The facade of the Obradoiro from the old Royal Hospital of Santiago, founded by the Catholic Monarchs.
The facade of the Obradoiro from the old Royal Hospital of Santiago, founded by the Catholic Monarchs.

Santiago Cathedral


In the year 44 A.D., after the beheading of the Apostle James in Palestine, his disciples Athanasius and Theodore collected his body and, according to legend, took it in a miraculous boat to the coast of Roman Hispania. They arrived at Finisterrae, on the coast of Gallaecia, and deposited the body in a Roman mausoleum in the forest of Libredon.

When around the middle of the 9th century, perhaps around 829, the hermit Solvius Pelagius observes strange phenomena in the stars above the forest of Libredon and hears angelic chants, he starts a phenomenon that will transform not only his immediate surroundings, the area of the Roman Mansio Asseconia, but all of Europe through the roads that will bring millions of pilgrims to Compostela from all its confines throughout history.

King Alfonso II built a church and a monastery to house the relics of St. James and to attend to the pilgrims. Despite the Muslim presence in the Peninsula, the temple becomes an episcopal see in 834, marking the first steps towards the future Cathedral of Santiago and the city of Santiago de Compostela.

The church of Alfonso II was replaced between 872 and 899 by a larger temple in Visigothic style, with three naves and luxurious materials, under the reign of Alfonso III The Great. This temple had a wide chevet to house the Roman mausoleum of Santiago, access by a western portico and a baptismal chapel dedicated to St. John the Baptist on the north wall. Although it was attacked by Almanzor in 997, it was rebuilt.

With the increase of pilgrims, the current Cathedral of Santiago was built in Romanesque style, influenced by the French Way. Construction began in 1075 and was completed in 1188.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, significant transformations were carried out in the Cathedral of Santiago, highlighting the reorganization of the chancel by Canon Vega y Verdugo, the creation of the facade of the Quintana by José de la Peña de Toro, and the Baroque influence, especially evident in the facade of the Obradoiro designed by Fernando de Casas, who reused medieval elements to create a monumental work that reflects the apotheosis of Santiago and the Spanish monarchy.

The exterior appearance of the Cathedral of Santiago is almost definitively configured, but in its interior, during the Baroque period, numerous interventions were carried out, highlighting the construction of altarpieces for several chapels, including the chapel of Pilar and the chapel of the Christ of Burgos. The most significant transformation was in the main chapel, with the creation of a monumental baldachin and other masterpieces by artists such as Domingo de Andrade. In addition, the opening of the Roman mausoleum and the visit to the relics stand out. The incorporation of the Botafumeiro and the construction of the Communion chapel in neoclassical style also marked the artistic evolution of the cathedral. Over the years, several modifications were made, from the demolition of the old Paradise Façade to the contributions of the "neo" artistic movements in the 20th century, such as the neo-Gothic altarpiece of the chapel of the España and the Relics of Magariños, as well as the new bronze leaves of the Holy Door in 2004.

The Museum of the Cathedral of Santiago offers a complete tour of the cathedral complex, exhibiting historical documents, tympanums, sculptures and parts of altarpieces. The treasury reflects the artistic magnificence and generosity of illustrious pilgrims, highlighting a collection of tapestries by artists such as Rubens, Teniers and Goya. The comprehensive museum experience fuses history, art and treasure, offering an enriching journey.

The Apostle St. James and the Cathedral of St. James

After being beheaded in Palestine in the year 44 A.D., Athanasius and Theodore, disciples of St. James, collected the body of their master and, placed in a boat (made of stone according to some legends), they miraculously sailed adrift to the coasts that the Friend of the Lord had preached in life: Roman Hispania. They arrived at Finisterrae, the coasts of Gallaecia, and entering through the Ria de Arosa and after various vicissitudes in which legend and archaeological reality intersect (Reina Lupa, Pico Sacro...), they deposited the body in a 1st century Roman mausoleum located in a necropolis in Libredon.

Ceremony of the Translation of the Apostle St. James : Santiago Cathedral
Ceremony of the Translation of the Apostle Santiago. Relief in wood from the mannerist reform of the medieval choir.

When around the middle of the 9th century, perhaps around 829, the hermit of Solovio Pelagio observes some strange phenomena in the stars above the forest, and hears some angelic chants, he starts a phenomenon that will transform not only his immediate environment, the area of the Roman Mansio Asseconia, but all of Europe through the roads that will bring millions of pilgrims to Compostela from all its confines throughout history.

When the king of Asturias Alfonso II "The Chaste" heard the news from the bishop of Iria Flavia, Teodomiro, he ordered the construction of a small church to house inside the Arca Marmorica, the Roman mausoleum originally destined for Atia Moeta and where the bodies of Santiago and his disciples Athanasius and Theodore were deposited. He also ordered the construction of a small monastery, San Salvador de Antealtares, to guard and adore the relics, as well as to attend to the first pilgrims who began to arrive as soon as the news spread throughout the Christian world.

It must be taken into account that at this time a large part of the Peninsula was in the hands of the Muslims, who did not want to stop at the Pyrenees, but to go even further. This temple received in 834 a royal Preceptum that made it an episcopal see and gave it power over the nearby territories. Around it, seeking its protection, the first settlers began to establish themselves and Benedictine monastic groups in charge of the custody of the relics. These were the first steps of the future Cathedral of Santiago and the city of Santiago de Compostela.

Caliphate of Cordoba in the year 1000.
Caliphate of Cordoba in the year 1000.

Construction of the first churches

The church of Alfonso II soon became too small to accommodate the faithful, so between 872 and 899, Alfonso III The Great (nephew of the previous Alfonso), had a larger temple built in Visigothic style, with three naves and generous proportions for the time. In it they used luxurious materials, as recorded in the act of consecration and demonstrated by archaeological excavations: serpentine stone, red porphyry and marble brought from the recently reconquered city of Coria.

It was already a church of generous proportions for the time, with three naves covered with a wooden roof and a wide chevet because it was conditioned to house the Roman mausoleum of Santiago. The access was made by a western portico, attached to its north wall it had a baptistery chapel dedicated to San Juan Bautista. Numerous remains of this church were found in the excavations carried out in the mid-twentieth century.

Contemporary to this pre-Romanesque basilica will be the chapel of the Corticela (dedicated to San Esteban in its origin and to Santa Maria at the moment), today with Romanesque and later modifications and integrated in the Cathedral like one more chapel, it continues being parish of foreigners. It was born as a church to serve the Pinario monastery founded by the king in the vicinity of the basilica.

This pre-Romanesque basilica of Santiago was attacked in 997 by the Arab leader Almanzor, who, in addition to storming the city, set fire to the church and stole its doors and bells, which, according to tradition, were taken to his palaces in Cordoba on the shoulders of Christian prisoners. When this city was reconquered they were returned carried by Muslims as atonement. To this basilica may have belonged the baptismal font that is today in the south arm of the Cathedral and that, according to legend, the horse of Almanzor drank from it and fell immediately fulminated before such sacrilege.

Although Bishop San Pedro de Mezonzo and King Bermudo II took care to rebuild the church of Santiago immediately, it was too small for the huge number of pilgrims.

