If I can make one recommendation in regards to viewing the exterior of the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, Catedral de Santiago de Compostela, you should be in the Praza do Obradoiro at various times during a sunny evening. You can take in the beautiful cathedral with the changes in glow from the setting sun. It’s quite amazing, even magical, as the Praza can get very lively. Similar to a painting in a museum, view the cathedral from various angles, but definitely stand back, closer to the Ayuntamiento de Santiago on the opposite side.
On my last post, Entering the Praza do Obradoiro, Santiago de Compostela, A Pilgrim’s View, we walked through the tunnel, arch of Pazo do Xelmírez, and into the Praza do Obradoiro. If you have taken this walk as a pilgrim, you know how exciting this can be. When you have your first views of the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, it’s also likely to be one of the prouder moments of your life.
On this post, I’ll focus on the main façade of the cathedral from the the Praza do Obradoiro or western side. If these photos look like they were taken at different times, well, they were. Most are from my summer Camino del Norte with the rest from my spring Camino Francés. Further, they were taken at different times on the days that I was in Santiago de Compostela. Now, let’s take a closer look at the cathedral from the Praza do Obradoiro. This is under summer skies.
La Catedral de Santiago de Compostela
Construction of the current cathedral began in 1075 and was completed 136 years later. Much of what you see though, was added in later years. For example, the bell towers and the staircase were completed in the 17th century. Further extensive work was completed in the 18th century.
Now, you may ask why is there a cathedral at this spot. According to legend, this is where the hermit Pelagius found the tomb of Santiago, St. James, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, in 814 AD. The king, Alfonso II, soon after ordered a church to be built on site. That first chapel along with subsequent churches were destroyed in wars and rebuilt. Finally, Alfonso VI of Castile ordered the current cathedral to be built. By that time, the pilgrimage had gained a tremendous popularity and a grand cathedral was planned. If you visit the cathedral, you may not only be amazed by this view, but also how large of a footprint the current complex covers. Make sure you take a walk around.
Taken on an August evening when I arrived to the Praza do Obradoiro after my Camino de Norte. Now, let’s take a closer look at the façade.
Not from here… it’s best to stand back for good view and zoom in if you can.
How’s that? Look at the detail! The famous figure in the center is Santiago Peregrino.
Against brillant blue skies: this was taken after my Camino Francés in the middle of May.
Magnificent! Now, let’s take a closer look at the doorway.
As I mentioned, the staircase was built in the 17th century. One of the exits is on the left, but the door is not always opened. The museum entrance is toward the lower right.
The cross and doors have always amazed me. If you’re at the cathedral, please walk up the stairs for a closer look at the finer details. You may be interested in knowing that the main building is shaped as a cross (see a satellite image).
Looking back toward the arch of Pazo do Xelmírez and the walls of the west façade.
Glowing in the evening sky: on the left is the tower at the southwest corner. The smaller tower belongs to the Colegio de San Jerónimo which sits on the south end of the Praza do Obradoiro.
A closer look at one of the bell towers.
The morning view, just before I left on my Camino Finisterre. As you can tell the light is better later in the day.
Not from the Praza but the view from Alameda Park, a recommended walk if you have a few hours of free time.
A proud moment.
Well, this is where your journey ends. Or does it? If you’re a pilgrim, you’re likely to think, and live your life, like the journey never ends. As for me, this was during my Camino del Norte where my journey would lead to Barcelona and France. As for my Camino Francés, that would soon lead to the end of the world, Finisterre. We’ll start that Camino soon but on my next post, Views Around The Praza do Obradoiro, Santiago de Compostela, we’ll have a closer look at the buildings around the Praza do Obradoiro. Please join me.
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