Santiago de Compostela – A Christian Mecca
Located in North Western Spain, Santiago de Compostela is the capital of the autonomous community of Galicia. Its origins are directly linked to the holy shrine of St. James the Greater, one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus. The old shrine is now a majestic cathedral with a religious importance similar to that of Jerusalem, Rome and Mecca.
The name of the city seems to come from Vulgar Latin: Sanctu Jacobu (Saint James) appears to have evolved into Santiago, while Composita Tella (burial ground) became Compostela. The tomb of Apostle is now the destination of the Way of St. James, a major Christian pilgrimage route that goes back to the 9th century.
The famous Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela can be found in the city’s Old Town, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. This is actually the fourth church built on the site, constructed between 1075 and 1211 in a Romanesque style. Later additions came in beautiful Gothic and Baroque shapes. Its most iconic façade is the one with the main entrance, facing the Plaza del Obradorio. This intricately decorated façade plays a protective role for the original entrance, while also leaving visitors in awe at its majestic sight – the effect is always grand on tourists.
To better understand the cathedral’s religious significance, you need to know a little about the tradition behind it. It is said that St. James was the one who brought Christianity to the Iberian Peninsula, back when it was populated by Celts. He found his tragic demise in 44 AD, when he was beheaded in Jerusalem, but according to tradition his remains were later recovered and brought back to Spain. Here they fell into oblivion until 814 AD, when they were miraculously discovered by a hermit who was guided to the tomb by unusual lights in the sky. The first pilgrim to the holy site was the king himself.
Of course, there is more to see here than the beautiful cathedral, as the city is visited every year by believers and non-believers alike. The vast Plaza del Obradoiro is a wonderful sight, representing one of the main attractions of Santiago de Compostela. It is one of Spain’s best preserved public squares and it is situated right at the heart of the city. Tourists can also take some time to see the Monastery of San Martin Pinario, the Royal Hospital (Hospital Real de Santiago), and the Mirador Parque de Alameda. But don’t let us tell you where to stop – continue your explorations and feed your curiosity!
- The area that surrounds the cathedral, as well as much of the Old Town, is closed to traffic. This is why it is recommended to leave your car in the multi-story parking lot at the northern end of Calle San Francisco.
- For a fully enjoyable experience, come here between April and October.
- If you want a really amazing view of the city, you can forget about the Mirador Parque and book an airplane tour instead. It is a more expensive way to enjoy a good panorama, but it is totally worth it.
- Luxury hotels to choose from includeHotel Parador de Santiago de Compostela in the Royal Hospital building, HotelAC Palacio del Carmen, and Araguaney Gran Hotel.