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Santiago de Compostela

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Santiago de Compostela is the provincial capital of Galicia in the Northwest corner of Spain. It is famous for being the final destination point for pilgrims who have been walking to Santiago for centuries.

This pilgrimage is called the Way of Saint James, or the Camino. I used to think that it was only for Catholics, but on this trip I met quite a few pilgrims who were not Catholic and who wanted to make the journey for their own spiritual reasons.

Some pilgrims start their journey in Lisbon, while others begin in the South of France. I began to recognise pilgrims enroute by looking at the sturdy hiking boots they wore.

The Saints depicted above the archway welcome the weary traveller to a 5 star Parador hotel in Santiago de Compostela.

Wikipedia explains:

"The Hostal dos Reis Católicos sits at the very end of the famous pilgrimage trail, the Way of St. James, next to the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral.

Pilgrims from all over Europe, throughout the Middle Ages, both rich and poor, followed the Way of St. James, and arrived in Santiago de Compostela. In the late 15th century Ferdinand and Isabel themselves completed the pilgrimage across northern Spain. As a sign of their religious piety, and their growing economic and political might, they began a program to improve the infrastructure and support services on the pilgrimage trail in Spain. They built new hostels, bridges, churches, and public wells.

The most improvement project by Isabel and Ferdinand was the Hostal, right next to the great cathedral at the very end of the pilgrimage trail. The Hostal de los Reyes Católicos served as a hospice and a hospital, where pilgrims could recover and rejuvenate after completing the pilgrimage. The Hostal had a multilingual staff of doctors, nurses, and priests on call 24 hours a day; and provided all services free of charge. Pilgrims were allowed to recover at the Hostal for 3 days in the summer, and 5 days in the winter.

As of 2014 the hotel continued to provide free services to a limited number of pilgrims. It is widely considered the oldest continuously operating hotel in the world, and has also been called 'the most beautiful hotel in Europe'."

This is the main entrance of the Colegio Mayor de Fonseca. I am not sure, but I think that it is now the Library of the University of Santiago.
This courtyard is within the Colegio Mayor de Fonseca. The statue in the courtyard is of Alonso de Fonseca, the Archbishop who gave the order to build this University in the 16th Century.
The tower on the right of this photo is part of the Colegio Mayor de Fonseca. But the tower on the left is part of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compastela.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of preservation work being carried out on the Cathedral when I was there, which rather spoilt the chance to take good, clear photos of the Cathedral towers.

This is the gorgeous portal of the Colegio de San Xerome. I think that it was another contribution to the monuments of Santiago de Compostela from the generous Archbishop Alfonso de Fonseca.
A detail of the Portal.
The Cathedral of Santiago has many facades and several entrances. As mentioned earlier, it is the final destination of all the Pilgrims on the Camino, "The Way of St. James".
The Platerias Square entrance of the Cathedral. I think that the decoration could be described as Plateresque. I gave a good account of the Plateresque style in the page about Salamanca.
Looking up at one of the towers of the Cathedral.
Okay, just for a change, this was the EXIT from the Cathedral. We will see the Horse Fountain again later.
This is the interior of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

Apart from my many visits during the day, I was told to go to the Cathedral one particualr evening in order to witness a traditional ritual. That large incense burner you can see in the photo, hanging by a rope from the ceiling, is swung mightily by eight red-robed men (called tiraboleiros) so that it flies through the air in the high Nave of the Cathedral, just missing the heads of the worshippers at the lowest point of its travels.

The ritual and the incense burner are both called the Botafumeiro.

Apparently, the Botafumeiro ritual had a useful medical function many centuries ago. After walking for weeks from various parts of Europe, and not taking too many showers along the way, many of the pilgrims had massive B.O. problemos.

Swinging that giant incense burner helped to mitigate the often unpleasant odours emanating from the devout new arrivals.

I am told that, today, personal hygiene among the Pilgrims is no longer such a worry, but the Botafumeiro continues as a worthwhile tradition. The tourists love it, and the Cathedral was packed when I visited that evening. You have to buy a ticket to view the spectacle.

The Pulpit and the Botafumeiro of the Cathedral of Santiago.
The exit from the Cathedral takes us to this charming square, with the Horse Fountain below.
One of the joys of visiting Santiago is simply getting lost wandering around the Medieval streets of the Old Town.
Someone upstairs wants a private garden.
That is a bust of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, the author of "Don Quixote". The plaza in the Old Town is named after him.
When I first walked through that archway on the right of the photo (coming from the opposite direction), I saw a bag-piper and his percussionist mate busking there (see the next photo below).
The Cathedral towers are a useful landmark to help navigate your way through the winding streets.
This is the Monastery of San Martin Pinarius. I am told that it is now a Seminary.
This is the Pazo de Raxoi (Raxoi Palace), built in the 18th Century in the French neoclassical style. It is situated in the Praza do Obradoiro, right opposite the Cathedral of Santiago.

Today it is the site of both the City Hall and the Provincial Government of Galicia.

This is the elegant colonnade of the Raxoi Palace.
On the Western flank of the Old Town there is a serene public garden called the Parque da Alameda.
A view from the Parque da Alameda, looking towards the West.
This is the road I took to walk from the Bus Station to my hotel, which was just to the East of the Old Town of Santiago.
This used to be the old Market but it is now a buzzing place, full of locals enjoying their morning coffees.
A view looking East from the Old Town. I couldn't work out what that building with the bell tower was called. If anyone knows, please email me. Muchos gracias.
I did a day trip from Ssantiago to Cape Finisterre, the Westernmost point in Europe. On the way we visited the only river in Europe which enters the Atlantic Ocean as a waterfall.
I just love this view of a Spanish mountain landscape!
This is a traditional Galician grain storage facility. We passed many of them as we approached Cape Finisterre.
The round stone slabs deter rodents from pillaging the stored grain.
Just one of many lighthouses guiding sailors to safety along this dangerous shore. This part of Galicia is called the Costa da Morte, the Coast of Death. It has an extensive history of shipwrecks.
Cape Finisterre.

It is appropriate to end our visit to Galicia and Santiago de Compostela with a shot of the lighthouse at "The End of the World" (as it was known in the Middle Ages in Europe).

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