Santiago de Compostela Cathedral

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is a Catholic worship temple located in the city of the same name, in the center of the province of La Coruña, in Galicia (Spain).

It welcomes what, according to tradition, is the tomb of the Apostle James, which made the temple one of the main pilgrimage destinations in Europe during the Middle Ages through the so-called Camino de Santiago, an initiatory route through which the Iberian peninsula communicated with the rest of the continent.

This was determinant for the medieval Hispanic kingdoms to participate in the cultural movements of the time; It is still an important pilgrimage destination.

A privilege granted in 1122 by Pope Calixto II declared that they would be “Holy Year” or “Jubilee Year” in Compostela all the years in which the day 25 of July, day of Santiago, coincided in Sunday; This privilege was confirmed by Pope Alexander III in his bull Regis aeterni in 1179.

It was declared of Cultural Interest in 1896, and the old town of Santiago de Compostela, which is centered around the cathedral, was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1985.


According to tradition, the Apostle James the Greater spread Christianity in the Iberian peninsula.

In the year 44 he was beheaded in Jerusalem and his remains were later transferred to Galicia in a stone boat.

Following the Roman persecutions of the Christians of Hispania, his tomb was abandoned in the third century. Always according to legend, this tomb was discovered around the year 814 by the hermit Pelayo (Pelagius) after seeing strange lights in the night sky.

Bishop Teodomiro de Iria recognized this as a miracle and informed King Alfonso II of Asturias; The king ordered the construction of a chapel in the place.

Legend has it that the king became the first pilgrim in this sanctuary.

This chapel was followed by a first church in 829 and later by a pre-Roman church in 899, built by order of King Alfonso III, gradually becoming an important place of pilgrimage.

In the year 997 this early church was reduced to ashes by Almanzor, commander of the army of the Caliph of Cordoba.

Church doors and bell towers, carried on shoulders by Christian captives to Cordoba, were added to the aljama mosque.

When Cordoba was taken by King Ferdinand III of Castile in 1236, these same doors and bells were carried by Muslim prisoners To Toledo, and were included in the Cathedral of Santa María de Toledo.

The construction of the present cathedral began in 1075 under the reign of Alfonso VI and the patronage of the bishop Diego Peláez.

It was built on the same plane as the monastic brick church of San Sernín de Toulouse, probably the largest Romanesque building in France.

The temple was built primarily in granite. Construction was halted on several occasions and, according to Liber Sancti Iacobi, the last stone was laid in 1122 and the cathedral was consecrated in 1128.

According to the Codex Calixtinus, the architects were “Bernardo el viejo, a wonderful teacher”, his assistant Galperinus Robertus and, later, possibly “Stephen, master of cathedrals.”

In the last stage “Bernardo, the young man” (who was possibly Esteban’s son) finished the building, while Galperinus was in charge of the coordination. He also built a monumental fountain in front of the northern portal in 1122.

The last stage of construction begins in 1168 when the chapter orders the master Mateo to realize the crypt and the Portico de la Gloria, and the cathedral is definitely consecrated in April 1211, on the Thursday morning of the second week of Easter, by Archbishop Pedro Muniz, in the presence of King Alfonso IX and his son, as well as numerous ecclesiastical and civil authorities.

The church became an episcopal seat in 1075 and, thanks largely to the efforts of Bishop Diego Gelmírez and its growing importance as a place of pilgrimage, Calixto II consolidated it as an archbishop’s seat in 1120.

The cathedral was embellished and extended between the centuries XVI and XVIII.

Discovery of the tomb

The origins of the cult to Santiago in Gallaecia are lost in the annals of the times.

At the end of the 7th century, the legend of James the Elder was buried in these lands, after evangelizing them, to the northwest of the Iberian peninsula.

This idea is collected in the peninsula by the treaty De Ortu et Obitu Patrum, by Isidore of Seville, and in England by Bishop Aldhelmo of Malmesbury.

In 813, eight centuries after the death of the Apostle James, a hermit named Pelayo (or Paio or Pelagius), along with other faithful, saw lights in the vicinity of a place known by the name of Solovius and communicated to Teodomiro, Bishop of Iria Flavia, (currently Padrón).

After three days of fasting, the bishop and his companions went to the place and discovered among the thickets a monument made of marble slabs, and they had no doubt that it was the tomb of the Apostle and his two disciples, Athanasius and Theodore.

The tomb was located within the funerary area of a small abandoned Roman settlement which is now considered to be the mansion of Assegonia cited in several classics.

The bishop communicated the discovery to the King of Asturias, Alfonso II el Casto, who Traveled with his court to the place and granted the lands near the tomb to the bishop, plus their corresponding incomes, and ordered a small church to be built supra corpus apostoli “on top of the body of the Apostle”, next to a baptistery and another church dedicated to the Savior.

Later, in a document dated September 4, 834, the king said:

“For in our day has been revealed to us the precious treasure of the blessed Apostle, that is to say his most holy body. When I learned of this, with great devotion and spirit of supplication, I hastened to worship and worshiped such a precious treasure, accompanied by my court, and worshiped him in the midst of tears and prayers as the Master and Lord of Spain, and By our own will, we grant him the small gift mentioned above, and we have a church built in his honor.”

Alfonso II the Casto, 4 of September of the 834.

Primitive church

In the course of excavations carried out in 1879 under the apse of the cathedral led by the historian Lopez Ferreiro, archbishop of Compostela Miguel Payá and Rico discovered the foundations of the primitive tomb called “Arca marmarica”, with remains of a Altar that consisted of a slab smooth on a stone shaft also smooth.

It had a floor of about eight meters per side, with another central body, smaller and rectangular, built with great stone ashlars and the outer walls were made of masonry.

It had a portico with columns and pavement with slabs of granite; A border of Roman mosaic surrounded the tomb lid.

