The city of Santiago was founded and has grown up around the Apostle’s tomb. The pattern of its streets and squares, its place names and main historic buildings – emerging from the epicentre designated by the cathedral – are all evidence of this. Everything refers to the Way of St. James. The energy of this pilgrimage can be felt in every historic spot.
This short walking tour visits some of the most important locations in Compostela associated with the Way of St. James. We begin with the cathedral and the squares (prazas) around it, then expand our circle to take in the surrounding neighbourhoods.
Portico of Glory, Santiago Cathedral
The cathedral from Praza da Acibechería.
Sunset over Santiago
One of the four cloisters at the Hostal dos Reis Católicos
View of the cathedral roof
Praza do Obradoiro and the Parador Hostal dos Reis Católicos
Santiago Cathedral, consecrated in 1211, is one of the finest examples of European Romanesque art. It was built to receive the pilgrims who came from all over the continent to worship the remains of St. James the Apostle, which are held inside. The Pórtico da Gloria (Portico of Glory) is one of the world’s greatest artistic treasures. This incomparable structure carved out of granite is the work of Master Mateo, depicting his vision of the Apocalypse.
Art, history and spirituality make their presence felt in every corner of the temple. The best-known sections have now been joined by the recently excavated underground areas (including a Roman necropolis) and the opportunity to visit the roof.
Beside the great basilica stands Pazo de Xelmírez. This mansion is the best preserved example of civil architecture from medieval Spain. It was home to the first Archbishop of Santiago, Diego Xelmírez (12th century). The imposing Salón de Ceremonias (great hall) is especially noteworthy.
Behind Pazo de Raxoi (another palace), to the left of San Fructuoso Church, there is now a charming boxwood maze surrounded by cypresses and gardens, offering magnificent views of Alameda Park. There is no trace of the city’s great pilgrim cemetery, which was located on this spot until the 18th century.
We walk back around the cathedral and explore the streets (rúas) and squares (prazas) that have grown up in its shadow.
Continuing in the opposite direction, we come to Praza da Inmaculada, with San Martiño Pinario Monastery located on one side. Until the 16th century, this site was occupied by Santiago Hospital, which is mentioned in the Codex Calixtinus (12th century). The hospital provided medical care for pilgrims.