Santiago de Compostela is a beautiful city situated in North West Spain in the province of A Coruña, with over 90,000 inhabitants. It is considered to be the treasure of Galicia, due to its historic and religious importance and its mass of monuments and cultural sights. The Atlantic climate means that the summers aren’t sweltering and winters are mild yet wet. It is considered a vibrant religious and cultural spot of Spain.
Santiago de Compostela literally means St James in the field of Stars, following a belief that St James remains are rested there. St James was one of Jesus’ apostles who came to the North West corner of Spain (known to the Romans as Finnis Terrae – the end of the Earth) to convert people to Christianity. Without much success, he went back to the Holy Land where his fate was met by King Herod. Legend has it that he was the first apostle to be martyred. His remains were secretly taken to Spain where he was buried. It is said that his tomb wasn’t discovered until the 9th century when a hermit saw a shining. He informed the Bishop who declared that the remains of St James had been discovered. From this point on, the town of Santiago de Compostela started growing. After the shining, a church was built over the supposed burial site, and eventually the Cathedral.
The monuments of Santiago de Compostela
Dominating Santiago de Compostela, the cathedral towers high for all to see. It is a focus of the main cultural points in the city, the reason for the thousands of pilgrimages, and the one sight not to be missed as it is famously the burial place for Saint James. The ornate main façade of the cathedral looks onto the Obradoiro square, and faces the Galician parliament building. You need a good hour to explore the Cathedral in depth, particularly due to the fact that architecturally it originates from several eras. The lower levels date back as far as the 12th century, while other additions date back to the 16th and 17th centuries. The cathedral is primarily Romanesque; however the façade shows many Baroque features. The magnificent design on the facade is considered to be some of the most outstanding masonry in Spain. Entry is free but it is also possible to buy an all access pass to the cathedral, allowing you to explore the 3 or 4 levels thoroughly, including the artwork and religious exhibits and to enjoy the wonderful views from the gallery. The interior of the cathedral is just as spectacular as the outside which is again in the Romanesque style. The main feature inside is the Portico de Gloria, behind the West façade, which is a masterwork of sculpture dating between 1168 and 1188, and of course, the crypt of Saint James.
The Rajoy Palace
Facing the Cathedral, this beautiful neo classical Palace houses the Parliament buildings in Santiago de Compostela. It was designed by a Frenchman, Charles Lemaur and is also used as the town hall and is one of the four keystone buildings in the Obradioro square. A bishop named Rajoy wanted instigated its construction in the 18th century but for religious purposes, hence its name. In its early years, it was used primarily for religion, but it has also been used as a prison in the past.
This is located in the Plaza de las Platerias, and the fountain in the plaza is equally as visited. The building is a beautiful ornate piece of architecture, a mixture of baroque and neo classical styles. It lies in opposite the cathedral, which is where everyone flocks to first, but this building should not be ignored.
Rectorado de la Universidad
This is the final building lining the Obradoiro square in Santiago. It was built in the 17th century and used to be the University college building for San Jeronimo University. Its red roof lends it some colour, making it distinctive from the other buildings on the square.
Galicia is famously known for its seafood due to its extensive coastline and is the staple diet of Galicians. Evidently, it is the freshest possible, due to the short distance from the coastline to the city, and local favourites include Vieira, Pulpo (octopus), Calamari, Langoustine and Navajas. The Galicians also eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, and less pasta and rice dishes than the rest of Spain.