Catedral de Santiago de Compostela is the main attraction for tourists and locals alike.
The burial-place of St James, one of the apostles, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Pilgrimage Route since Early Middle Ages. Architectural, historical, religious aspect of the Cathedral made this a landmark that worth visiting!
I was lucky to be in town on the day when mass was held and able to watch the Botafumeiro (the largest censer in the World) swinging across the apse at a speed of up to 80 km/hr. Nothing too religious as this ritual was believed started over 700 years ago to assisted in masking the "smell" from hundreds of unwashed pilgrims.
The best part is it is free to visit!
We were at the cathedral at all saints day (1st of November) the church was full with people, this impacted me. The highlight of our visit to the cathedral was seeing the Botafumeiro with the smoke swinging across the apse of the cathedral. They do not do this every day so make sure to inform about the schedule.
The cathedral is free to enter, ofcourse the mass and to see the botafumeiro is too.
We payed to see the Portico (3 euro), but it is under construction so you could not really see it, or make a nice picture, I would not pay for it again
You thought I was going to stop reviewing just because I'm in a remote mountainous town in Spain? Not a chance!
This cathedral is about an hour away from where my grandparents live (45 minutes with the new highway!) and I go to it all the time. I have so many memories of good times inside and around it- my art history nerd of a sister yelling at me for taking a picture with flash, stumbling around the plaza at 2am after going to the fiesta, and getting yelled at in a hushed voice by my mom when our 2am stumbling turned into 8am stumbling.
The cathedral itself is spectacular- you really have to be there to see it. Advice from a pro: get there early to beat the lines and if you have time go to the special mass for the pilgrims (that's when they break out the botafumeiro, a Galician specialty). Oh, and if you see the pillar where people are lining to bump their heads (people do this because the architect of the Cathedral was so smart that they were hoping his intelligence would rub off on them) go around the pillar and bump your head on the other side of where most people are. Most people bump their heads on the wrong guy, who wasn't really all that smart.
Santiago de Compostela is the capital of Galicia. The city's Cathedral is the destination today, as it has been throughout history, of the important 9th century medieval pilgrimage route, the Way of St. James. That's because it's the reputed burial-place of Saint James the Greater, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ. In 1985 the city's Old Town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Gayle and I attended a Pilgrim's Mass at the Cathedral, observed the various orders of nuns, monks, and priests, prayed with a nice bunch of folks from Madrid, marveled at the gorgeous architechure and art work, walked around the various surrounding Holy Sites, stayed at the nearby Parador, and otherwise had an impressive time during our short stay. Even this non-Catholic was humbled, inspired, and grateful.
the itinerary of a recent trip was certain to be loads of fun and discovery. but it also had a religious aspect. including return visits to the Vatican and St. Catherine's shrine in Paris, mom also wanted to bring us to Fatima (Portugal) and Lourdes (France). one other stop i was most looking forward to was Santiago (St. James) de Compostela .
while living in Paris, St. James was omnipresent. the ancient route of piligrims toward Spain was and still is rue Saint-Jacques in quartier latin, where a church in his name stands. scallops are called coquilles Saint-Jacques, it's shell the apostle's symbol. french history is replete with accounts of 100km travels by nobility and laymen to the shrine. a 1,000 years later, Christians continue to make the pilgrimage to Compostela, where a grand Romanesque Cathedral was built (ca 1200) on the saint's burial site.
"There was something in the air at night, the stars were bright, Fernando...."
Feeling a wee nostalgic, and figuring by now Yelp had made inevitable inroads into this terrain, I searched this pueblo on Yelp on a completely random lark.
The details are lengthy, and without question, completely extraneous to anyone reading, but yes, I walked the legendary Camino de Santiago all the way from the foothills of the Pyrenees and am enough of a dork to still have my Compostela to show for it (we happened to do the hike on a "feast" year, 2004). If this sounds like I'm tooting any horns, please re-consider--- I met fellow travelers who'd walked all the way from Rome, Germany, even England (with the help of a ferry). We were a couple of rowdy Yankee boys completely ill-prepared for the Spanish sun in summer, and the promise of many, many ampollas underfoot. The pain at times was nothing less than exquisite. But reaching our destination, and seeing los Padres swing the mighty Botafumeiro through air of La Catedral made it all more than worth it. Vale la pena...