The Romanesque style was arriving through the French Way, the main one to Santiago, so the construction of the current Cathedral of Santiago began.

Construction of the Santiago Cathedral

The works of the Cathedral of Santiago begin in 1075 in the Chapel of the Savior, in times of the bishop Diego Peláez and with Alfonso VI as king. This is what we read in the inscriptions on its capitals and walls. The work was entrusted, according to the Codex Calixtinus, to Master Bernardo the Elder, together with Roberto and fifty other stonemasons.

The political turbulences that followed a few years later ended with the prelate in jail in 1087, which meant a first halt in the works until the figure of Diego Gelmirez burst into the history of Compostela in 1093 as administrator. In 1095 the see of Iria was transferred to Santiago, and in 1101 he was named bishop of Santiago, which meant that he had the authority to give a strong impetus to the works of the basilica.

Thus, in the following years the interrupted work was resumed, possibly after raising the three central chapels of the ambulatory, and in 1105 a practically finished transept could be consecrated with its two lateral facades and after having shortened a section of the church of the Corticela .

As for who was in charge of the works, several names have been speculated, such as Bernardo el Joven, grandson of the first master or of Esteban, although there is often talk of a master called de Platerías whose real affiliation is unknown. The progress of the works continued at a good pace, so that the old basilica of Alfonso III was already a nuisance and it was decided to demolish it in 1112.

A few years later, the revolts of 1117 against Bishop Gelmirez caused great damage to what had already been built, perhaps making it necessary to use some pieces in the damaged façades of the transept that were possibly destined for the western façade, which was still far from being erected.

Once Gelmirez returned to his seat, he rebuilt his episcopal palace on the north side of the Cathedral of Santiago. At the same time he continued the works of this one, already with the authority that confers him the fact of being named archbishop in 1120, thanks to his good relations with Rome. This also made it easier for Santiago to be elevated to a metropolitan see to the detriment of Mérida, which had not yet been reconquered from the Muslims.

The Codex Calixtinus and the Historia Compostelana place the end of the works in 1122 and 1124 respectively. However, the first of the books, after describing in detail the facades that were finished, when referring to the western one gives only a few simple brushstrokes of its appearance, with the excuse of a supposed magnificence that makes it impossible to describe it. It is clear that none of it was still standing, given that King Ferdinand II signed a contract in 1168 with Master Mateo - already in charge of the church's works, according to the records - to finish the construction of the church and, therefore, of its western façade as well. Mateo received an important pension for life, which, together with the fact that he is mentioned by name, indicates his prestige even at that time.

He built the last two sections of the main body (on the tribune is inscribed "Gudesteo", referring to Archbishop Pedro Gudestéiz) with hardly any alterations to the pre-existing design, and gave free rein to his genius and knowledge imported from France, where he erected the Pórtico de la Gloria.

To bridge the existing unevenness of the terrain on that side, where the old basilica of Alfonso III had not reached, Mateo built a crypt that supports the entire structure and whose large central composite pillar corresponds to the mullion of the Portico. Often mistakenly called "Old Cathedral" because of its elaborate plan - a small Latin cross with ambulatory and sketched chapels open to it as in the upper basilica -, the keystones of its vaults with the sun and the moon initiate an apocalyptic message that develops in the Portico of Glory and ends in the upper tribune. There a Mystic Lamb illuminates the City of God that will come after the end of days.

On April 1, 1188, the lintels of the Portico are placed, and its erection continues. Once the crypt and the Portico were finished, and the stone choir that occupied the first sections of the central nave was built, the church was finished with the Matthean western façade, permanently open to the exterior by large arcades that corresponded to the interior arches of the Portico of Glory and the "great mirror". This is the name given in the 16th century to the central rose window, which is another example of the advance towards the Gothic style made by the workshop of Master Mateo.

In front of the façade, a loggia similar to the present one opened on an esplanade in front of the wall of Santiago and its defensive towers. The previous fence had also been flattened around 1120 to allow the advance of the larger arm of the basilica. This terrace would not have access from the ground, but to enter the Cathedral from that side it would be done through two narrow stairways at the back of the crypt, the one on the north side still being practicable.

Finally, on April 21, 1211 and in the presence of Archbishop Pedro Muñiz and Alfonso IX, the Cathedral of Santiago was solemnly consecrated. It is the same one that lasts, with the transformations that we will comment, until our days. Placed in different points of the temple, even today the consecration crosses that accompanied the consecration ritual on that day can still be seen in its interior.

The city was surrounded by two kilometers of walls.
The city was surrounded by two kilometers of walls and the main streets of the historic center were just beginning to be laid out.

By that time the Romanesque style was being surpassed by the advances of the Gothic, and a few decades later, towards the middle of the 13th century, the archbishop Don Juan Arias intended to build a great chevet in the new style. Had it been completed, it would have meant the almost total occupation of the current Plaza de la Quintana, in addition to converting the floor plan into a Greek cross and giving it a very different appearance from the one it has today. However, with the death of the prelate, the plan fell into oblivion and only part of the planned perimeter under the stairs of the Quintana and on one side of the Romanesque chevet remains today.

A cloister attached to the south of the central nave was built in the same century. Although Gelmirez already had the intention of erecting a Romanesque one, it seems that it was never built. The Gothic was replaced by the present Plateresque, larger and on a higher level.

The 13th and 14th centuries also witnessed other additions and transformations to the original Romanesque. To the cloister and dome, higher than the original Romanesque, is added the construction of chapels that began to alter the four semicircular Romanesque ones of the transept and the five of the chancel. The oldest are the chapels of Nuestra Señora la Blanca or de los España, and Sancti Spiritus.

It will also be in these centuries when, in view of the turbulent situation that was occurring against the Compostela prelates, the entire upper part of the Cathedral was reinforced with battlements, taking advantage of the fact that its roofs were stepped terraces that could be walked on. With the same defensive purpose, the towers of the Trinity and the Berenguela were built in front of the western door, and a large tower called the Archbishop Gómez Manrique in one of the corners of the cloister. In the 15th century, a new defensive tower next to the south door would be the base of the current clock tower.

In addition, in this same century and in the following one, the transformations in the chapels multiplied: that of Mondragón, that of Prima, the funerary chapel of Don Lope de Mendoza, that of San Fernando and that of the Relics, as well as the others that open to the cloister, and the sacristy.

It was in 1521 when the construction of a new Plateresque cloister was begun on top of the old one, which had suffered numerous damages in the uprisings. Its construction will last until 1590, with traces of Juan de Alava.

It was also during the Renaissance when the tradition of a Holy Door for exclusive use during the jubilee years began, in imitation of Rome, and the exterior began to take shape as we know it today.

In the facade of the Obradoiro, the great arch of Mateo that never closed is demolished to place in its place two doors with their jambs, lintels and mullion that will begin to distort the old medieval facade, doomed to fall as a result of its costly conservation and new tastes in the Baroque.

In the interior, and after some modifications in the last years of the XVI century, and just at the beginning of the XVII century, Mateo's stone choir was demolished to replace it with a wooden Mannerist one more in accordance with the new dispositions after the Council of Trent and the taste of the time. It was designed by Juan da Vila and Gregorio Español.

