September 15, 2018
Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Spain’s northwestern region of Galicia, was founded on the belief that the relics of the Apostle James the Greater were discovered in 820 in this lonely outpost of Christian Spain – back when the Muslim Caliphate of Córdoba dominated the Iberian Peninsula. Devotion to St. James grew over the centuries resulting in millions of Catholics settling off on foot to Galicia from their homes in all corners of Europe on pilgrimage, referred to as The Camino de Santiago or The Way If St. James.
Today’s cathedral is actually the third church to occupy this purported burial site of Saint James. It was constructed between 1075 and 1211 in the austere Romanesque style and augmented with grand Gothic cloisters later as well as considerable remodeling during the showy Baroque era. There’s a lot going on from palaces and bell towers to façades and side chapels – too much to really describe in words or reflect in photographs. Besides pilgrims completing their Camino de Santiago, the Old Town and particularly the Cathedral area abound with tourists and many guided and informational walks throughout are offered. There are also many walking tours available online and in guidebooks, which is what Bill and I chose to do. Regardless, there are lines and people EVERYWHERE!!!
The High Alter in Catedral de Santiago is over the top Baroque!!! A baldacchino (ceremonial canopy) covers the crypt and is completely covered in gold leaf. Gigantic grapevine adorned columns uphold the massive structure although it appears as if a legion of angels are holding it upon their shoulders. All three representations of St. James are displayed: “Santiago Matamoros” (St. James the Moor Slayer) mounted on a white horse who came to assist the Christians in the Battle of Clavijo; Santiago Peregrino, dressed in the classic brown robe, wide brimmed hat and carrying a walking stick and bottle gourd; and Santiago Apóstal lavishly adorned in silver and gold. The Four Virtues also gracefully crown the alter.
The Pórtico da Gloria or Glory Portico is considered to be the finest example of medieval sculpture anywhere, depicting a theme from the Book of Revelation.
Besides enjoying the Cathedral and many surrounding historical buildings, we wandered through a couple of beautiful parks, got lost in the bountiful open air market and enjoyed tremendous seafood, which this area is renowned for, and in my opinion, lives up to!! Oh, and Bill treated me to a massage – outstanding!!!