Visit Santiago - The Cathedral De Santiago
Thousands of Pilgrims walk the Road to Santiago every year. Their final destination is the Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela, the alleged final resting place of St James.
The Camino de Santiago is a network of trails that runs all over Europe. The people that walk the Camino de Santiago are called Pilgrims. Every Pilgrim who walks the Camino de Santiago has one ultimate destination in mind. The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela believed to be the final resting place of St James.
Santiago de Compostela, also known as the "lighthouse of spirituality", is one of the most important religious buildings, not just in Santiago, but in Spain. It marks the end of every Camino de Santiago and brings flocks of tourists to Santiago every year.
For the full history of the founding of the Cathedral of Santiago, don't miss our post The History of Santiago de Compostela.
The Cathedral Building
The Cathedral is at the heart of the old town and it's spires soar above the city.
Built over two centuries (11th and 12th), its beauty is a mix of the original Romanesque structure. Later works gave the Cathedral Gothic and baroque flourishes.
The tomb of Santiago is beneath the main altar and is a magnet for all who come here.
The Cathedral's high point is the Pórtico de la Gloria inside the west entrance, featuring 200 Romanesque sculptures.
Inside, the Cathedral has a traditional Latin-cross layout and three naves, separated by regal lines of Romanesque arches.
A statue of Santiago, that has watched over the Cathedral since its consecration in 1211, is located within the Cathedral. The faithful queue up to kiss or embrace the statue. Close to the statue is the Cripta Apostólica, where St James' remains are said to lie, inside a large 19th-century silver casket.
The Pilgrim's Mass is usually celebrated at the High Altar at noon and 7.30pm daily, and at 10am and 6pm on Saturday and Sunday, and at 1.15pm on Sunday.
Not to be missed is the famous Botafumeiro, a large censer which disperses incense amid the congregation of Pilgrims.
Weighing 53 kg (117 lbs) and measuring 1.5 m (4.9 feet), it is one of the largest in the world and is suspended 20 m (65 feet) high above the crowd via a system of ropes and pulleys.
On special occasions, and after some masses, the Botafuemeiro is released by a team of eight tiraboleiros who swing it across the cathedral at great speeds of up to 68 km/hr (42 miles/hr). It is thought that this tradition was started in order to cover up the smell of the thousands of pilgrims arriving at the cathedral after their exertions.
Praza do Obradoiro
The Cathedral of Santiago is located in the Praza de Obradoiro, the famous square in front of the Pilgrims.
Praza do Obradoiro is surrounded by four important buildings, said to represent the four powers of the city: the aforementioned Santiago de Compostela cathedral to the East (the Church), Hostal dos Reis Católicos (the doctors and bourgeoisie) to the North, Pazo de Raxoi (the government; after the Spanish transition to democracy it was the seat for the President of the Xunta of Galicia, nowadays the city council) to the West and the Colexio de San Xerome (the university) to the South.
The floor of the praza is decorated by eight rays starting from the centre, where a plaque commemorates the World Heritage Site pilgrims' way of Camiño de Santiago.
During the Camino season, the Praza is full of Pilgrims celebrating the end of their Pilgrim, chatting to one another or generally soaking up the atmosphere.
If you are fortunate to be in Santiago on the 24th July, you have the opportunity to celebrate St James Day with a spectacular light show in the square.
If you walk the Camino de Santiago and arrive at the Cathedral, I hope that you enjoy your visit to Santiago de Compostela Cathedral!