During the same years, Ginés Martínez was building the stairs that still today give access to the door of the Obradoiro, reusing some ashlars of the choir turned upside down to use them as smooth stones. This facilitated the reconstruction of the choir carried out in the 1990s and today exhibited in the Cathedral Museum.

Transformations in the exterior of the Cathedral

It is precisely in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when there will be major transformations that leave the Cathedral of Santiago almost as we can surround it today on the outside and when visiting the interior. In addition, the Baroque brings an interest in urban planning that will also affect the urbanization of the spaces adjacent to the temple with its large squares and majestic neighboring buildings, almost all of them also related to the basilica as the Casa del Cabildo, the Dean's or the Conga.

Canon Vega y Verdugo, towards the middle of the 17th century, started an ambitious plan of reforms that began with the chancel. Here, after many centuries of works, additions, reforms, disorders... and taking into account that the Quintana was one of the busiest areas of the city and where the market was held, many of the deceased were buried and business was conducted in the nearby town halls, the appearance of the eastern part of the Cathedral was already a real chaos of entrances, protrusions, walls and chapels. Moreover, this lack of coherence and irregularity was accentuated by the simple and monumental wall of pure and sober lines of the Antealtares convent that had been built a few decades earlier.

Drawing José Vega y Verdugo. Cathedral Archives
Drawing José Vega y Verdugo. Cathedral Archives

José de la Peña de Toro designed the façade of the Quintana, which encloses all the later chapels and in which the Royal Portico, the Holy Door and the Abbots' Door open, as well as another space used for distributing Communion to the pilgrims. Behind this wall, the old church of the Corticela is integrated into the Cathedral, connected to the north nave by a stairway built at the back of the old chapel of San Nicolás, although it will conserve its doorway of Matthean influence. At the same time that the eastern façade was closed, the battlements, now unnecessary, were replaced by a baroque cresting of balusters and pinnacles of baroque taste.

The cloister, which had begun to be surrounded by new service rooms such as the Treasury in the Plaza de las Platerías, by Rodrigo Gil de Hontañon (1540), and with its new stepped tower, was completed in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries on the outside. Towards the Obradoiro, Gaspar de Arce and Juan de Herrera worked on the enclosure, with additions by Jácome Fernández (Torre de la Vela) in the 17th century and Lucas Caaveiro after a fire in 1751. On the other hand, in 1720, Fernando de Casas added a small façade open to the Plaza de las Platerías, and a few years earlier, in 1705, Simón Rodríguez designed the great Jacobean shell that supports, in this same square, stairs that connect the naves with the Treasury.

But it is undoubtedly the facade of the Obradoiro the work that will most influence the definitely baroque appearance that the Cathedral of Santiago has on the outside. The old medieval gable with the crypt mateana underneath and its exterior loggia had begun to change when in the 16th century it was closed with doors and the medieval arches were modified, and with the monumental staircase of the beginning of the 17th century.

Drawing José Vega y Verdugo. Cathedral Archives
Drawing José Vega y Verdugo. Cathedral Archives

The Romanesque façade was already out of fashion, one of the side towers had to be reinforced, and the large rose window with leaded glass in its central street required costly repairs. Thus, in 1738 it was ordered to be demolished and a new one was built according to the new baroque style, which was also an apotheosis of Santiago and the Spanish monarchy, represented by the figure of Santiago Peregrino venerated by kings, Atanasio, Teodoro, Santiago Alfeo, Santa Salomé, the Zebedeo, the royal coat of arms...

The important task of the new main façade of the Cathedral of Santiago was entrusted to Fernando de Casas, who did not completely dismantle everything that had gone before, knowing that if he removed any of the statues of Mateo's columns that support the vault of the Portico, the whole narthex would collapse.

He also reuses the lower cubes of the two side towers of the façade (the north tower of the ratchet and the south tower of the bells), but he makes them equal in height and designs their upper bodies in decreasing volumes up to the upper capulins, all of which are studded with rockeries, vegetal decoration, inlets and protrusions, and coats of arms in the baroque style. In the center, above the new "great mirror", the coat of arms of the chapter of Santiago, with the sarcophagus of the Apostle, the star above it and the choir of angels that announced its location to Pelagio.

Drawing José Vega y Verdugo. Cathedral Archives
Drawing José Vega y Verdugo. Cathedral Archives

The same solution of raising a baroque finial on a medieval lower body had been used in the dome that crowns the Gothic dome, and, above all, in the clock tower, emerged as a defensive cube since 1468 and reconverted into a tower of totally religious and civil use with the upper body raised by Domingo de Andrade in the last third of the seventeenth century. In it, since 1831, there is a clock by Andrés Antelo that marks the hours with a single needle on its four white marble dials. In the upper bodies, the bells of the hours and quarters of the 18th century gave way to the current ones at the end of the 20th century, after the bronze had cracked in the old ones. Today they are exhibited in the cloister of the Cathedral of Santiago.

Transformations in the interior of the Cathedral

Once the exterior appearance of the Cathedral of Santiago as we know it today was almost definitively configured, baroque interventions multiplied in the interior.

Although some medieval chapels had already received altarpieces in the 16th century, such as those of El Salvador, Santa Fe or Mondragón, it is now when most of the altarpieces for the chapels were built, also modifying the architecture of some of them. Of these, two new chapels stand out, the chapel of Pilar, baroque apotheosis of Domingo de Andrade, and the chapel of Cristo de Burgos, towards the foot of the basilica.

Pilar Chapel. General view from the entrance.
Pilar Chapel. General view from the entrance.

But undoubtedly the most important interior transformation of the Baroque - besides the new organ and its altarpieces built since the beginning of the XVII century - is the new main chapel, where since the Middle Ages and with various additions and small transformations was the dome of Gelmirez over the seated image of the XIII of Santiago. From the school of Master Mateo, pilgrims used to climb on it to touch it and, in the past, to put on its crown (today, the traditional thing to do is to embrace it).

From the second half of the 17th century, the work of masters of the stature of Domingo de Andrade, Fray Gabriel de las Casas, Manuel de Prado, Jacobo Pecul or Ángel Piedra left their mark on the monumental baldachin supported by angels, as well as on the chapel of Santiago, its altar, the tabernacle, and the perimeter closing of the chapel and grille. Under this space, from the end of the 19th century and with the rediscovery of the bones of Santiago (1878), the Roman mausoleum is opened, already very lowered in its elevation by the successive works in the main chapel, and the relics are made visitable inside a silver urn of José Losada made in those years. Archbishop San Clemente had hidden them in 1589 near their original location for fear of the pirate Drake.

Detail of the figure of Santiago Matamoros in his dressing room without the flowers that usually partially cover it.
Detail of the figure of Santiago Matamoros in his dressing room without the flowers that usually partially cover it.

In front of the presbytery, using since the late sixteenth century a mechanical device designed by Juan Bautista Celma, the Botafumeiro gives greater glory to God and perfumes an environment often burdened by the crowds of pilgrims who in the Middle Ages even slept in the stands of the Cathedral. The current Botafumeiro is made of brass, made by the Compostelan José Losada in 1851.

