The Santiago de Compostela Archcathedral Basilica is a fractional of the Santiago de Compostela World Heritage Site in Galicia, Spain. The cathedral is stated to be the ultimate resting location of Saint James the Great, one of Jesus Christ’s apostles. It is also one of only four cathedrals in the world erected atop an apostle’s grave, the others being Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, St Thomas Cathedral Basilica in Chennai, India, and the Basilica of St. John in Izmir, Turkey.
History of Santiago Compostela Cathedral
Saint James the Great, according to tradition, brought Christianity to the Iberian Peninsula. According to mythology, Pelagius the Hermit unearthed this tomb in AD 814 after seeing weird lights in the night sky. Bishop Theodomirus of Iria regarded this as a miracle, who told King Alfonso II of Asturias and Galicia (791–842).
The king directed that a chapel be built on the location. According to legend, the king was the first pilgrim to this temple. This was followed by the construction of the first church in AD 829 and, in AD 899, of a pre-Romanesque church ordered by King Alfonso III of León, which resulted in the steady growth of this prominent pilgrimage site.
Al-Mansur Ibn Abi Aamir (938-1002), military commander of the caliph of Córdoba, burnt the early church to ashes in 997. The grave and relics of St. James were not disturbed. The gates and bells, brought to Córdoba by local Christian prisoners, were erected at the Aljama Mosque. After King Ferdinand III of Castile conquered Córdoba in 1236, Muslim captives brought the gates and bells to Toledo, and they were installed in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Toledo.
The Exterior of the cathedral
Each façade and the adjacent squares form a vast urban square. Fernando de Casas Novoa finished the Praza did Obradoiro square’s Baroque façade in 1740. The Acibechara façade, designed by Ferro Caaveiro and Fernández Sarela and remodeled by Ventura Rodrguez, is also baroque. Master Esteban created the Prataras façade in 1103, and Master Mateo finished the Pórtico da Gloria, an early piece of Romanesque sculpture, in 1188.
Pórtico da Gloria
The Pórtico da Gloria of Santiago de Compostela Cathedral is a Romanesque portico designed by Master Mateo and his workshop and commissioned by King Ferdinand II of León. The year 1188 was etched on a stone and set in the cathedral to celebrate its completion, and the lintels were erected on the entrance. It took until 1211 to finish the entire three-piece set when the temple was dedicated under the attendance of King Alfonso IX of León.
The layout of the tympanum is based on John the Evangelist’s portrayal of Christ in Revelation (Chapter 1 v 1 to 18). The Pantocrator is shown in the center, with the figure of Christ in Majesty, revealing crucifixion wounds on his hands and feet. Around Christ is the tetramorph, which depicts the four Evangelists with their respective attributes: on the left, above St. John With the eagle and under St. Luke with the ox; at the right, above St. Matthew at the hood of the tax collector and beneath St. Mark with the lion.
There are four angels on each side of the evangelists, behind Mark and Luke, holding instruments from Christ’s Passion. Some are the crucifixion, crown of thorns (left), lance, and four nails (right), while others are the column in which he was lashed and the jar through which Pontius Pilate declared his innocence. Two enormous groups of blessed spirits, forty in all, hover over the heads of these angels. The elders of the Apocalypse are seated in the archivolt of the central tympanum, each carrying a musical instrument as though planning a performance in God’s honor.
As the basilica’s patron, Saint James is shown in the mullion with a pilgrim’s staff. Saint. James appears holding a scroll with the words Misit me Dominus inscribed on it (the Lord sent me). The column is right over his head, with a capital representing Christ’s temptations. Two kneeling angels pray on three of its sides, facing the inside of the temple. Another capital with the Holy Trinity statues stands at the saint’s foot.
The Jesse’s tree, the name given to Jesus Christ’s genealogical tree from Jesse, father of King David, is depicted underneath the Apostle; this is the first time this topic has been depicted in Christian imagery on the Iberian Peninsula. The column is supported by a base containing a person with a beard on his breast (perhaps a depiction of Noah) and two lions.
