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Santiago de Compostela

A Coruña

Near Finis Terrae, or the end of the earth, is where the Apostle Santiago or James was buried. At least that is what the legend says.

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Near Finis Terrae, or the end of the earth, is where the Apostle Santiago or James was buried. At least that is what the legend says.

It all started with the Saint arriving to this remote lands to preach. Back in Palestine, he would have suffered martyrdom and decapitation, but his disciples took his body, head and limbs, placed everything in a boat and brought his remains to bury them in the place where the apostle had done his pastoral work.

So they returned to Galicia aboard that holy boat, and on the coast, they tied it to a large stone or rock (pedrón in Spanish) that would end up giving the name to the town of Padrón.

They buried Jesus´ favourite disciple at some distance from there, but over time his tomb was forgotten and for centuries remained covered by weeds. Around 813, while the Arabs were wreaking the place down below, a hermit named Pelayo saw mysterious lights that seemed to point to a specific spot on the mountain. He notified the Bishop, the tomb appeared, the Bishop told the king, and all of them were convinced that it could not be anything else but the tomb of the apostle.

A small temple was built around it, and the city grew around the temple. Compostela was gaining fame, and in 1075, they began to build the Romanesque church that would later become a cathedral, to give the place the status it deserved.

The ambitious Bishop Gelmírez contributed to all of this, he was obsessed with the fact Santiago became the Rome of this part of the world, he even went to Braga in Portugal to take away during the night the relics of other saints and bring them here, which according to him, is where they should be.

Compostela began to receive pilgrims who arrived in a bad state, that's just the ones who made it, to marvel at the Portico de La Gloria before entering the cathedral and fill it with a foul smell so nauseous that it was necessary to invent the botafumeiro, a smoke expeller, to disguise it.

But that medieval flavour is not so present in the current city. It was later, in the second half of the seventeenth century, when the best masters and artists came to build a monumental urban complex that today is among the most impressive on the planet. The Baroque façade of the Cathedral, Obradoiro Square and Quintana Square are the focus of attention of an almost supernatural stone landscape, and its view from Paseo de La Herradura is something you should not miss.

The most mysterious thing of all is that everything has been built on the belief that the remains of the apostle are in the crypt; those that were hidden when Drake threatened the city and then found three centuries later. But, truth be told, it does not seem very likely that they are the remains of St. James, and some argue that they may well belong to Priscilla, a bishop from the fourth century who ended up sentenced for heresy. Can you imagine what a paradox, if the heart of this city was really the grave of a heretic? Best thing is, let’s leave it at that…


Santiago de Compostela

Calle Vilar, 63 (Oficina de Turismo)
15705 Santiago de Compostela
(+34) 981 555 129

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