The church that built Alfonso II respected the old cell of the tomb, the columns were overthrown and a wall was built near the marble ark in the form of a nave with a small apse and finally covered with a wooden roof.

Pre-Romanesque church

During the reign of Alfonso III, before the increasing number of pilgrims and small dimensions of the church, it was decided to build another building, pre-Romanesque style and wider than the previous one.

It was realized with a plant of three ships, being entirely in its presbytery the old church.

The tombs of St. James and his disciples were not touched.

In the central bed was placed an altar dedicated to St. Savior, and in the lateral abslioles on the right was the altar of St. Peter and on the left of St. John.

The consecration, with great ostentation, took place in May of the year 899 with the assistance of “the royal family, 17 bishops, 14 nobles and other personalities”.

In a parchment book of the cathedral is preserved the writing of donation by King Alfonso III of Asturias.

In summer of 997 Santiago de Compostela was attacked by Almanzor, the authentic ruler of the Caliphate of Córdoba, after fearing his intentions, Bishop Pedro de Mezonzo evacuated the city.

Almanzor and his Muslim hosts burnt the pre-Romanesque temple dedicated to Santiago, respecting the tomb.

This allowed the continuity of the Camino de Santiago. By the year 1000 it was rebuilt by Bishop Pedro de Mezonzo.

Romanesque church

The temple of the tenth century also proved insufficient to attend the numerous pilgrimages that came to Santiago de Compostela.

Under the impulse of the king Alfonso VI the Bravo and the bishop Diego Peláez began the works of a great Romanesque cathedral in the year 1075, in charge of the masters Bernardo el Viejo and its assistant Galperinus Robertus with fifty hundredths of stone, according to The Codex Calixtinus.

Bishop Diego Peláez was dismissed in 1088, and works were stopped for some time.

Five years later the works were underway, led by the newly appointed administrator of the diocese, Diego Gelmírez, with the support of the new bishop Dalmacio and Raymond of Burgundy.

In 1101 the city of Compostela leaves the teacher Esteban leaving the chapels of the ambulatory completed and the works of the facade of the Platerías began.

From this moment onwards, the work continued, and during the first two decades of the twelfth century the work of the arms of the Cruiser (in 1111) was completed, until the last stone was laid, which, if we follow Codex Calixtinus, took place in 1122.

Diego Gelmírez, appointed bishop in 1100 and first archbishop of Compostela in 1120, was the most important figure in the task of promoting the construction activity in Santiago.

Although there were several stops during its construction, the great quantity of alms obtained made possible its return to the cult and its consecration in 1128.

In the year 1140 already had covered six sections of the ships, and the teacher Mateo took over the direction of works in 1168 when the Portico de la Gloria began, and although works continued until much of the thirteenth century, the cathedral was definitively consecrated in 1211.


Approximately since 813, with the discovery of the relics of the Apostle and under the protection of King Alfonso II of Asturias, the news spread rapidly throughout Christian Europe and the pilgrims begin to arrive at the place called the Campus Stellae (which Degenerate in the term Compostela), and which became progressively a center of pilgrimage with the foundation of a convent and various lodgings in the city itself.

In the year 850, Gotescalco, the French bishop of Le Puy-en-Velay, traveled to the tomb and is considered the first documented foreign pilgrim.

Religious linked to the Order of Cluny elaborated Codex Calixtinus and Compostela History for the archbishop Diego Gelmírez and the peninsular kings favored the constitution and projection of a network of cluniacenses monasteries in the north of the peninsula and especially in the proximities of Way of Santiago, thus obtaining great buildings of Romanesque style.

A privilege was granted, confirmed by Pope Alexander III, that the year in which the 25th of July, feast of Saint James the Great, coincided on Sunday, the same graces could be won in the church of Compostela as were granted in Rome Jubilee years, which there accustomed to coincide every twenty-five years.

It is the oldest of the two remaining cannons, the Regis aeterni, dating from 1179. This bull confirms a privilege granted by Pope Calixto II.

During the fourteenth century there were great social upheavals in Europe that diverted the pilgrims to other destinations.

On the other hand, the Reconquista displaced all the economic and governmental attention of the Spanish kingdoms towards the south.

The Schism of the West in 1378 damages and divides Christianity.

The fifteenth century also did not help its revitalization, full of unpleasant events in the old continent: wars, famine, plague and bad crops.

In spite of everything, many believers continued to go to the tomb of the Apostle to fulfill his penance but later the Path was falling into oblivion, and after the Middle Ages and Modern was losing importance.

Since the Holy Year of 1993, the Galician autonomous government decided to enhance its value by focusing it as a tourist resource and aimed at people with the profile of the traditional religious pilgrim; In this way a great publicity campaign was launched for Compostela of that year: the “Xacobeo 93”.

Thanks to this enhancement plan, sections of the route and infrastructure for pilgrims were restored and the Autonomous Communities through which the path was used.

This is indicated by arrows painted yellow, scallop shells, crosses of Santiago and other signs. In 1993 UNESCO considered it to be a World Heritage Site.

The stretches are long trails (GR) that generally have a length of more than fifty kilometers and are designed for walks of more than two days.

White and red paint marks guide the walker. The pilgrims who arrive at the cathedral have to show the “credential” of the Way, which will show that they have traveled and stayed in the places shown there.

The “Compostela” is a certificate issued by the ecclesiastical authorities and Which is given to the pilgrims when they finish their pilgrimage in the cathedral, and to obtain it one must have traveled a minimum of one hundred kilometers on foot (two hundred if one goes by bicycle or on horseback).

During the Middle Ages the “Compostelana” was a means of indulgence, which made it possible to halve the time of the soul’s stay in purgatory, and if it had been obtained in a Compostela Holy Year, the plenary indulgence was obtained.