Detail of the mechanism that allows the movement of the Botafumeiro in the height of the transept, under the dome.
Detail of the mechanism that allows the movement of the Botafumeiro in the height of the transept, under the dome. It was designed by Juan Bautista Celma at the end of the 16th century.

In the final years of the Baroque and neoclassicism, the old Paradise Façade of the north arm of the transept, through which the pilgrims of the French Way entered, was demolished, badly damaged by a fire in 1758. The new one was designed by Lucas Caaveiro, assisted by Clemente Sarela. Domingo Lois Monteagudo, who received some suggestions from Ventura Rodríguez and the approval of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, the institution that supervised the projects in those years, was in charge of concluding the works. It was finished in 1769, trying to adapt a Baroque design to an already Neoclassical taste.

The most "modern" of the Cathedral's chapels, the Communion Chapel, was built in the latter style. Domingo Lois Monteagudo gave it the form of a classical rotunda covered by a dome supported by eight monumental Ionic columns, and occupied the site where the Gothic chapel of Don Lope de Mendoza had stood until then.

General view of the Communion Chapel with its characteristic neoclassical rotunda floor plan.
General view of the Communion Chapel with its characteristic neoclassical rotunda floor plan.

With the same neoclassical taste and the influence of the Academy of San Fernando, in 1794 Bishop Sebastián Malvar intended to free the central nave from the choir, moving it to a new main chapel in the Enlightenment style of the time, with a new exterior facade and a renovated Holy Door. Ferro Caaveiro and Melchor de Prado signed the projects, although they were never carried out except in some of the paintings planned for the interior space.

Thus is completed a history of artistic styles from pre-Romanesque to neoclassical that will still receive some contributions in recent years, already in the "neo" movements of the early decades of the twentieth century (neo-Gothic altarpiece of the chapel of the Spain and the Relics of Magariños), and with designs more typical of our days (new bronze sheets of the Holy Door of 2004).

Cathedral Museum

The Museum of the Cathedral of Santiago allows to know almost all the spaces of the cathedral complex, including the roofs, the tribunes, the cloister, the rooms that close it, and the palace of Gelmirez.

It also offers a tour of some of the pieces that were part of spaces that have already disappeared, such as the Gothic cloister, chapels, old facades... for its ornaments (tympanums, sculptures, parts of altarpieces and choirs...) and for the documents that make up the history of the Church of Santiago (Tumbos A, B and C, Historia Compostelana, Breviario de Miranda, Codex Calixtinus...).

It also allows to be amazed with the magnificence of its Treasure, which includes pieces in precious materials artistically worked from the Middle Ages to the present day, many of them donated by illustrious pilgrims (kings, military, ecclesiastical positions...) or by groups.

The textile collections close the tour of the museum, from exotic medieval fabrics from the Far East to the pennant of the Battle of Lepanto in the sixteenth century, as well as rich liturgical vestments.

Don Pedro de Acuña y Malvar's suit. Silk and gold, late XVIII-early XIX century.
Don Pedro de Acuña y Malvar's suit. Silk and gold, late XVIII-early XIX century.

The tapestry collection deserves special mention and a detailed visit, largely made possible by donations, and with its works on cartoons by Rubens, Teniers, or Goya, among others, is one of the best in Spain.

Cathedral Museum. General view of the room dedicated to Goya's tapestries.
Cathedral Museum. General view of the room dedicated to Goya's tapestries.

The Codex Calixtinus

The best known of the "jewels" kept in the archives of the Cathedral of Santiago is undoubtedly the Liber Sancti Iacobi, or Codex Calixtinus. Its Spanish name, Codex Calixtinus, became sadly famous in recent years because of its surprising theft - the book has now been solved and recovered - which put it on everyone's lips.

The nickname "Calixtino" was given to it by the secular belief that it was written by Pope Calixtus II, since he signs the work at the beginning as its author and compiler, narrating how he did it. Elected Supreme Pontiff in 1119, this pope had blood ties with the Galician nobility, and was united by a close friendship with Gelmirez, whom he honored with his proclamation as archbishop, as well as with the elevation of the cathedral of Santiago to the dignity of Metropolitan to the detriment of Merida.

But the authorship of Calixtus II of the work as a whole is today rejected, although his influence on the codex is undoubted, as is that of the important French abbey of Cluny. The so-called Codex Calixtinus ends with a letter from Innocent II introducing the bearer of the work, Aymeric Picaud, a cleric of Parthenay-le-Vieux. It is he who passes for the author of a large part of the work, especially of the last of the books that compose it.

Book 1 of the Codex Calixtinus
Book 1 of the Codex Calixtinus

Done in several stages, its beginning is dated between 1137 and 1140, and it would be taken up again in 1173. The result would be a work structured in five books, completed with documents and additions. Book I contains, with its music and texts, the liturgy for the Mass and Office of the feasts of St. James. It is the largest book, and makes up three quarters of the codex. Book II details twenty-two miracles of St. James. Book III recounts the transfer of the remains of St. James from Jaffa to Compostela. But perhaps books IV and V are the best known.

Book IV is called Pseudo-Turpin, receiving its name from the archbishop of Reims to whom its writing was attributed, and narrates the deeds of Charlemagne in Spain defeating the Arab invaders. For reasons not entirely clear, the Pseudo-Turpin was separated from the rest of the books in 1619, suffering some alterations, and remained so until 1966.

Codex Calixtinus - Book IV
Codex Calixtinus - Book IV

Book V is the Pilgrim's Guide, which includes detailed descriptions of the cathedral, very useful for historians despite the fact that the temple was not quite finished when it was written. In addition to the five books, some appendixes were added, highlighting the twenty-two polyphonic compositions of Book I added in 1173, a first in Europe at the time; or the Hymn of the pilgrims to Compostela, the Dum pater familias, appendix of Book II.

There are not too many miniatures in the Codex Calixtinus, although three initial ones stand out, formed by characters related to the text. Thus, Book I begins with a "C" that we will see repeated in the Codex, formed by fleshy vegetation and topped with dragon heads. In this case, in addition, the "C" that welcomes in its interior the Pope Calixto II, seated and in attitude of writing, identified in the book where it supports the pen.

On the fourth folio, forming a large "I" whose verticality occupies more than half a page, is Santiago in an attitude of blessing. Carrying a book and without his characteristic attributes, the figure of the Apostle could be compared with that of Christ, although without the crucifix nimbus that characterizes the latter. But the fact that it is part of the word "Iacobi" and the nature of the text in which it is included make confusion impossible.

The third miniature letter is totally different from the previous ones. It is a large "T" with which the Historia Turpini of Book I begins. It is a title on a green background that was added to this folio when it was separated from the rest of the Codex in the 17th century. The large initial has profuse vegetal decoration and contains a mandorla that starts from the mouth of a fabulous being and in which Turpin, the archbishop of Rheims, is seated with his robes and prelate's crozier.

