The entire old town is a world heritage site. The end of the Camino de Santiago with the monumental cathedral from the 11th to 13th centuries is a Romanesque masterpiece. For over a thousand years, Christians have made pilgrimages to the city to visit the tomb of the apostle James in the cathedral. After Rome and Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela is the most important Christian pilgrimage site.
Santiago de Compostela: facts
|Official title:||Old town of Santiago de Compostela|
|Cultural monument:||Former capital of the Kingdom of Galicia, today’s episcopal city, including with a three-aisled cathedral with the floor plan of a Latin cross and a length of 97 m, with the partly Romanesque church of San Miguel dos Agros, the 20,000 m² monastery of San Martín Pinario (16th-18th centuries) with impressive interiors in the style of the Galician Baroque, the monastery of San Payo de Antealtares, the Palacio de Gelmírez, the most important secular building of the Spanish Romanesque, and the university|
|Location:||Santiago de Compostela|
|Meaning:||Symbol of the struggle between Christian and Islamic Spain as well as one of the most beautiful pilgrimage cities in the world with Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architecture|
Santiago de Compostela: history
|1./2. Century BC Chr.||roman camp|
|6th century||Suebian necrologist|
|899||Consecration of a basilica over the tomb of St. James|
|997||Destruction of the basilica by the Moors|
|1072-1109||under King Alfonso VI. next to Rome and Jerusalem most important place of pilgrimage|
|1211||Consecration of the newly built basilica|
|1501-32||Construction of the colleges|
|1521-26||Capilla de Mondragón|
|1611||Puerta Santa of the cathedral with 24 seated apostles, prophets and patriarchs made of granite|
|1738-50||West facade, also called “gold jewels”, in the form of a monumental altarpiece|
|1769-1805||Construction of today’s university|
End of the line for pilgrims
After a good 850 kilometers of walking on the Way of St. James, Santiago de Compostela offers pilgrims a worthy train station and a relaxing break after many hardships. Almost 50 houses of worship and monasteries, town houses, the university, market buildings, stairs, fountains and 114 bell towers make up the reception committee, a nested architectural synthesis of the Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance styles that really makes you believe you have reached your goal. The fact that it is now surrounded by a modern industrial center is quickly forgotten in the heart of the city.
According to constructmaterials, everything in Santiago revolves around St. James and the towering cathedral. It is the nucleus of the gigantic pilgrimage city that almost overtook Rome in the Middle Ages. Piety is so present that one thinks that holy water is drizzled on every square centimeter. The historical beginnings come from legends, sagas and fairy tales, but here they are tangible and truthful. The cathedral towers over the Plaza del Obradoiro like a granite, filigree piece of gold.
Legend has it that James preached the gospel in Galicia for seven years before being martyred in Jerusalem in 44. According to a last wish, his body was brought to Compostela. In the early 9th century, a monk claims to have seen a star several times and thus rediscovered the grave in its current location. The good news spread throughout the West, which soon triggered a lively migration activity to the sea-clad Galician coast and made Santiago de Compostela a melting pot of the most diverse European cultures. First a chapel was built over the grave, then a basilica and – after its destruction by the Moors – finally the cathedral from 1075, which is still the main destination of all pilgrims today. It took centuries to mature to its present size.
The Romanesque Pórtico de la Gloria offers entry into the earthly heaven. The pilgrims’ hands strive towards its central column, looking for the recess in which, as it is said, Jesus Christ left his handshake. Everyone reaches for the “hand of the Redeemer” and the hard granite slowly wears off under millions of touches. In the crossing aisle, one puzzles over the strange pendulum movement of the botafumeiro, an incense kettle hanging on a long rope, which – set in motion by eight monks – floats through the consecrated room.
But before entering the cathedral stands the cathedral mound and the branching system of stairs, galleries and balustrades decorated with wrought-iron bars; one only comes to her looking up. Just as the star above the stable of Bethlehem showed the way for the Three Kings, the most important streets of the old town lead in a star shape across the square to the tomb of St. James. His statue as a riding, sword-swinging “Moorslayer” is in a side chapel; his likeness, whether in marble or granite, appears again and again throughout the city. The paintings in the cathedral also tell of the fact that the Moors felt the blows of the sword of the highly revered Christian saint. Right next to the cathedral, after the arduous journey in the magnificent Hostal de los Reyes,
The old university, the San Augustin monastery, the Obradoiro square and the Del Pilar church mark the historical square of the old town. The Plaza de la Quintana with the Holy Gate is one of the most beautiful squares in the world when the sun gently breaks its light in the buildings of the old town Casco Viejo. This makes even the Galician granite appear as warm-colored sandstone and gives the sacred buildings something mild.