There are numerous routes of pilgrimage of Compostela that have been created over the centuries.

In Spain begins in the ports of Somport (Vía Tolosana) or Roncesvalles (Navarra).

Although the roads by which the faithful arrive to Santiago are very numerous, one of the best known routes is the so-called Camino Francés; It is a journey of great cultural and artistic wealth to which are added other routes that the new pilgrims are forging each year, taking advantage of the historical routes to which they add new routes. Pilgrims are increasing year after year.

Exterior of the cathedral

Each one of the façades forms with their respective squares magnificent urbanistic sets.

The Baroque facade of the Obradoiro was realized by Casas Novoa in 1740; Also Baroque is the one of Azabachería, work of Ferro Caaveiro and Fernández Sarela and modified by Ventura Rodríguez; The one of Platerías, constructed by the teacher Esteban in 1103; And above all the Portico de la Gloria, the primary work of Romanesque sculpture, completed by Master Mateo in 1188.

Portico de la Gloria

The portico of the Glory of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is a portico in Romanesque style made by the master Mateo and his workshop by order of King Ferdinand II, who donated to this effect a hundred maravedis annual, between 1168 and 1188, the latter date Which is inscribed in stone in the cathedral as the one of its completion.

On April 1, 1188 the lintels of the portico were placed and the conclusion of the whole was delayed until 1211, at which time the temple was consecrated with the presence of King Alfonso IX.

The portico is divided into three half-point arches that correspond to each of the three naves of the church, supported by thick pillars with attached columns.

The central arch is the largest (twice as much as each side), is the only one that has tympanum and is divided by a central column, the mullion, with the figure of Santiago.

Vertically, the lower strip consists of the bases of the columns, decorated with fantastic animals, the middle strip is formed by columns that support the statues of the Apostles and the upper by the arches that crown the three gates.

The sculptural set is intended to be an iconographic representation of different symbols taken from the Apocalypse of St. John and other Old Testament texts.


The disposition of the tympanum is based on the description of Christ made by the evangelist John in the Apocalypse (Chapter 1, 1-18).

In the center, the pantocrator is shown, with the image of Christ in Majesty, showing in his hands and feet the wounds of the crucifixion.

Surrounding Christ, the tetramorphs with the figures of the four evangelists with their attributes: on the left, above Saint John and the eagle and down Saint Luke with the ox; To the right, above San Mateo on the chest of the tax collector and below San Marcos and the lion.

On both sides of the evangelists, behind St. Mark and Luke, four angels appear on each side with the instruments of the Passion of Christ.

Some lead the cross and the crown of thorns (left) and the spear and the four nails (right), others the column in which it was whipped and the jar with which Pontius Pilate washed.

On the heads of these angels, two numerous groups of souls of the blessed, forty in all.

In the archivolt of the central tympanum are seated the twenty-four elders of the Apocalypse, each holding a musical instrument, as preparing a concert in honor of God.


In the mullion or mainel is the sedentary figure of Santiago Apóstol with a pilgrim’s staff, as patron of the basilica.

Santiago appears with a parchment where it is written Misit em Dominus (the Lord sent me). The column ends on its head with a capital where the temptations of Christ are represented in three of its faces; In which he looks towards the interior of the temple, two kneeling angels pray.

At the foot of the saint is another capital with the figures of the Holy Trinity.

Under the Apostle is represented the tree of Jesse, the name given to the family tree of Jesus Christ from Jesse, father of King David; Is the first time this theme is represented in religious iconography in the Iberian peninsula.

The column rests on a base where there is a bearded figure to the chest (perhaps an image of Noah) and two lions.

At the foot of this central column, in the upper interior facing the main altar of the cathedral, is the kneeling figure of the own master Mateo, holding a sign written on Architectus.

This image is popularly known as «Saint two croques», 41 because of the old tradition of students hitting their heads against the figure to receive wisdom, a tradition that was adopted later by the pilgrims, although steps are being taken to limit the access to try to stop the deterioration that for this reason has suffered the work.


In the columns of the central door and the two side doors are represented apostles, prophets and other figures, with their iconographic attributes.

All are crowned with their respective capital where they represent different animals and human heads with leaf motifs.

All the figures were policromadas and with its name inscribed in the books or parchments that hold in their hands.

The four pillars of the portico are supported on strong basements where groups of animals and bearded human heads are represented.

For some authors these figures are images of demons, and symbolize that the weight of glory (the porch in this case) crushes to sin.

Other sources give him an apocalyptic interpretation, with wars, famine and death (represented by the beasts), situations that can only be saved thanks to the human intelligence (the heads of the old men).

Side doors

The right door arch represents the Last Judgment. The double archivolt is divided into two equal parts by two heads.

Some authors identify these heads with the figures of Michael and Christ, for others they are Christ-Judge and an angel, and other sources indicate that they represent God the Father and God the Son.

To the right of these heads appears Hell, with figures of monsters (demons) that drag and torture the souls of the damned.

On the left, Heaven with the chosen ones, with figures of angels with children that symbolize the saved souls.

The left door arch depicts scenes from the Old Testament, with the righteous waiting for the Savior’s arrival.

In the center of the first archivolt is God the Creator, who blesses the pilgrim and holds the book of Eternal Truth; To his right is Adam (nude), Abraham (with index raised) and Jacob.

With them there are two more figures that could be Noah (new father of the humanity to save it of the Deluge) and Esau or Isaac and Judah. To the left of God we see Eve, Moses, Aaron, King David and Solomon.

In the second archivolt, the upper one, ten small figures represent the twelve tribes of Israel.

Facade of the Obradoiro

The square of the Obradoiro to which it gives this facade alludes to the workshop (obradoiro, in Galician) of stonecutters that worked in the square during the construction of the cathedral.