You'll meet people from all over the world on this walk to St. James, as indeed we did. It remains one of the cultural and personal high water marks of my life, even after having lived and traveled in other parts of Spain years prior to our Camino. If you are up for adventure, and an unforgettable experience, consider the camino. To all present, past, and future travelers therein, Buen Camino, peregrinos!!
"....though we never thought that we could lose,
there's no regrets.
If I had to do it all again,
I would, my friend, Fernando.
Yes, If I had to do the same again,
I would, my friend, Fernando......"
What can I say. After walking 31 days across Northern Spain to get to the Cathedral de Santiago.. it is pretty amazing. I didn't feel that connected to any of the other Cathedrals along 'the way' but this one definitely had a special feeling. The mass was totally boring as usual, and they didn't even do the incense fumigation thing sadly. I waited in line to hug St. James and felt ridiculous. I am not a fan of blind faith and what the church has done to spread it's faith, but it still was an amazing place to be.
This cathedral was begun in 1075, under Alfonso VI, and one of its creators was Mestre Mateo. It was dedicated in 1211, under Alfonso IX. From its medieval character it evolved and acquired Renaissance features. Its history is long and well documented.
The Cathedral houses what are said to be the remains of St. James, patron saint of Spain and one of the Apostles. His grave was supposedly discovered by a hermit in 814 a.d. and the building to honor him became one of the three major pilgrimage sites in the Middle Ages, along with Rome and Jerusalem. The university was founded in 1495.
All four façades have their own style and history. On the west is the Pórtico da Gloria, 12th c. Romanesque style. When a plaster cast was made for a British museum, much of the color was destroyed, but currently there is a restoration project, to be completed in 2010. The Peregrina (Pilgrim) mass is when the botafumeiro or thurible, the world's largest censer, is swung, and never fails to enthrall the observers.
Beneath the cathedral are excavations of pre-Christian time. All of Santiago was built on a Roman settlement and a Celtic castro. Today there are still thousands of pilgrims and tourists who visit annually, out of curiosity, a spirit of adventure or religious devotion, or historical interest. Many come to embrace the statues of St. James, kneel before his crypt, contemplate the Pórtico, make a wish or promise in the column in the center of the entryway, or knock their heads against the santo dos croques (the saint of the blows), said to bring knowledge to the forehead's owner. (The saint is really a self-portrait by Master Mateo, creator of the Pórtico da gloria.)
If one is a fan of Iberian cathedrals, this one, as much for its architecture as for its legends and traditions, is a must-see. It has also been the subject of poems such as those by Gerardo Diego, in the book Angeles de Compostela.
What else can I say that marchk hasn't already said?
This is an amazing monument and the fact that you actually can see in front of your eyes the tomb of a saint is really something. As I said in my previous reviews I am not a believer but I quite like the historical facts of religion and Santiago de Compostela is full of them. The tomb is enormous, it is the back of what you see when the priest is preaching at the Catedral. It is pretty large and you have to queue a bit to get there, but then you see the statue (which some people embrace) and a keeper in front of it, preventing you from taking pictures of it (he looks evil by the way, you won't miss it). You then exit that little room and go underneath it to actually see the safe kept tomb.
The Catedral is enormous, it has 5 exits and the height of it is just ludicrous! When you leave by the fron exit you will notice its size and you will also notice one of Compostela's most famous characters, a shepherd (always smoking). It is so characteristic that makes him funny. The facilities of the Catedral also include a museum (fees apply) of sacred art, in my opinion it wasn't really worth it, but you may enjoy seeing the reliquary and some other precious religious items.
This is one of those places that if you like tourism you have to go there. If you enjoy trekking you might also consider doing the Camiño de Compostela, you have peregrinations going all the way from Devon to Galicia. It must be quite a trip!
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