Where Apostle Saint James the Greater rests
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is a temple of Catholic worship located in the city of the same name (Santiago de Compostela), in the center of the province of La Coruña, in the Spanish north western region of Galicia. According to tradition, it houses the sepulchre of the Apostle James the Greater (Santiago el Mayor, in Spanish), which made the temple one of the main pilgrimage destinations in Europe during the Middle Ages through the so-called Camino de Santiago (Way of Saint James), an initiatory route in which the trail of the Milky Way communicated the Iberian Peninsula with the rest of the continent.

According to tradition, the Apostle James the Greater spread Christianity in the Iberian Peninsula. In 44 a.C. he was beheaded in Jerusalem and his remains were later sent to Galicia in a stone boat. Due to the Roman persecutions of Christians in Hispania, his tomb was abandoned in the third century.

According to legend, the tomb of the apostle was discovered around 814 by the hermit Pelayo (Pelagius) after seeing strange lights in the night sky. Bishop Teodomiro de Iria recognised this as a miracle and informed King Alfonso II of Asturias; this king ordered the construction of a chapel on the site. The legend says that the king became the first pilgrim to this sanctuary. This chapel was followed by a first church in 829 and later by a pre-Romanesque church in 899, built by order of King Alfonso III, gradually becoming an important place of pilgrimage. In 997 this primitive church was reduced to ashes by Almanzor, commander of the army of the Caliph of Cordoba. The doors and bells of the church were carried on shoulders by Christian captives to Cordoba in order to be added to the main mosque. Afterwards, when Cordoba was taken by King Ferdinand III of Castile in 1236, these same doors and bells were transported by Muslim prisoners to Toledo, and were included in the Cathedral of Santa Maria de Toledo.

Plan for the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (Spain) indicating 34 main areas such as chapels, façades, towers and so on.

Plan for the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Façades and Towers of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Portico of Glory

The Portico of Glory (Pórtico de la Gloria in Spanish) of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is a Romanesque style portico made by the master Mateo and commissioned by King Ferdinand II, who donated to this effect one hundred maravedi (the Spanish currency of that time), and it was built from 1168 to 1188 (the date of its completion). On 1 April 1188 the lintels of the portico were placed, but the completion of the whole structure was delayed until 1211, when the temple was consecrated with the presence of King Alfonso IX.

The portico is divided into three semicircular arches that correspond to each of the three naves of the church, supported by thick pillars with attached columns. The central arch is the largest (doubly bigger than those on the sides), it is the only one with a tympanum and it is divided by a central column, the mullion, with the figure of James the Greater.

Vertically, the lower fringe is formed by the bases of the columns, decorated with fantastic animals. The middle fringe is formed by columns that support the statues attached to the Apostles. The upper fringe is formed by the arches that crown the three doors. The sculptural ensemble is intended to be an iconographic representation of different symbols taken from the Apocalypse of Saint John and other texts from the Old Testament.

Big stone gate with many scultures made on the wall. It has four doors and there are some tourists next to the central ones.

Portico of Glory

Facade of the Obradoiro

The Obradoiro square, to which this façade leads, alludes to the workshop (obradoiro, in Galician language) of stonemasons that worked in the square during the construction of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

In order to protect the Portico of Glory from the deterioration it was suffering due to inclement weather, this façade and its towers went through several reforms since the 16th century.

In the 18th century it was decided to build the current Baroque façade, the work of Fernando de Casas Novoa. It has large glass windows that illuminate the old Romanesque façade, and it is located between the towers of the Bells and the Carraca.

In the middle of the central body is Santiago Apóstol (Apostle James the Greater) and one level below his two disciples, Atanasio and Teodoro, all dressed as pilgrims. In the middle of it, it is the urn (representation of the tomb found) and the star (representation of the luminaries seen by the hermit Pelayo) between angels and clouds. In the tower on the right is María Salomé, Santiago’s mother, and in the tower on the left is his father, Zebedeo. On the balustrade of this left part it can be seen St. Susana and St. John, and on the right it is St. Barbara and St. James the Lesser.

There is a staircase which allows to reach the entrance of the façade. It was made in the seventeenth century by Ginés Martínez, following the Renaissance style inspired by the Jacopo Vignola of the Farnese Palace. This staircase has the shape of a rhombus with two ramps surrounding the entrance to the ancient Romanesque crypt of the twelfth century, popularly known as the “Old Cathedral”.

Main facade of the Cathedral of Santiado de Compostela. It can be seen the two main towers, the main door, the stairs next to the main door and many people and tourists on the ground.

Obradoiro façade, the most popularly known of the whole cathedral

Between the existing plan of the Obradoiro façade and the old Romanesque portal (Portico of Glory) there is a covered narthex.

This façade has become a symbol of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela and the city. Proof of its representativeness is the engraving on the back of the 1, 2 and 5 euro cent Spanish coins.

Façade of the Silverware

The Façade of the Silverware (Plaza de las Platerías) is the southern façade of the transept of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela and it is the only Romanesque façade preserved in the cathedral.

It was built between 1103 and 1117, and during the following centuries elements from other parts of the cathedral have been added. The Façade of the Silverware is delimited by the cathedral and the cloister on two of its sides.