To protect the Portico de la Gloria from the deterioration it was suffering from inclement weather, this façade and its towers had already undergone several renovations since the 16th century. In the XVIII century it was decided to construct the present baroque facade, work of Fernando de Casas Novoa.

It has large glass windows that allow to illuminate the old Romanesque facade and is between the towers of the Bells and the Carraca.

In the middle of the central body is James the Apostle and a level below his two disciples, Athanasius and Theodore, all dressed as pilgrims.

In the middle, the urn (representation of the tomb found) and the star (representation of the luminarias that the hermit Pelayo saw) between angels and clouds.

In the tower to the right is Maria Salomé, mother of Santiago, and in the tower of the left its father, Zebedeo.

On the balustrade of this left part you can see St. Susanna and St. John and on the right of St. Barbara and St. James the Less.

To climb up to the entrance of the façade is a staircase, made in the seventeenth century by Ginés Martínez, Renaissance style inspired by Jacopo Vignola’s Palace Farnesio, diamond-shaped with two ramps surrounding the entrance to the old crypt 12th century Romanesque style of the master Mateo, popularly called “Old Cathedral”.

Between the existing plan of the facade of the Obradoiro and the old Romanesque portal (Portico de la Gloria) is a covered narthex.

This façade has become a symbol of the cathedral and the city of Santiago de Compostela.

Proof of its representativeness is the engraving that appears on the back of the Spanish coins of 1, 2 and 5 euro cents.

A restoration of the façade made in 2014 discovered quite a few improvements to its original construction.

South facade

The facade of the Platerías (Praterías, in Galician) is the southern façade of the cathedral cruiser of Santiago de Compostela and is the only Romanesque facade that remains in the cathedral.

It was erected between 1103 and 1117 and during the following centuries it has been added elements from other places of the cathedral.

The Plaza de las Platerías is delimited by the cathedral and the cloister on two sides; Contiguous to the cathedral is the Casa del Cabildo.

It consists of two entrance doors in degradation with archivolts and historian tympanum.

The archivolts are on eleven terraced columns, three of them are of white marble (the central one and those of the ends) and the rest of granite.

In the center they appear the figures of twelve prophets and in the lateral ones the Apostles.

On the tympanum is a great frieze that is separated from the upper body by a fringe supported by grotesque canecillos; On this floor are two windows that are adorned by Romanesque archivolts.

In the central frieze is Christ, with characters and scenes, to his right the six figures that belong to the choir of stone of the master Mateo that were placed at the end of the nineteenth century.

The original layout of the iconographic elements was distorted Since in the eighteenth century numerous images recovered from the dismantled facade of Azabacherías were introduced.

In a central medallion appears the Eternal Father (or the Transfiguration) with the open hands and on the arcs in the extradós they appear four angels with trumpets that announce the Final Judgment.

In the tympanum of the left door appears Christ tempted by a group of demons.

To the right appears a woman half dressed with a skull in the hands, that could be Eva or the adulterous woman; This figure is not praying on his knees but is sitting on two lions.

On the jambs are Saint Andrew and Moses. In the left buttress, the biblical King David sitting on his throne with his legs crossed, translucent through the thin fabric of his clothes, and playing a viola, personifies triumph over evil and is a prominent work of Romanesque, carved by The teacher Stephen or master of the Silversmiths; also appears the creation of Adam and Christ blessing.

Many of these figures come from the northern Romanesque façade or the Paradise (present façade of Azabachería) and were placed on this façade in the eighteenth century.

In the tympanum of the right door appear several scenes of the passion of Christ and the adoration of the Magi.

In one of the jambs appears the inscription that commemorates the placement of the first stone:


Inscription that follows the Roman calendar and, according to the calculation of the Hispanic era, corresponds to 11 of July of 1103.

An image, not identified, on a fox that eats a hare and, opposite this, a woman badly dressed with a Animal in the lap, come from another place.

Supported in the wall of the tower Berenguela appear other images that represent the creation of Eve, Christ in a throne and the sacrifice of Isaac.

North Facade

The façade of Azabachería (Acibecharía, in Galician) is located in the Plaza de la Inmaculada or Azabachería, where the last urban section of the French, Primitive, Northern and English roads ends through the old Francígena door or door Paradise.

The Romanesque portal was built in 1122 by Bernardo, temple treasurer.

This gate was demolished after having suffered a fire in the year 1758; Some sculptural pieces that were saved were placed on the facade of the Silversmiths.

The new one was projected in baroque style by Lucas Ferro Caaveiro and finished by Domingo Lois Monteagudo and Clemente Fernández Sarela in neoclassical style, although it conserved some tracts of baroque, the year 1769.

At the top of the facade is a statue of Santiago from the eighteenth century, with two kings at their feet in a position of prayer: Alfonso III and Ordoño II. In the center is the statue of the Faith.

East facade

The facade of the cathedral that overlooks the Plaza de la Quintana has two doors, the Baroque Puerta Real, begun under the direction of José de Vega and Verdugo by José de la Peña de Toro in 1666 and completed by Domingo de Andrade in 1700, which made large columns that span two floors of windows, a balustrade with large pinnacles and an edicule with an equestrian sculpture of Santiago (now disappeared), very decorated with decoration of fruit clusters and military trophies on a large scale.

Through this door the kings of Spain acceded to the cathedral, hence their name, and on their lintel is the royal coat of arms.

The so-called Puerta Santa or Puerta del Perdón is the closest to the steps, is generally closed with a grid and opens only the jubilee years, on December 31 of the previous year.

It was one of the seven minor gates and was dedicated to San Pelayo (whose monastery is directly opposite).

On this door you can see in some niches the image of Santiago and his disciples Athanasius and Theodore at his side.