Book IV also offers us three other miniatures that narrate passages of Charlemagne's life. In the first, the emperor sleeps inside an architecture identified in the text as Aachen. Seated at the foot of his bed, St. James appears to him pointing out in the sky the path of stars - the Milky Way - that leads to his tomb. As a consequence of this apparition, the second miniature shows the emperor departing for Spanish lands to liberate Spain from its invaders. Identified by his crown and standard, Charlemagne is still emerging from the architecture of his palace. The ten knights who precede him, including his nephew Roland, are already approaching an undulating terrain that is undoubtedly intended to be the Pyrenees. More difficult is the interpretation of the third and last miniature, all of them of rectangular format and in the folio 162 and the back of 162. In this last one, we see again some warriors, some architectures and the legend relative to Aachen. Its various readings always link it to Charlemagne and his army, perhaps the survivors of Roncesvalles remembering the death of the hero Roland. From the stylistic point of view, it seems that we owe all the miniatures to a single author, linked to the Burgundian workshops of the first half of the 12th century, although some scholars also see influences from the British Isles.

The importance of this Codex Calixtinus, incorporated into the cathedral "Treasury" in the first half of the 12th century, is shown by the fact that it was copied almost immediately, and even in the 14th century it was frequently used. The same scriptorium founded in Santiago by Aymerico de Anteiac in 1326, which would give rise to the Tumbo B, made the copies of the Calixtinus of Salamanca, the Vatican and London.

The Tumbo A

Among the "Treasures" that cathedrals such as the Cathedral of Santiago guarded and still guard today, the documents and books that supported the legal validity of their properties, privileges, exemptions and lordships occupy an important place.

Concerned that these could be lost or that they were impossible to read in ancient writing, the treasurer of the time of Archbishop Gelmirez, Bernardo, began a transcription, collection and compilation that would give rise to the so-called Tumbo A. Bernardo was also the canon who had the Fons Mirabilis placed in front of the north door of the cathedral for the service of pilgrims and Compostelans.

When he conceived his project, in 1127, the Visigothic script was being replaced by the Carolingian script, and Bernardo had Santiago join the movement of documentary compilation in which other institutions of the kingdom of León, such as Cardeña, Sahún, León, Oviedo... were immersed. In addition, Santiago had just been elevated to a metropolitan seat, so it was necessary to lay the foundations for its organization.

This Tumbo A of Bernardo is made up of five books. The first contains books and documents issued by the kings. The second, diplomas granted by members of the high nobility or consuls, in Bernardo's words. The third is dedicated to bishops and archbishops; while benefactors of the Church of lower social rank and members of the clergy occupy the fourth and fifth books, respectively.

Detail of one of the folios of Tumbo A with the miniature of King Alfonso IX.
Detail of one of the folios of Tumbo A with the miniature of King Alfonso IX.

In all, Tumbo A compiles one hundred and seventy documents on seventy-one sheets of parchment, on which were drawn some of the most interesting and well-known miniatures in the Compostela collections. Almost all of them represent the monarchs and characters of the Leonese and Galician royalty of the time, identified by name and almost all painted in the twelfth century. Except for two infantas together, the characters are represented individually. And except for two monarchs on horseback, the others are enthroned.

Detail of one of the folios of Tumbo A with the miniature of King Alfonso IX.
Detail of one of the folios of Tumbo A with the miniature of King Alfonso IX.

The first miniature of the series, depicting the Inventio, is different. It is denominated with this Latin word to the discovery or finding of the mausoleum of Santiago in the forest of Libredón. In this miniature of the Tumbo A, a personage with a crozier and episcopal attire points to a tomb in the middle of an architecture under an arch: it is the Arca Marmoricis. A lamp illuminates the scene, accompanied by a turiferous angel that serves as a guide to the mausoleum, where there are also the tombs of the disciples who accompanied James. So that there are no doubts about the name of the main character, he is identified in Latin: Teodemiro Episkop.

The experts differentiate a minimum of three hands in the miniatures, two of them in the first of the elaboration periods, between 1129 and 1133; and with different treatment of the cloths, shadows and dynamism. In addition, influences of the Ottonian substratum and even solutions from England can be appreciated, as well as the survival of Byzantine period schemes such as that of the seated emperor.

It is most likely that Bernardo's project was never fully completed, although the process of compiling writings continued throughout the 13th century, and the tomb was enlarged in successive stages from the reign of Alfonso VII to that of Alfonso X "The Wise". The original Tumbo A is kept in the safe of the Cathedral Archives. A facsimile identical to it can be seen in the display cases of the Library, inside the Cathedral Museum.

El Tumbo B

With the arrival of the Gothic period, the scriptorium of the cathedral of Santiago continued with the last additions to Tumbo A, begun in 1129 by the treasurer of Gelmirez, Bernardo. In 1255, the representations of Fernando III and Alfonso X closed this manuscript. There was then an interruption of work for almost a century, until in XIV the archbishop Fray Berenguel de Landoira created another workshop, more dedicated to copies than to new production.

Berenguel, a Dominican friar linked to the papal court of Avignon, also had the help of an efficient treasurer, Aymerico Anteiac. He entrusted him with the direction of the scriptorium where the so-called Tumbo B, begun on August 27, 1326, would be carried out by the scribes García Pérez and Alfonso Pérez.

Like Tumbo A, Tumbo B is also a compilation of important documents for the Church of Compostela. Some are copies of documents collected in Tumbo A, certified in Tumbo B by the signature of two notaries who attest to their correspondence with the original document. Others, however, are new documents, such as some royal and papal concessions.

Tumbo B is composed of three hundred and seventy-one documents, distributed in two hundred and ninety-one folios in which the miniatures that adorn some of them stand out; although the technical quality of these, being of greater symbolic and documentary importance, does not reach that of those found in Tumbo A.

The back of the second folio is composed of two miniated registers, the upper one of which shows St. James enthroned, identified by his staff in the form of a "tau" and phylactery in his hand. He is surrounded by a canopy-like architecture, and is accompanied by his disciples, Athanasius and Theodore, with their names above their heads. It is undoubtedly reminiscent of the appearance of the primitive high altar of the cathedral, with the baldachin of Gelmirez and the seated figure of Santiago, from the school of Mateo, who has presided over the cathedral since its consecration in 1211.

Folio 2, back of Tumbo B.
Folio 2º back of Tumbo B. In the upper register, Santiago seated with Athanasius and Theodore and under an architecture. In the lower register, Santiago on horseback brandishing sword.

The lower part of the same folio shows another interesting miniature, whose protagonist is again Santiago. Here he appears characterized as a warrior on horseback carrying a sword and riding over decapitated soldiers. In the background of the scene we see a simple castle. Some scholars have wanted to see in this miniature the first representation of Santiago Matamoros of the Battle of Clavijo, collected years before in a tympanum in the transept of the cathedral.

Others interpret it as a passage of the Gesta Berengarii de Landoria, in which the Apostle helps the prelate to defeat the Compostelans who opposed his entrance to Compostela, managing to prevent it until September 27, 1320, when Berenguel defeats the ringleaders. Aware of the unstable situation, this archbishop fortified the architecture of the cathedral. He also fortified the main castle of the Compostela mitre, A Rocha Forte, in the vicinity of the city. This fortress would be, according to this second theory, the one represented in this miniature of Tumbo B.

Documents would still continue to be collected in various cartularies. Some, like the one known as Tumbo C, which is also in the cathedral archives, even collect private documentation.

