel and former pilgrim's hospital-, the “Pazos” of Xelmírez and Raxoi (“Pazo” is a typical Galician rural palace) and the university vice-chancellor's office .
Hostal de los Reyes Católicos
The current building was erected in 1501 by the Catholic Monarchs (Ferdinand and Isabella) to give health care assistance to sick and pilgrims of the St. James' Way. Its construction, however, was decided in 1492, coinciding with the discovery of the American continent. The royal architect, Enrique Egas, was in charge of the work. Nowadays it is a “Parador de Turismo” (State-owned hotel)
Leaned on the Cathedral’s North side, and facing the Plaza del Obradorio, this Episcopal palace rises. Its construction was ordered by the archbishop Diego Xelmírez in order to replace the ancient episcopal seat that was knocked down during the riots.
A new floor was added on the two initial ones during the 18th century. This new floor does not match the primitive Romanesque construction and forced the reinforcement of the walls with a new façade. This building is accessed through the gate facing the Plaza del Obradoiro. Once inside, the primitive Romanesque portico can be appreciated, which was hidden by the 18th century façade. An interesting Medieval kitchen and a 13th century Ballroom are located on the second floor. The cantilevers, on which the ballrrom arches supporting the ribbed vault are set, stand out. These cantilevers are decorated with scenes from a Medieval banquet.
Although the park has the general name of “Alameda”, it is divided into three different parts: the Alameda boulevard, the Santa Susana “carballeira” (oak grove in Galician) and the “La Herradura” boulevard. This trio comprises, since the 19th century, the most important reference point for Santiago’s leisure activities.
Its privileged location, surrounding a part of the historic city and with a magnificent perspective over the west façade –the most monumental- turned it into the main urban garden, emphasised by the great variety of tree and ornamental species such as the oak grove, the splendid eucalyptuses or the pergola with great views with the Indian chestnuts on the Herradura Boulevard.