In the lower body and on both sides of the door twenty-four figures of prophets and apostles (including that of Santiago) came from the old stone choir of Master Mateo.

In the interior of this door passing a small patio is the true Holy Door, through which you enter the ambulatory of the apse of the temple.

Tower of the Bells

The primitive towers that were in the main facade of the cathedral were Romanesque (current facade of the Obradoiro).

They are called respectively Tower of the Bells, the one located in the side of the Epistle (right), and tower of the Carraca, in the side of the Gospel (left); Both have a height of between 75 and 80 meters.

The first body of the tower was built in the 12th century; In the fifteenth century various modifications were made and King Louis XI of France donated in 1483 the two major bells of the thirteen with which it counts.

Due to an inclination that was detected in its structure between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries it had to be reinforced with buttresses, between 1667 and 1670 Jose de la Peña made the Baroque style body in which the bells were housed, and which was completed by Domingo de Andrade.

The architecture of the towers has a great effect of perspective thanks to its vertical lines and the staggering of its floors.

North tower or Carraca tower

It is located to the left side of the facade of the Obradoiro, was built like its companion of the opposite side on another one of the Romanesque period.

It was designed by Fernando de Casas Novoa in 1738, imitating the Tower of the Bells made by Peña del Toro and Domingo de Andrade in the 17th century, obtaining a baroque decoration with all kinds of ornamentation that contributed an architectural unification throughout the façade.

In April 2010 a replica of the old carraca was installed, because it is not possible to restore it, which will become part of the cathedral museum.

The new one is a faithful copy of the old instrument and has been made with the same kind of chestnut wood, it consists of four rectangular boxes of resonance with a tongue in each one that when turning on a jagged axis and beating them make them sound; The boxes are placed in the shape of a cross and each arm measures a little more than two meters.

This ancient instrument, currently in disuse in the liturgy, was played during the celebrations of Holy Week as a symbol of mourning for the death of Jesus, to silence the sound of the bells during this time of recollection.

Clock Tower, Trinity or Berenguela

The Clock Tower, also called the Trinity or not, in all fairness, the Berenguela, is at the intersection of the Plaza de las Platerías and the Plaza de la Quintana.

It is traditionally considered that its construction began in 1316, at the request of Archbishop Rodrigo de Padron, as a defense tower and after his death, his successor, Archbishop Berenguel de Landoria, continued with the work, although some authors maintain that this data may not be When he was appointed master of the cathedral, Domingo de Andrade continued its construction and between 1676 and 1680 he raised two more floors and with the use of various structures he obtained a harmonious and ornamental ensemble with a pyramidal shape and a lantern as a final ending (in which four incandescent lamps are permanently lit). It rises to seventy-five meters of altitude.

In 1833 was placed a watch of four spheres (one for each face of the tower), realized by Andrés Antelo and that had been an order of the archbishop Rafael de Vélez.

As part of its mechanism has two bells, the one of the hours, call Berenguela, and another smaller that marks the quarters; The two were cast in 1729 by Güemes Sampedro, the Berenguela has a diameter of 255 cm and a height of 215 cm, weighing approximately 9600 kilos, and that of the rooms weighs 1839 kilos with a diameter of 147 cm and a height of 150 cm.

Both bells suffered a cracking that forced their replacement; The current replicas were cast in Asten (Netherlands) by the Eijsbouts house in 1989 and were placed in the cathedral in February 1990.

Interior of the cathedral

The structure of the building is located on an area of eight thousand square meters, consists of a plant in Latin cross of three naves of a length of about one hundred meters with a cruise also three naves and about seventy meters in length.

The height in the central nave is twenty-two meters in all its route and reaches the maximum thirty-two in the vault of the cruise.

The dome, located above the center of the transept, is Gothic and replaces the old Romanesque style.

Near the main altar, the tour is composed of several Romanesque chapels absidal, the central square plant, and also has two apses in each of the arms of the cruise.

On the side aisles, separated from the central by forty-two columns, is a triforium with cannon room cover and balcony of double arched windows.

The central nave is covered with barrel vault over arches fajones and the lateral ones with aristas vaults.

The illumination comes from the windows of the two floors of the aisles of the Romanesque period, in the main chapel they are poly-lobed and those that correspond to the girola are ox’s eyes.

The interior ornamentation can be seen in the capitated capitals of the part of the apse and in the vegetable adornments of the gallery.

The cathedral has two large organs located in the central part of the upper sections of the main nave.

They were made in 1708 and 1712 by order of the cathedral chapter to the teacher Manuel de la Viña and the box to the architect Antonio Afonsín and the sculptor Manuel Romay.

In 1978 they were merged into one, the console was replaced and electronic and computer mechanisms were included by an Italian company.


Choir of stone

Made by Master Mateo and his workshop around 1200, there was a choir of stone that occupied four sections of the central nave, was shaped like a rectangle with crestería and the ceremonial seats were decorated with images of apostles and prophets that were between buildings, in a representation of the heavenly Jerusalem.

It was dismantled from the cathedral in 1603 to replace it with a wooden one, and its pieces were used for other purposes and also used as masonry.

Twenty-four sculptures of apostles, prophets and patriarchs from this stone choir are found at the door of the facade of the Plaza de la Quintana.

In several works of excavation and restoration of the cathedral have been found pieces that belonged to the choir, and that at the moment is exposed in the museum of the cathedral.

The military man and chronicler of the Apostle Santiago Mauro Castellá Ferrer, who witnessed its destruction, wrote: “The most beautiful antique choir in Spain has been discarded.”

Wooden choir

The new choir of wood was the work of the sculptors Juan Davila and Gregorio Español for the order of the archbishop Juan de Sanclemente in the early seventeenth century, who decided to dismantle the previous one for the placement of the archbishop chair that was missing the previous one and to adapt it to the provisions of the Council of Trent.