Miranda's Breviary

In the Archives of the Cathedral of Santiago, the Middle Ages came to an end with the manuscript richest in miniatures of all those preserved there. The so-called Breviario del Canónigo Miranda surpassed the better known Tumbos, Historia Compostelana and Codex Calixtinus. It has a little more than five hundred folios of smaller size than the aforementioned books, and it also suffered some losses and mutilations throughout history.

It dates from the middle of the 15th century, perhaps around 1470, a time when the decoration fills the pages to the extreme and no free spaces are left around the text. The text is distributed in two columns per folio, and is the main inspiration for the subject matter represented. There is an abundance of vegetal decoration, sometimes with the appearance of saints or animals. In some occasions, the author gives free rein to his fantasy and populates it with strange beings.

Detail of a page from the Miranda Breviary.
Detail of a page from the Breviario Miranda. The decoration in this manuscript goes to the extreme and leaves no free spaces in the folio.

From the second decade of the 15th century, Flemish painting began to acquire notable importance in the Peninsula, and the miniaturists were no strangers to it, as can be seen in the broken folds of the clothes - accentuated and multiplied in the lower part - worn by the characters of the Miranda Breviary. Under the hand of a director familiar with Flemish postulates, different hands appear within the same workshop, something logical given the number of illuminations in this codex. However, there is a unitary sense in its decoration, which puts this breviary in relation to other contemporary works of the Castilian miniaturist field. Some examples are the manuscripts for the Marquis of Santillana, attributed to Jorge Inglés, or the similarities in the vegetal decoration that the Abulense Juan de Carrión used.

It is clear that the Miranda Breviary was made for someone related to the Cathedral of Santiago. In it reference is made to saints of special relationship with it, such as Salome, mother of the Zebedee; and also to specific celebrations such as the commemoration of the consecration of the cathedral in April, the feasts of the Apostle in July and December, or those of his disciples in May.

There are doubts, however, about who was the commissioner of the work. Possibly it was the person kneeling under the Virgin's mantle that appears in the lower border on the back of folio 401, but there are doubts about his identification. The name of Breviario Miranda is due to the fact that in one of the folios appears "MIRANDA" written between the two columns, so it was believed that it alluded to the canon Pedro de Miranda, relative of Alonso II de Fonseca. However, some heraldic emblems in diverse parts of the book discard this filiation; and they attribute it to Fernando Bermúdez de Castro, personage that after diverse vicissitudes reached the dignity of Dean of Santiago in 1485.

For his part, Canon José Mª Díaz Fernández, who was for many years archivist of the Cathedral, found other coats of arms partially erased or transformed among the pages of the Breviary, identifying them with that of the Compostela prelate Rodrigo de Luna, archbishop of Santiago between 1449 and 1460. But the fact that the personage kneeling before the Virgin as the donor on the back of folio 401 wears a simple habit, without the attributes of a bishop, reduces the weight of this theory.

Thus, we do not know for sure who could have been the commissioner of this work. Perhaps some of the names cited are related to it, or perhaps all of them, since they were important dignitaries in Santiago. In addition, the fact that a breviary is a book of private devotion facilitates the change of hands as an inheritance or gift. This would also indicate that already in its first decades of existence this codex was considered of exceptional wealth and value.

Pilgrimages to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Once the mausoleum of St. James was discovered in the ninth century, and the discovery was confirmed and "certified" by the bishop of Iria, the Asturian court and the papacy, the waves of pilgrims were not long in coming. The whole Christianity wanted to visit the tomb of the Apostle, especially after the Turkish invasions that interrupted the pilgrimage to Jerusalem just when in Santiago -it was the year 1078- the construction of the Romanesque cathedral had begun three years earlier. Thus began the golden age of the pilgrimage to Compostela and the route most promoted and best endowed by kings and ecclesiastical authorities was consolidated: the Way of St. James.

The pilgrimage to Santiago thus became, from very early on, the most outstanding and deeply experienced religious and cultural event of the Middle Ages. This fact was recently recognized by the European Parliament, which designated the Way as the First European Cultural Itinerary, and by UNESCO, which declared it a World Heritage Site.

Although the first pilgrims of the 10th century traveled to the apostolic tomb along what is now known as the Northern Way through the Cantabrian coast, thus avoiding the area of conflict or in power of the Arab invader, the expansion of the Reconquest soon allowed the kings Sancho the Great of Navarre and Alfonso VI of Leon to trace an itinerary through the newly liberated territory that linked the capitals of the Navarrese, Castilian and Leonese kingdoms until it ended in Santiago.

It is known as the French Way and is described in all its variants in the Codex Calixtinus, a work attributed to the monk Aymeric Picaud and written by order of Pope Calixtus II around 1139. Its fifth book can be considered the first European travel guide, as it indicates the routes followed by pilgrims through France to reach the City of the Apostle as early as the 12th century, and describes the resources and impressions that awaited the adventurous travelers in each region.

Today there are several roads that lead to the Cathedral of Santiago. The French Way is the most common and important. Its northern variant or primitive way. From the south, the Vía de la Plata, and entering through the coasts of Ferrol or Coruña, the English Way. Other routes that some today claim for tourist purposes are less traditional, but what is really important is that through all of them, and from the earliest times there were many people who from all corners of the world made pilgrimages to Santiago: kings and queens, nobles, prelates, generals, presidents and prime ministers... even saints, some in visits whose authenticity has never been reliably demonstrated, but of great tradition as that of St. Francis of Assisi.

However, it is the millions and millions of anonymous pilgrims who have shaped this route as a real path that has united peoples, cultures, spread artistic styles and even served to inspire the current European Union. Even the Milky Way, in our sky, is often referred to as the "Way of St. James" because it seems to run in the direction of the tomb of one of Jesus' favorite disciples, James, son of Zebedee and Salome, brother of John and the first of the apostles to suffer martyrdom in the year 44 of our era.

Origins of the Camino de Santiago

Many visitors and tourists to the Cathedral of Santiago ask themselves "when was the apostle Santiago in Santiago", or "what was the name of the city of Santiago before it became Santiago de Compostela". Both questions have answers that, although they present a clear historical rigor, also have a traditional and legendary component attached to them. Santiago did not go on pilgrimage, obviously, to the temple that houses his tomb, although there are legends that attribute visits to the region to him, such as the one that places him on the Costa da Morte.

In Muxía, where many pilgrims complete their Camino de Santiago with a visit to the Sanctuary of the Virxe da Barca, the legend of the miraculous apparition of the Virgin to a Santiago discouraged in his preaching to the pagan inhabitants of the northwestern peninsular is remembered. Mary arrives at the shore in a stone boat, the one that today "remains" stranded at the foot of the Sanctuary of Nosa Señora da Barca and converted into the "Pedra de abalar" - the sail - "Pedra dos cadrís (kidneys)" - the boat down; and the rudder stone.

Santuario A Barca y piedra de Abalar. (
Santuario A Barca y piedra de Abalar. (

This legendary apparition of the Virgin of La Barca reminds us of another one more deeply rooted in the whole Iberian Peninsula: the apparition on the banks of the Ebro of Mary on a pillar - the pillar - to a discouraged Santiago.