Master Mateo himself, kneeling at the foot of the central column at the top inside, gazing towards the cathedral’s main altar, holds a placard that says Architectus.
This picture is commonly known as Santo dos Croques due to the historical practice of students striking their heads against the figure for wisdom, a habit that was subsequently adopted by pilgrims. Still, attempts are being made to limit access to prevent the degradation of the sculpture.
The apostles, prophets, and other people with their iconographic traits are depicted on the columns of the centre door and two side doors. Each is crowned with its capital, which depicts various animals and human heads with foliage themes. All of the figures’ names are written on the books or scrolls they hold.
The portico’s four pillars are supported by solid foundations depicting diverse groupings of animals and human heads with beards. According to some historians, these figures represent demons and the weight of grandeur (the portico in this case) crushing sin.
Some interpretations see the story as apocalyptic, with warfare, starvation, and death (represented by the creatures) and conditions that can only be salvaged by human wisdom (the heads of older men).
The right door’s arch signifies the Final Judgment. Two heads divide the double archivolt into two equal pieces. Some authors associate these heads with the archangel Michael and Christ. Some see them as Christ-Judge and an angel, or they may represent God the Father and God the Son. Hell is shown to the right of these skulls by depictions of creatures (demons) dragging and torturing the souls of the damned. Heaven is on the left, with representations of angels and children representing redeemed souls.
The Sagittarius of the left door depicts a scene from the Old Testament, where the righteous await the coming of the Saviour. At the center of the first record is God the Creator blessing the pilgrims Maintenance of the Book of Eternal Truth; to his straight is Adam, Abraham (index in relief) and Jacob. The two characters with them could be Noah (the new father of mankind saved by the flood) and Isaac or Esau and Judah. To the left of God are Aaron, Moses, King David, Eve and Solomon. The second binder, the upper binder contains ten small figures representing the twelve tribes of Israel.
Façade of the Obradoiro
The square of the Obradoiro in front of the facade alludes to the workshops of stonemasons (Obrador in Galicia), who worked in the square during the construction of the cathedral. To defend the Pórtico da Gloria from climate damage, the façade and the tower have undergone Numerous reforms since the sixteenth century. In the 18th century, it changed and decided to construct the current Baroque façade, drawing by Fernando de Casas Novoa.
It has large bay windows illuminating the old Romanesque facade between the bell tower and the ratchet tower. In the center is Saint James, a step below his two disciples, Athanasius and Theodore, dressed as pilgrims, between the urn (representing the discovered tomb) and the stars (representing the light seen by the hermit Pelagius) and the angels and the clouds.
South façade or das Pratarías
The Silver facade (Pratarías in Galicia) is the southern facade of the transept Of the Cathedral of Santiago the Compostela; it is the simplest surviving Romanesque facade of the cathedral. It was built between 1103 and 1117, with elements from other parts of the cathedral added in later years. Cathedrals and monasteries bound the square on both sides. The cathedral is the Casa do Cabido.
It is two descending doors with arches and a historic tympanum. The arch is connected by eleven columns, three of which are in white marble (center and corners) and the others in granite. In the center are the statues of the twelve prophets, with the apostles at the edges. The tympanum presents a massive frieze, separated from the torso by a band supported by a grotesque crown; two windows on this floor are decorated with Romanesque arches.
North façade or da Acibecharía
The facade “da Acibecharía” is located in the Praza da Inmaculada or Acibecharía, which drains the last part of the city’s roads: primitive, northern, French and English through the old Gate of Paradise. The Romanesque portal modifies into constructed in 1122 by the treasurer of the temple, Bernardo. The portal was demolished after a fire in 1758; some of the surviving sculptures were placed on the facade of das Pratarías. The new facade was designed in the Baroque style by Lucas Ferro Caaveiro and completed in the neoclassical style by Domingo Lois Monteagudo and Clemente Fernández Sarela in 1769, although it retains some traces of the Baroque style.