It was made under Davila’s design with two rows of seats, the first consisting of thirty-five seats with half-body figures backs, and the second consists of forty-nine seats with standing figures representing apostles, prophets, church doctors, martyrs and other founding and local saints.

The archbishop’s chair placed in the middle of the second floor presides the whole. After occupying a space in the central nave of the cathedral, in 1945 it was decided to dismantle and transfer to the Monastery of San Martín Pinario and a second transfer to the Monastery of Santa Maria de Sobrado in 1973.

These trips resulted in important Damage in the whole of the ashlar, so in 2002 it was decided to proceed with its restoration and reassembly in the Monastery of San Martín Pinario.

Main chapel

The main chapel was Romanesque in its origin but was reformed during the Baroque period by order of the new master of works, Jose de Vega and Verdugo, named by Innocent X.

It counts at the entrance with Renaissance pulpits on both sides with scenes from the life of the Apostle Made by Juan Bautista Celma in 1578.

A canopy of the seventeenth century supported by angels and a baroque dressing room.

The altar was built by Domingo Antonio de Andrade on the tomb of the Apostle and in which he placed three representations of the saint, inside the dressing room an image of Santiago seated in polychrome stone from the 13th century dressed as a pilgrim with a silver enslaved adorned with great rhinestones; One can climb up the back of the altar to perform the traditional embrace of the saint.

On the tabernacle is represented Santiago in an equestrian statue and four kings honor him: Alfonso II, Ramiro I, Fernando el Católico and Felipe IV.

Finally, the representation of the cardinal virtues, prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance is found at every angle.

Archbishop of Mexican origin Antonio Monroy was the patron who donated silver for the construction of the altar front, the tabernacle, the exhibitor and the image of the Immaculate.

Sepulchral crypt

According to Catholic tradition, under the dressing room is the tomb of James and his two disciples, Athanasius and Theodore.

For fear of the frequent incursions of English pirates, especially Francis Drake who had threatened Compostela after landing in La Coruna in 1589, by order of Archbishop John of Sanclemente the relics were moved that same year and hidden in the floor of the apse of the temple Next to the main chapel.

In time, this place was forgotten and in January 1879 Cardinal Miguel Payá y Rico decided to recover the relics and several excavations were carried out until finding an urn that contained bones in the area of the apse; After an analysis by the Compostela University, the Holy See carried out a process that culminated in its authentication by Pope Leo XIII in 1884 through the bull God Omnipotens.

Reforms were carried out in the crypt to show the relics in a new chiseled silver urn of Romanesque style with the central image of Maiestas Domini inside a mandorla surrounded by the tetramorphs and the Apostles on both sides, which was made according to the design of Jose Losada In 1886 and placed on a marble altar.

In spite of the studies carried out during the process of authentication of the remains that are kept under the altar of the cathedral, 69 and several authors defend their validity, 70 this authenticity was questioned on several occasions, 71 among others, for the Spanish historian Claudio Sánchez-Albornoz.

Capilla del Pilar

This chapel is formed by the union of the old chapels of San Andrés and San Fructuoso built by order of the archbishop Diego Gelmírez. Its new construction was due to the desire of the archbishop Antonio Monroy and to use as sacristy.

He commissioned the work in 1694 to Domingo de Andrade and Novoa and it was continued by the new master of works Fernando de Casas after the death of the previous one in 1712.

The altarpiece was realized by Romay following the design of Fernando de Casas.

The central image of the Virgin of the Pillar is of stone and contains among others the figures of the saints Domingo de Guzmán, Sebastián, Thomas of Aquino and Juan the Baptist.

In the attic a painting of the Apparition of the Virgin of the Pillar to Santiago of the compostela painter Juan Antonio Garci’a of Bouzas who in 1719 was in charge of the set of the pictorial decoration of the chapel with base of fake marbles and jaspes.

There is also the tomb of the archbishop Antonio Monroy represented in an attitude of prayer, made by Diego Fernandez de Sande.

The chapel has an ochavada dome with a lantern adorned with carvings of military and heraldic motifs.

It was used as a sacristy until 1879 when, by order of Cardinal Miguel Payá and Rico, it happened to have only the function of chapel.

Chapel of Mondragón

The Chapel of the Pieta, known as chapel of Mondragón, founded in 1521 by the canon Juan de Mondragón with license of the archbishop Alonso de Fonseca and Ulloa and finished the following year, is of flamboyant gothic ogival style of century XVI.

It emphasizes the relief In terracotta of the Descent of Jesus or Lamentation on Christ dead, work of Miguel of Seville of the year 1526.

Chapel of the Azucena or of Pedro

Located next to the Holy Door the next chapel by the turn, called formerly of San Pedro and later of the Azucena, was founded by Mencía de Andrade in 1571, who also has in the chapel his tomb with recumbent statue realized by Juan Bautista Celma.

The baroque altarpiece was designed by Fernando Casas Novoa and built by Francisco de Moas in 1731, and in it you can see the images of the Virgin of the Azucena and the saints Pedro, José, Judas Tadeo and Rita de Casia.

Also The mural paintings, discovered after a restoration made in 1998, by Juan Bautista Celma and representing the Exaltation of Saint Peter and the Conversion of Saint Paul, stand out.

Chapel of the Savior

It is the chapel that is located in the center of the girola and is where the construction of the Romanesque cathedral in the eleventh century was begun by the teacher Bernardo el Viejo, as evidenced by the inscriptions on two of the capitals of the entrance arch in the chapel, one with the representation of King Alfonso VI and the other with two angels carrying a band where you can read:

Reigning Prince Alfonso did this work.

And the other, which represents the bishop Diego Peláez, with the inscription that the angels maintain that it says:

In the time of the prelate Diego began this work.