Whether or not Santiago had those miraculous visits of encouragement in his preaching in Roman Hispania, what is a historical fact is his beheading at the hands of Herod Agrippa I, king of Judea in the year 44, being the first of Christ's apostles to suffer martyrdom. His disciples Athanasius and Theodore collected the body and placing it in a boat - made of stone according to other legends - they arrived from the port of Jaffa after seven nights of voyage to the shores of Finisterrae.

They tied their boat to an ancient Roman altar ("Pedrón") at the bottom of the Ría de Arousa, and asked for help from the lady of those lands, Queen Lupa, to move the master's body and bury it in her territory. This Roman altar can still be venerated today in the church of Santiago de Padrón. Lupa sends the retinue through the Illicinus mountain, and for this purpose he provides them with a cart pulled by brave bulls that, miraculously in contact with the body of Santiago, become tame oxen.

Even more prodigious will be what happens when they reach this mountain, where Queen Lupa knows that a fierce dragon dwells, since Athanasius and Theodore defeat it effortlessly with the sign of the cross. This mountain, near Santiago to the south, is still known today as Pico Sacro because of these prodigies, and at its summit the great rock that crowns it has a deep gash caused, legendarily, by the dragon falling on it.

La Reina Lupa y el traslado de los restos del Apóstol Santiago.
La Reina Lupa y el traslado de los restos del Apóstol Santiago.

The journey continues, and reaching the vicinity of a Roman necropolis in the Libredón forest, the oxen stop to drink at a fountain that still today gushes water next to a small chapel of Santiago at the end of Calle del Franco. There, Athanasius and Theodore will place the body of St. James in a mausoleum of rich marble, the Arca Marmorica. It is the end of the Translatio, cited for the first time in the so-called Letter of Pope Leo, a mid-ninth century text included in the Codex Calixtinus.

After the first pilgrims in the 9th century, the bishop of Iria Teodomiro and the Asturian king Alfonso II, the news of the discovery of the body of a disciple of Christ (and also one of the "favorites" who had accompanied him to Tabor where the Transfiguration took place) spread throughout Europe, helped also by the importance of the Carolingian court to which Alfonso II had communicated the discovery. There is even talk of a legendary pilgrimage of Charlemagne to Santiago following the Milky Way.

The first pilgrims came from a more or less close environment, from Galicia itself and from the Asturian Kingdom, either by sea or through the mountains of A Fonsagrada. However, the tenth century is already the beginning of the takeoff of pilgrimages at international level, especially Franks, one of whom, Bretenaldo, could have given rise with his dwelling to the name that still has the famous Rúa del Franco.

The 11th century, with the successive liberation of territories in Muslim hands thanks to the advance of the Reconquest, the influence and interest of the French abbey of Cluny, the proliferation of a "network" of hospitals along the route and the promotion made by the Navarrese and Castilian-Leonese monarchies became the definitive launching of the Jacobean phenomenon on a continental level.

The French routes were consolidated, four main ones, which in turn were nourished by paths coming from the four cardinal points. From Paris, Vézelay and Le Puy the roads crossed the Pyrenees through Roncesvalles, while the one that started in Arles and came further south crossed through Jaca. The five routes became one in Punte la Reina, tracing what we still know today as the French Way and is still the most used by those who make the pilgrimage to Santiago. Along its route important cities were taking shape, collecting money, news, inhabitants, influences and knowledge from all over Europe.

Those who arrived in Santiago in the 12th century found a new cathedral already in an advanced state of construction. The first archbishop of Santiago, Gelmirez gave a strong impulse to the works initiated in 1075 and his good harmony with Rome allowed him to obtain from Pope Calixtus II the privilege of the Holy or Jubilee Years.

It is the century of the first pilgrims' guide, the famous "Book V" included in the Codex Calixtinus, which also includes numerous miracles attributed to St. James whose beneficiaries came not only from France but also from Italy or Central Europe and even from the Nordic countries. These were mostly humble people, faithful devotees or convicts who had to make a pilgrimage to Santiago as part of their sentence, but we also find in this century kings like the Norwegian Sigur Jorsalar (1108), or Louis VII of France who made a pilgrimage in 1154-1155.

But it is not only worth talking about the French Way. The routes coming from the south are taking shape to the rhythm of the Reconquest and following, above all, the Roman Via de la Plata (because of the flatness of its route). Kings of Portugal used the Portuguese roads to prostrate themselves before Santiago, such as Alfonso II in 1220 or Sancho in 1244.

On the other hand, since the 13th century, maritime routes have been gaining importance, especially from England, Ireland or even Iceland and the Scandinavian countries. This is where St. Bridget of Sweden came from, as early as 1341, on her voyage to the Holy Land. The maritime routes arrived at the coasts of Ferrol or A Coruña, depending on the tides, winds or currents and due to the inaccuracy of the navigation instruments. From there, already on foot, the road to Compostela was short, although as always not free of dangers.

And the Camino de Santiago was dangerous. Numerous highwaymen lurked, and even the oldest pilgrim guides warned that the pilgrim should be forewarned of the possibility of scams and deception, as well as the payment of numerous tolls. In order to, as far as possible, defend himself, the pilgrim could use his staff or staff, from which hung a gourd that served to carry drinking water. Other typical attributes of his clothing was the leather haversack, which according to the Calixtino would be opened to share the food he kept with the poorest.

Once in Santiago, the scallop shell, which the Codex Calixtinus again cites as abundant on the coasts near Santiago, became the ineffable proof that the pilgrim had reached his goal, since its sales stalls were located at the entrance to the cathedral through the Porta Francigena, where the French Way ended and over whose trade the archbishopric had a monopoly.

They are the shells that, according to legend, allowed the knight Cayo to escape certain death when he was drowning. The intercession of the Apostle Santiago was evident when he emerged unscathed from the waters covered by scallop shells. These facts, more than the commonly extended idea that the shell was used by the pilgrims to drink because of its spoon shape, explain why the scallop shell has been a symbol of Santiago, its Cathedral and its pilgrims since ancient times.

The document that since the thirteenth century sealed the chapter to recognize the pilgrimage to Santiago and we call "La Compostela" replaced or complemented the shell as proof of pilgrimage.

From these medieval origins in the centuries immediately following the Inventio or discovery of the apostolic tomb, millions of people of all origins and conditions arrive in Santiago.

The role of the roads to Santiago in shaping the idea of Europe is unquestionable, and even more unquestionable is the historical and artistic richness that we find along the routes to Santiago. The Cathedral of Santiago, whose history, secrets and details are worth knowing, gathers the best of it all.

Main routes of the Camino de Santiago

These are just some of the main routes of the Camino de Santiago, each with its own beauty, history and challenges, but all sharing the same final destination: the revered cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

French Route

Considered the most popular and traveled Camino, the French Way stretches from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France to Santiago de Compostela, covering a distance of approximately 800 kilometers. It crosses several regions of Spain, including Navarre, La Rioja, Castile and Leon, and Galicia, offering pilgrims a variety of landscapes, from mountains and valleys to agricultural fields and historic villages.