East façade or da Quintana
The facade of the cathedral facing Quintana Square has two doors: Porta Real and Porta Santa. Construction of the Baroque Porta Real began in 1666 under the direction of José de Vega y Verdugo and José de la Peña de Toro and was completed in 1700 by Domingo de Andrade, who built columns spanning the two areas with a large spire and an aedicula with an amazing equestrian statue of Saint James decorated with decorative bunches of fruit and Great military booty. Spain’s kings entered the cathedral through this door, so its name and coat the Royal of arms on the lintel.
The first towers of the main facade of the cathedral are Romanesque (the current facade of the Obradoiro). They are called Torre das Campás, Epistle side (right) and Torre da Carraca, Gospel side (left). The height of both is between 75 meters and 80 meters.
North Tower or da Carrara
It is situated to the left of the facade del Obradoiro and, like its companion, is built opposite an early Romanesque tower. It was designed in 1738 by Fernando de Casas Novoa, who imitated the 17th-century bell towers of Peña de Toro and Domingo de Andrade: baroque decoration adorns the various decorations, providing a unified architecture on the facade.
Clock Tower, Torre da Trindade or Berenguela
The Clock Tower, also known as Torre da Trindade or Berenguela, is located at the intersection of Pratarías Square and Quintana Square. Traditionally, the building is believed to have begun construction in 1316 as a defensive tower at the apple of Archbishop Rodrigo Padrón. After his death, his successor, the Archbishop of Berengedlandol, continued to work there, although some authors question the dates.
When he became rector of the cathedral, Domingo de Andrade continued to build it, raising it two stories between 1676 and 1680; the use of various structures carried out Harmonious decorative designs with a pyramidal crown and a lantern as finishes, permanently lit by four bulbs. It culminates at seventy-five meters.
The Interior of the cathedral
The cathedral is ninety-seven m long and 22 m high. It has retained its original Romanesque cruciform barrel-vaulted Interior. It consists of a nave, aisles, a huge transept and a choir with radiating chapels. In contrast to many other important churches, the first impression of the cathedral’s interior is austere until you look deeper to see the vitality of the magnificent organ and choir. It is the most major Romanesque church in Spain.
The Pórtico da Gloria
The 12th-century Portico da Gloria behind the west facade is located in the west door vestibule. A relic from Roman times, it is a masterpiece of Romanesque sculpture built between 1168 and 1188 at the request of King Ferdinand II of Leon by master Matteo.
The barrel-vaulted nave and the groin-vaulted aisles including of 11 compartments, while the wide transept consists of 6 compartments. Each bundle of piers is surrounded by half-columns, three of which carry the cross-vaults of the aisles and the vaults of the vaults, while the fourth extends to the springs of the vaults. The luminous promenade rises to an astonishing height above the aisles surrounding the church.
The crypt below the high altar reveals the foundations of this 9th-century church. It is the ultimate destination for pilgrims. The crypt houses the remains of Saint Jacques and his two disciples: Saint Diodorus and Saint Athanasius. After Pope Leo XIII identified the remains in 1884, the silver reliquary (made by José Losada in 1886) was placed in the crypt at the end of the 19th century.
The dome above the crossing involves the pulley mechanism that oscillates the “Botafumeiro”, the famous burner found in this church. It was created in 1851 by goldsmith José Losada. The Santiago Compostela Botafumeiro is the biggest incense burner in the world, weighing 80 kg (180 lb) and standing 1.60 m (5.2 ft) tall.
It was usually displayed in cathedral libraries, but on certain important religious festivals, it was tied to pulleys and filled with 40 kg (88 lb) of charcoal and incense.
Hotels near the Santiago Compostela Cathedral
- Apartamento El 31 de Bilbao
- Habitaciones Apartamento B&B Plaza Nueva 8
- Old Town by Bilbao Living
- Apartament El Patio del Museo
- Martzana Kalea
- Apartamento Alaia