In this chapel is an altarpiece in polychrome marble of Plateresque style whose principal was the archbishop Alonso Fonseca and Ulloa, in the early sixteenth century.

This altarpiece contains the images of the Savior, of the Mother of God with the Child and of Santiago pilgrim.

Chapel of Our Lady of the White

The chapel of Our Lady the White, also called of the Spain, in memory of its founder Juan of Spain (whose grave is in this chapel) and family, which when dying without succession ceded it to Pedro de Arosa.

Its neogothic altarpiece is from 1906, it contains in the center the baroque image of Our Lady of the White, size of Gregorio Fernández Prieto of 1747, and in one side is the image of the Virgin of Montserrat.

In this chapel the guild of silversmiths gives worship to Saint Eloy.

Chapel of St John

The chapel of San Juan, formerly of Santa Susana, was founded by the archbishop Diego Gelmírez to render worship to this saint.

Its altarpiece contains the images of San Juan, from the XV century, and that of St. Susanna and Santo Domingo de la Calzada, modern works by Mariñas in 1902.

In this chapel is the burial of Bishop Miguel Novoa Fuente on the ground and Of the sister of Archbishop Juan de Sanclemente.

Chapel of St. Bartholomew

The chapel, formerly called the Santa Fe and now of San Bartolomé, has a plateresque altarpiece in polychrome marble, the work of flamenco Mateo Arnao, which contains the images of the Virgin of Good Counsel in the center, with the representations of Saint Bartholomew and of Santiago pilgrim on both sides.

In the same chapel is the Renaissance tomb also made by the master Arnao, where the remains of Diego de Castilla, great-grandson of King Pedro I the Cruel, who died in 1521.

The burial counts with the figure of a lying body dressed in a raincoat and embroidered ornaments, the head is on two pillows and the feet rest on a lion. Below is an inscription that says:

“It is a compliment of the deceased and partially configures his spiritual portrait, highlighting the range, prestige and condition of the character.”

On the sarcophagus there is a bas-relief of the Resurrection of Jesus.

Capilla de la Concepción

The chapel of the Conception of Mary, also called of the Prima because the canons celebrated in her the “mass prima”, was reformed and projected in the year 1525 by Juan de Álava and dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, whose image was realized in polychrome stone By Cornelis or Cornielles of Holland in the 16th century.

Its altarpiece with double altar is the work of Simón Rodríguez and the image of the Descent of the Cross from the altar on the left is the work of Diego Fernández de Sande, all done in 1721. In the ground is buried the architect Domingo Antonio de Andrade.

Chapel of the Holy Spirit

The Chapel of the Holy Spirit is located near the entrance to the church-chapel of the Corticela, in the north arm of the cruise, was founded at the end of the XIII century, with endowment for twelve clerics to whom, in century XV, Archbishop Álvaro de Isorna gave them the title of “Holy spirit rationers” with the obligation, among other things, to sing every afternoon the Salve Regina to Our Lady.

The magnificent tombs of the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries stand out in this chapel. It was enlarged in the fourteenth century and subsequently amended several times.

The image of the Virgen de la Soledad, made in 1666, was transferred from behind the choir of the cathedral to this chapel for worship.

The embroidered mantle is a gift from the archbishop and religious capuchin, Fray Rafael de Velez.

The pedestal, the angels and ornamental pieces are also donated pieces, and the silver front was made by Antonio Morales in 1747.

Chapel of the Corticela

It had its origin in an oratorio dedicated to Santa Maria, call of the Corticela, that was destroyed in century IX.

It was rebuilt in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and was integrated into the layout of the cathedral towards the eighteenth century; This chapel is accessed through a passageway of the North Cruiser.

The Romanesque door consists of several archivolts with columns and capitals decorated with vegetal and zoomorphic motifs, and the tympanum represents the Adoration of the Magi.

The plant consists of three naves separated by semicircular arches with columns of capitals also decorated with vegetable motifs.

The apse of the headboard has a window with stained (checkered) decoration.

In the right lateral ship is the grave of Cardinal Gonzalo Eans, who died in 1342, with his lying figure installed under a bow-shaped ogival decorated with diamond points.

Communion Chapel

Also called the Sacred Heart, it is in the nave on the side of the Gospel; On the entrance wall is an alabaster image of the Virgen del Perdón.

This chapel was founded by Lope de Mendoza in 1451 for his burial.

In the eighteenth century underwent reforms under the mandate of Archbishop Bartolomé Rajoy, transforming the architect Miguel Ferro Caaveiro much of the chapel in neoclassical style with a dome over eight columns of Ionic order.

The altarpiece is of Francisco de Lens and contains four images of doctors of the Church realized by astorgano Gregorio Spanish and by Juan Dávila, of Castilian ancestry, who also executed the seat of the choir of the cathedral between 1599 and 1608 and that at the moment is conserved In the monastery of Sobrado del Obispo.

The tomb of Archbishop Rajoy is to the right of the chapel and on the left side is that of Archbishop Lope de Mendoza.

Chapel of the Christ of Burgos

The chapel of the Christ of Burgos owes its name to the image of a Christ carved in wood in Burgos in 1754 of anonymous author.

It was founded by Archbishop Pedro Carrillo y Acuña as a funeral chapel and in it is found his sculpture in an attitude of prayer in the left part of the chapel.

Its construction was realized by Melchor Velasco and Agüero in 1665 with the plant in form of Greek cross and a dome of artisans.

It has two lateral altars of baroque style executed by Melchor de Prado; On the altar on the right side is represented the evangelical scene of Mary Salome interceding in favor of her sons James and John before Christ, and on the left altar shows the scene of the weeping of St. Peter after denying Jesus.

Chapel of the Relics

This chapel was built between 1520 and 1535 on the orders of Archbishop Alonso de Fonseca and Ulloa to the architect Juan de Álava (disciple of Juan Gil de Hontañón) who made it with a cover of cross vault.