It is notable for its iconic landmarks, such as the medieval city of Pamplona, the cathedral of Burgos, the iron cross on the Castilian plateau, and the majestic cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

Portuguese route

This route departs from several cities in Portugal, most commonly departing from Lisbon or Porto, and heads towards Santiago de Compostela, covering approximately 600 kilometers. It crosses varied landscapes, from the Atlantic coast to rural areas and forests, passing through charming villages and historic cities such as Coimbra, Pontevedra and Tui. It stands out for its rich cultural and architectural heritage, with numerous churches, monasteries and palaces along the way, as well as for the hospitality of its inhabitants.

Northern Way

Also known as the Camino de la Costa, this route follows the coastline of the Cantabrian Sea from Irún, in the Basque Country, to Santiago de Compostela, covering around 800 kilometers. It offers breathtaking scenery, with rugged cliffs, golden sandy beaches and picturesque fishing ports, as well as a rich history reflected in its historic towns and architectural monuments.It stands out for its wilderness and less crowded nature compared to other routes, making it a popular choice for pilgrims seeking a quieter, closer-to-nature experience.

Vía de la Plata


This historic route departs from Seville or Merida and runs approximately 1,000 kilometers to Santiago de Compostela, crossing regions such as Extremadura, Castile and Leon, and Galicia. It is notable for its Roman legacy, with numerous archaeological remains along the way, as well as for its natural beauty, which includes extensive plains, fertile valleys and mountain ranges. Although less frequented than other routes, the Vía de la Plata offers pilgrims a unique and authentic experience, with a blend of history, culture and varied landscapes.

Necessary preparations before embarking on the Camino de Santiago

By following these preparations, you will be better equipped to enjoy a rewarding and meaningful experience on the Camino de Santiago. Remember that each pilgrim has their own rhythm and unique path, so enjoy the journey and make the most of every moment.

Research and planning

Before starting the Camino, it is essential to research and plan the route you want to follow. This includes choosing which route to take, how much time you will spend on the trip and what your starting and finishing points will be.

Consult travel guides, maps and online resources for detailed information about your chosen route, including points of interest, accommodation, distances between stages and potential difficulties along the way.

These websites are just a few examples of the resources available to plan your pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. Each offers a variety of useful information and tools to help you organize and enjoy your experience on the Camino.
Gronze is a very complete platform that offers detailed information on all the routes of the Camino de Santiago. Includes interactive maps, stage profiles, accommodation listings, points of interest, practical advice and discussion forums.

Eroski Consumer - Camino de Santiago
This website offers a complete guide to planning your pilgrimage, with detailed information on the different routes, accommodation, services, stages, useful tips and additional resources.
Mundicamino provides a wide range of resources for pilgrims, including interactive maps, stage profiles, accommodation listings, travel tips, discussion forums and an online store with products related to the Camino de Santiago.
This is the official website of the Xunta de Galicia dedicated to the Camino de Santiago. It offers information about the different routes that pass through Galicia, as well as practical advice, resources for pilgrims, events and news related to the Camino.

Association of Friends of the Camino de Santiago
Many associations of friends of the Camino have their own websites where they offer useful information for pilgrims, such as maps, guides, shelters, events and news related to the Camino de Santiago.

Physical preparation

The Camino de Santiago requires good physical condition, especially if you plan to walk long distances each day. Before leaving, it is advisable to do regular physical training, including long walks to get your body used to the activity.

Consult a doctor if you have any pre-existing medical condition or if you have concerns about your physical ability to complete the Camino.

Proper equipment

Bringing the right equipment is crucial to ensuring a safe and comfortable experience on the Camino. Some essential elements include

Comfortable and resistant hiking boots.

Lightweight and resistant backpack, suitable for carrying your belongings during long walks.

Comfortable and appropriate clothing for walking, including layers to adapt to different weather conditions.

Lightweight and compact sleeping bag, especially if you plan to stay in hostels.First aid kit with basic supplies such as bandages, disinfectant, pain relievers, etc.

Avoid carrying too much weight in your backpack, as this can make your hike more difficult and increase the risk of injury.

Documentation and logistics

Before you leave, make sure you have all the necessary documentation, such as a passport, identification card, and pilgrim credentials, which you can obtain at specific locations along the route.

Plan your accommodation in advance, especially if you are traveling during peak season, by booking hostels or other types of accommodation well in advance.Organize your finances and bring enough cash or credit cards to cover your expenses during the trip, including accommodation, food, and any emergencies that may arise.

Mental and spiritual preparation

The Camino de Santiago is a physically and emotionally challenging journey, so it is important to prepare mentally and spiritually to face the ups and downs that may arise along the way.

Spend time reflecting on your motivations for doing the Camino and set realistic goals for your trip.

Being open to new experiences, making new friends, and being willing to adapt to changing situations along the way can help you overcome any obstacles you encounter.

Outside the Cathedral

Prepare to be transported to a place where history and majesty intertwine! The facade of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is like an open book that recounts centuries of faith, art and culture. Its imposing towers soar skyward, defying the passage of time with its breathtaking Gothic architecture. The intricate details of the facade, from the sculptures of saints to the reliefs narrating biblical passages, are like a journey through time that immerses you in the very essence of spirituality. Each stone seems to whisper secrets of pilgrims who have traveled thousands of miles to prostrate themselves before its grandeur. The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is not just a building, it is a symbol of perseverance, devotion and beauty that transcends generations and borders - a must-see for anyone seeking inspiration and awe!

Inside the Cathedral

Enter a world of wonder and splendor where history comes alive! The interior of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is a feast for the senses, a sanctuary of heavenly beauty that leaves everyone who has the privilege of crossing its thresholds speechless. From the moment you step inside, you are enveloped by an atmosphere of mysticism and grandeur, with its high vaults that seem to touch the sky and its columns that tell stories of forgotten times. Every corner oozes art and devotion, from the impressive golden altarpieces to the delicate stained glass windows that filter divine light. Walking through its corridors is like walking through a labyrinth of wonders, where each chapel and altar reveals treasures of faith and culture. The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is not only a place of worship, it is a portal to the transcendental, an experience that transforms hearts and elevates the spirit, a visit that leaves an indelible mark on the soul!

Cathedral Chapels

Discover a universe of devotion and art in every corner of the chapels of the majestic Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Each of these sanctuaries is a unique treasure that holds centuries of history and spirituality. From the exquisite Main Chapel, adorned with reliefs of incomparable delicacy, to the intimate Pilar Chapel, where light dances on ancient altars, each space invites contemplation and reverence. The side chapels, with their gilded altarpieces and vivid frescoes, are like galleries of sacred art that inspire and move those who visit them. In every stone, in every detail, you can feel the presence of those who, over the centuries, have found comfort and hope within these sacred walls, an experience that will transport you to a world of faith and wonder!

Cathedral Museum

Immerse yourself in a fascinating journey through the centuries at the Museum of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela! This cultural treasure is a true feast for lovers of art, history and spirituality. From sacred relics to masterpieces of sacred art, each object on display tells a unique and exciting story. Visitors are transported back in time as they explore the treasure-filled galleries that illuminate the region's rich tradition and heritage. From stunning sculptures to ancient manuscripts, each piece is a living testament to human faith and creativity over the centuries - a must-see experience that leaves a lasting impression on the hearts of those who experience it!