Santiago De Compostela     
The City of the Apostle

Santiago de Compostela along with
Rome and Jerusalem is one of the three most important centres of Christianity. Santiago, the City of the Apostle, is built around the tomb of St James the Apostle, which is located in the Cathedral.

Santiago, located in Northern Spain in the region of Galicia, also known as “Green Spain”, has a character formed by the medieval buildings and the green landscape that Galicia has due to the high amounts of rain that falls on the region.

Santiago has a population of 90,000 inhabitants and its population swells each day due to the number of additional pilgrims who make their way to the city. In 1985 Santiago was declared a “Heritage of Humanity”, and the Saint James’ Way receives the distinction of “First European Cultural Route”. The origins of the city go back to 813 with the discovery of the tomb of St James, legend has it that the hermit Paio saw strange lights in the form of stars over the field of Libredon, the field of stars, from which is derived the name Compostela.
This sighting was reported to Bishop Theudemirus of Iria Flavia, who discovered on the site the tombs of the Apostle and two of his disciples. In 44 AD, after preaching in
Spain, St James was martyred in Palestine by the Jews, his followers decided to place his remains on a ship and sailed off for Galicia in Spain.

News of the discovery of the tomb reached King Alphonse II who constructed a simple church on the site of the tomb, the church being extended and consecrated under the reign of Alphonse III. It was at this time that the first pilgrimages started to be made and the city started to grow with settlers and religious orders building around the church.

One century later 997, the city and the sanctuary were destroyed by the Moors, though Bishop Pedro de Mezonzo managed so save the relics of the Apostle. The Moors were pushed back and the city was rebuilt and flourished under Bishop Xelmirez.

The city has many attractions for the visitor, The Plaza Del Obradorio and the Cathedral, which is a large square surrounded by several historical buildings. The name of the square “Plaza Del Obradorio” is taken after the obradoiros (the stonemasons) who lived around there while they worked on the construction of the cathedral. On the north side of the square stands the Hostel de los Reynes Catolicos, the Royal hospital, built by the Catholic Monarchs to provide accommodation for the pilgrims, today ironically it is a luxury hotel. Opposite the cathedral on the square is the Raxoi Palace, built by Archbishop Bartolome de Raxoi in the mid 19th century, after various uses, today the

building houses various offices of the Galician government. The main building on the square is of course Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. The original building was started in 1075 and took over 100 years to complete and occupies a total of 23,000 square meters. The Cathedral also has a museum with 3 separate entrances, visiting the museum gives the visitor a true impression of the size of the Cathedral, including the Cloisters, the Chapterhouse and other magnificent Chapels.

The Cathedral is also the finishing point of the “Way of St James” for those pilgrims who are looking to obtain the “Compostella”. Obtaining the Compostella by walking or cycling a certain distance along the medieval routes that connects to France or the “English Camino” from Ferrol.

While Santiago de Compostela is rich in history and culture, it is also a pleasant city for the visitor.

The medieval buildings in the city centre offer a wide selection of shopping, and the numerous restaurants located in the medieval Spanish Piazzas create a relaxed atmosphere. Within the restaurants Galician cuisine rules the day, with a wide variety of local food, particularly “mariscos”, seafood. With
Galicia next to the sea, fresh seafood dishes are very popular in many restaurants.

The city of the Apostle lets the visitors imagination wander, realising that once pilgrims to the city once walked across Europe in their thousands to reach the this holy place. The medieval streets and the Cathedral are the same places visited by medieval and modern pilgrims alike.

Introduction taken from the website of Vapour Trails Direct


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