It appears on all the postcards of Santiago de Compostela and is its most visited monument. It is the end of the Camino de Santiago and its beauty is found in every corner. It is one of those cathedrals that you have to go around to admire because each of its facades has a charm. The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is one of the most beautiful in Spain.
It is located in the same place where the tomb of the Apostle Santiago was found, in the year 813 and its origins date back to the 11th century when construction began.
Today we find ourselves before one of the main cathedrals in the world, whose visit is practically obligatory. And if you want not to miss any detail, take this guided tour of the Cathedral of Santiago and its museum.
What to visit in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
What to see outside the Cathedral
The Obradoiro Facade, which overlooks the square of the same name, is undoubtedly a work of art that you cannot help but admire.
It is a Baroque masterpiece built between the 17th and 18th centuries, that is, several centuries after the completion of the cathedral, which until then had a façade with two robust Romanesque towers.
The Obradoiro Facade has at its feet a spectacular staircase formed by a combination of two stairs, one inside the other, thanks to which you can access the main door of the Cathedral.
Under the staircase you have access to the crypt.
The façade is crowned by two spectacular towers that reach 74 meters in height and give a feeling that the building is ascending to the heavens.
It consists of two large windows that illuminate the old Romanesque façade and in its center is the statue of Santiago Apóstol dressed as a pilgrim, as well as other statues and figures that represent the legend of the hermit who found the tomb.
The rest of the facades are also worth a visit. These are the Praterías Facade, located in the square of the same name, forming an exceptional ensemble with it, the Azabachería Facade, where we also find a statue of Santiago, and the Quintana Facade, where the Holy Door is found, which only it opens the Xacobeo years, years in which the queues that form next to it to access the interior are very long.
Special mention must also be made of the Clock Tower, also called the Berenguela, located at the intersection of Praterías and Quintana squares.
The Pórtico de la Gloria, the masterpiece of Romanesque
If you access the Cathedral of Santiago through the Obradoiro façade before reaching its interior proper, you will come across the Pórtico de la Gloria.
It is a set of 3 arches designed by master Mateo where there are more than 200 granite sculptures and which give access to each of the 3 interior naves.
The tympanum of the central arch is a work of art that leaves you speechless where the risen Christ is represented surrounded by the 4 evangelists, located above a series of angels that carry the elements of the Passion of Christ. Under the tympanum, in the central column, is the Apostle Santiago.
The lateral arches are also spectacular, representing the Old and New Testaments respectively. All this makes the Pórtico de la Gloria a true wonder for the senses.
What to visit inside the Cathedral of Santiago
You have already visited the exterior façade and the Pórtico de la Gloria, but you still have much to see inside. Its main nave is of amazing dimensions presided over by the High Altar.
This altar is not the one that was initially in the cathedral, which was in the Romanesque style, but was later reformed in the Baroque style. In it, everything revolves around the life of the Apostle Santiago.
The different chapels that are inside also have their charm. There are 16 in total and all deserve a visit, highlighting the Royal Pantheon, where the tombs of some kings of León and Castile are located, and of course the Sepulchral Crypt, where the remains of the Apostle are found in an urn.
Other places you cannot miss inside are the Cathedral Treasury, the Choir or the Cloister, in Gothic-Renaissance style.
We also recommend visiting the Roofs of the Cathedral and having fantastic views of the Plaza del Obradoiro and having the immense towers a few meters from you.
A little history of the Cathedral of Santiago
It was the year 813 when a hermit named Pelayo discovered the tomb of the Apostle Santiago guided by celestial lights according to legend.
The tomb was in that place since the apostle, who spread Christianity throughout Hispania, was beheaded in Rome in the year 44 and transferred to Galicia but fell into abandonment in the 3rd century due to the persecution suffered by Christians.
After this discovery, considered a miracle, a first chapel was built in this place that became a pre-Romanesque church to which pilgrims from all over the world began to arrive.
However, Almanzor’s troops reduced this church to ashes at the end of the 10th century.
In 1075 it was when the current Cathedral began to be built and after several stoppages the works ended in 1211 after the construction of the sepulcher and the masterful Pórtico de la Gloria at the hands of master Mateo. In later centuries it underwent some modification and today we can admire one of the most impressive architectural works in history.