It contains an important collection of relics that began during the Middle Ages when used to contain the mortal remains of the different bishops of the cathedral.

The reliquaries are placed in a neogothic altarpiece of 1924 designed by Rafael de la Torre on a previous one by Bernardo Cabrera and Gregorio Español of the year 1630 and that was half destroyed by a fire in 1921, although they did not suffer damage to the reliquaries or their relics.

Royal Pantheon

In this chapel are several graves that were transferred in 1535 from its original location in the chapel of Santa Catalina.

A century later arcosolios were constructed in the walls of the chapel where they were placed the tombs of:

  • Raymond of Burgundy (1050-1107), husband of Queen Urraca I of Leon and father of Alfonso VII the Emperor, and
  • Berenguela de Barcelona (1108-1149), Queen Consort of Castile and Leon, wife of Alfonso VII and daughter of Ramon Berenguer III,
  • Fernando II (1137-1188), king of Leon and son of Alfonso VII the Emperor,
  • Alfonso IX (1171-1230), king of Leon and son of Fernando II of Leon,
  • Juana de Castro (? -1374), queen consort of Castile and Leon and second wife of Pedro I of Castile.

Throughout history, other members of royalty also wanted to make the cathedral their resting place. Thus, in different locations within it, are the tombs of:

  • Fernando de León (1192-1214), son of King Alfonso IX of Leon,
  • Pedro Fernandez de Castro (m. 1342), grandson of Sancho IV of Castile and father of the queen Juana de Castro, and
  • Diego de Castilla (m. 1521), great-grandson of Pedro I of Castile and maestrescuela of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

Cathedral treasure

Next to the Chapel of the Relics is a Gothic chapel that contains diverse cathedral treasures among which the processional custody carried out in 1544 by the goldsmith Antonio de Arfe stands out; Is four and a half meters high and has four floors formed by plateresque style columns with a large number of figures of the Apostles and a resurrected Christ, and on the base are scenes recorded from the life of the Apostle James.

In addition, other crosses belonging to different archbishops and from different periods, silver images from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, crucifixes of ivory as well as a Virgin, also of this material, from the sixteenth century are shown.

Cloister and Archive

The cloister has a square plant of thirty-four meters of side and was constructed at the beginning of century XVI according to the planes of the architects Juan de Álava and Juan Gil de Hontañón; In its construction several teachers intervened from its beginning in 1521 until its conclusion in 1590.

It is of gothic-Renaissance style of the Castilian school and is crowned with a balustrade fixed with pinnacles.

As usual in the old cloisters there are graves of people related to the cathedral.

On the north side is the chapel of Alba, founded in 1530, which contains an altarpiece with the Transfiguration of Jesus, a work dating from the eighteenth century.

At an angle of the cloister are the original bells of the Berenguela tower.

From the cloister one can access the Chapter Hall, built by Lucas Ferro Caaveiro, and the Library Archive of the cathedral, where manuscripts such as the Codex Calixtinus of Liber Sancti Iacobi, among many other books and documents refer to the cathedral and the history of Galicia from the Middle Ages to the present day.


The cathedral has a collection of tapestries that can be found in five exhibition halls, one of them dedicated only to the twelve of Francisco de Goya who were bequeathed to the cathedral in 1814 by Pedro Acuña and Malvar.

These tapestries had been made in the Royal Tapestry Factory of Santa Barbara by order of King Carlos III for the Royal Sites of El Pardo between 1776 and 1780.97 In the other rooms different tapestries of David Teniers, Mariano Salvador Maella, Ramón Bayeu and Peter Paul Rubens.


The Botafumeiro is an immense silver-plated brass censer that weighs 62 kilograms empty and measures 1.60 meters in height.

The previous Botafumeiro weighed 60 kg, but in 2006 it was added a silver bath that increased its weight up to 62 kg today.

The rope that supports it, tied to the cruiser of the cathedral, at present is of a synthetic material, has a length of 65 m, 5 centimeters in diameter and weighs 90 kg. Previously the ropes were made of hemp or esparto.

The Botafumeiro is filled with about 40 kg of coal and incense (which exceeds 100 kg at the beginning of its movements), then is tied with strong knots to a long rope that goes up to the roof of the building, and moves through a mechanism of pulleys by the nave of the church; To get it, a group of eight men, who are called tiraboleiros, push it first to set it in motion, and then pull each one of a rope from the rope to get speed.

The movement of the Botafumeiro can reach a speed of 68 km / h during its movement by the cruise of the cathedral, from the door of the Azabachería to the door of the Platerías, describing an arc of 65 m and a maximum height of 21 m Angle of 82 °). To reach this maximum height, 17 complete courses are needed.

The tradition says that the use of the censer in the cathedral of Santiago began in the eleventh century, with the idea of perfuming the temple and eliminate the bad smell left by the pilgrims, tired, sweaty and defective and many of them sick.

In 1200 the initial system of pulleys was changed by a system of rolling that allowed the lateral displacement, which could travel about 150 cm, which was the distance that allowed the rope.

King Louis XI of France donated to the cathedral in 1400 a sum of money to replace the medieval censer, which was not made until 1554.

The current rolling mechanism of the Botafumeiro was installed in 1604.

The new censer was entirely made of silver but was stolen by Napoleon’s troops in April 1809 during the War of Independence, being replaced by the present one, which was created by the goldsmith Jose Losada in 1851.

An indication of the symbolic importance of the Botafumeiro in Spain is the design of the coins of 5 pesetas of the year 1993, with an engraving of the censer compostelano.


The cathedral presents several structural problems quite common in this type of buildings.

These are especially emphasized by the rains, which give rise to water leaks into the interior of the church and minor detachments.