Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Cospostela is the capital city of the autonomous community of Galicia in Spain. It is also famous for being the final destination of the medieval pilgrimage route, El Camino de Santiago (The Way of Saint James). The city has a rich historical and monumental heritage and its Old Town was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.
Places of Interest in Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela is an important cultural center with a great many monuments, historical buildings and museums. The main places of interest in the city include:
- The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
The Cathedral is the reputed burial place of Saint James (San Santiago), one of the apostles of Jesus Christ. It is also the final destination point of the historical Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. Construction of the present Cathedral began in 1075, and it was later consecrated in 1128 in the presence of King Alfonso IX of Leon. The Capilla del Salvador chapel dates back to the original construction. The Cathedral is considered to be one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture in Spain.
- The "Mercado de Abastos" food market
This huge traditional food market is open every morning except Sundays and sells a huge variety of local produce. It is the most visited site after the Cathedral.
- The Hospital Real
This hospital was originally built in 1492 to shelter pilgrims but currently serves as the Parador de Turismo.
- The Gelmirez Palace
Situated beside the Cathedral, the Gelmirez Palace is a brilliant example of Romanesque civil architecture, particularly its arches and various sculptures.
- The Collegiate Church of Santa Mar√≠a a Real do Sar
This 12th century Romanesque church still preserves a large proportion of its original Romanesque architecture. It houses an interesting collection of archaeological pieces. The interior is particularly amazing as the columns facing the side naves appear to incline giving it an unstable look.
- The Convent of Santa Clara
This 17th century Baroque convent was designed by Sim√≥n Rodr√≠guez and houses an altarpiece from 1700 and several churrigueresque altars.
- The Monastery of San Pelayo de Antealtares
This monastery, which was founded in the 11th century, is one of the oldest buildings in Santiago.
- The Convent of San Domingos de Bonaval
This former convent now houses Galicia's main ethnographic museum, the Museo de Pobo Galego, as well as a beautiful Gothic church and the CGAC (Galician Contemporary Art Centre).
- La Casa G√≥tica (Gothic House)
This house, which is also known as 'Casa do Rei Don Pedro', is a 14th-century building with pointed arches in the main facade. It currently houses the Pilgrimage Mseum.
- The Natural History Museum
The 'Luis Iglesias' Natural History Museum houses a large collection of flora, fauna and minerals from all over the world. It also has exhibits detailing the work of Galician scientists V√≠ctor L√≥pez Seoane, Isidro Parga Pondal and Jos√© Rodr√≠guez.
- The Alameda Park
This is the city's most popular public park. It features a number of monuments, including two churches. It also boosts spectacular views of the entire city and the Cathedral.
- The University of Santiago de Compostela
This university, which was established in the early 16th century, was the first university in Galicia. In the 1980s, two additional university campuses were opened in A Coru√Īa and Vigo, which later began independent universities.
Gastronomy in Santiago de Compostela
Gastronomy in the city largely reflects Galician cuisine in general, as it includes a lot of seafood dishes. Some local specialities include Viera (Saint Jacob's Shell), Pulo √° la Gallega (cuttlefish prepared with paprika) and Empanada Gallega (a pie with meat, fish or vegetables). Pork is another popular ingredient, appearing in dishes such as Lac√≥n con grelos (cured ham with boiled potatoes, chorizo and turnip) and Galician stew. Galician-style octopus is also popular.
As for desserts, Compostela's contribution to Galician cuisine includes the 'Tarta de Santiago'. It is an almond tart with a little cinnamon, topped by a layer of icing sugar bearing the symbol of the Apostle's cross.
The region also has an excellent wine-making reputation. The Ribeiro wines, from Ourense, are particularly popular, as well as wines such as Betanzos, Rosal, Valdeorras, Amandi, Fefi√Īanes and Ulla.
Festivals and Celebrations
Like in many other places in Spain, the Semana Santa processions during Easter week are particularly important here. Other important festivals include the Feria del Ganado, which is celebrated for 10 days in May. It includes folk music performances but is mainly a culinary festival, celebrating the regional cuisine. The Festival of the Apostle is celebrated at the end of July. On 24th July the 'Fuego del Apostol' is celebrated with a huge firework display infront of the Obradoiro door of the Cathedral. An important mass is then held in the Cathedral the following day. There is also a Classical Music Festival in August and September, which includes a number of music concerts.
A Brief History of Santiago de Compostela
The origens of the city date back to the ninth century, when the tomb of Santiago (Saint James) was discovered in a forest. King Algonso IX came to the area to pay his respects to the apostle and he erected a basilica on the site of the discovery. In the 12th and 13th centuries, Pope Alexander II declared Santiago de Compostela a 'Holy City', like Rome and Jerusalem.
Also in the 12th century, the Archbishop Xelm√≠rez began to open a number of higher education institutions in the city, which later led to the establishment of the university.
In the 15th century, the 'irmandi√Īo' uprising caused the warring factions of Galicia to be expelled from the city for a couple of years. In the 16th and 17th cities, the city experienced a decrease in the number of visiting pilgrims and a resurgence in monastic communities. A number of important monuments and buildings were erected at this time.The Galician Renaissance began in Santiago de Compostela in the 19th century.
In more recent history, Santiago de Compostela was proclaimed to be the new capital of Galicia in 1981 by the Spanish democratic government of the new Estatuto de Autonom√≠a. Following this, the city experienced something of a revival.