It consists of two entrance doors with archivolts and eardrums. The archivolts are on eleven attached columns, three are of white marble (the central one and those of the ends) and the rest of granite. In the central column are the figures of twelve prophets and in the lateral ones the Apostles. Above the eardrums there is a large frieze separated from the upper body by a fringe supported by grotesque corbels; at this height there are two windows adorned with Romanesque archivolts.

One of the facades of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. It has two doors, sculptures made on the stone wall itself and some tourists close to them.

Platerias façade

In the central frieze is Christ represented, with various characters and scenes; to his right there are six figures that were placed at the end of the nineteenth century and belong to the stone choir of the master Mateo. The original layout of the iconographic elements was distorted since in the eighteenth century were introduced numerous images recovered from the dismantled facade of Azabacherías. In a central medallion appears the Eternal Father (or the Transfiguration) with open hands and on the arches on the top there are four angels with trumpets announcing the Last Judgement.

In the tympanum of the left door appears Christ tempted by a group of demons. On the right there is a woman half dressed with a skull in her hands, who could be Eve or the adulterous woman; this figure is not praying on her knees but is sitting on two lions. St. Andrew and Moses appear on the jambs. On the left buttress, the biblical king David is sitting on his throne with his legs crossed, translucent through the fine cloth of his clothes, and playing a viola, personifying the triumph over evil. It is an outstanding work of Romanesque and it was sculpted by the master Esteban or master of Platerías; there also appears the creation of Adam and Christ blessing. Many of these figures come from the northern Romanesque façade or from Paradise (today’s Azabachería façade) and were placed on this façade in the 18th century.

In the tympanum of the right door there are several scenes of the passion of Christ and the adoration of the Magi.

North façade or de Azabachería

The North façade or Façade de Azabachería of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is located in the Square (Plaza) de la Inmaculada, also known as Square of Azabachería, where the last urban stretch of the French, Primitive, Northern and English roads of the Way of Saint James ends through the old gate of the Paradise.

One of the lateral façades of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. There is a garden with grass creating the form of the cross of James the Great.

Azabacheria façade

The Romanesque portal was built in 1122 by Bernardo, treasurer of the temple. This gate was demolished after suffering a fire in 1758; some sculptures that were saved were placed on the façade of the Silverware. The new one was projected in 1769 in baroque style by Lucas Ferro Caaveiro and finished by Domingo Lois Monteagudo and Clemente Fernández Sarela in neoclassical style, although it conserved some traces of the baroque.

Main doors and outter wall of the Azabacheria façade. It is made of whitish clear stone.

Closer view of the Azabacheria facade

At the top of the façade there is a statue of James the Greater from the 18th century, with two kings at its feet in a prayer position: Alfonso III and Ordoño II. In the center is the statue of the Faith.

East façade or Façade of the Quintana

The East façade of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela has two doors and faces the Square of the Quintana.

The Royal Door (Puerta Real), of baroque style, was initiated under the direction of José de Vega and Verdugo in 1666, and it was finished by Domingo de Andrade in 1700, who made large columns covering two floors of large windows, a balustrade with large pinnacles and an edicle with an equestrian sculpture of Apostle James The Greater (it is disappeared), very decorated with ornaments of bunches of fruit and military trophies on a large scale. Through this door the kings of Spain entered the cathedral, hence its name, and on its lintel is the royal coat of arms.

One of the facades of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. It has the Holy Door in it.

Quintana façade

The Holy Door (Puerta Santa), also known as the Forgiveness Door (Puerta del Perdón) is the closest one to the staircases; it is generally closed with a fence and it opens only the 31 of December of very specific years. It was one of the seven minor doors and was dedicated to Saint Pelayo (whose monastery is just right in front). Above this door it is possible to see in some niches the image of James The Greater (Santiago) and his disciples Atanasio and Teodoro next to him. In the lower body and on both sides of the door, it was placed twenty-four figures of prophets and apostles (including that of James himself) that came from the old stone choir of the master Mateo. Inside this door, passing through a small courtyard, is the true Holy Door, through which it is possible to enter to the ambulatory of the apse of the temple.

CLoser view at night of the Holy Door of the Quintana façade. It can be seen the sculptures made into the stone wall.

Holy Door

Tower of the Bells

The primitive towers on the main façade of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela were Romanesque (the current façade of the Obradoiro). They are called respectively Tower of the Bells the one located in the side of the Epistle (right) and Tower of the Carraca, in the side of the Gospel (left). They both have a height of between 75 and 80 meters.

Man façade of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. It allows to easily appreciate the two main towers of the building.

Tower of the Bells (right) and Tower of the Carraca (left)

The first body of the tower was built in the 12th century. In the 15th century they were made different modifications and in 1483 King Louis XI of France donated the two largest bells of the thirteen bells that it has.

One o the main towers of the Cathedral of Santiago de COmpostela. It can be seen two big bells on the last floor.

Tower of the Bells

Due to an inclination that was detected in its structure between the XVI and XVII centuries, it had to be reinforced with buttresses.

Between 1667 and 1670 José de la Peña carried out the body of baroque style in which the bells are housed, and it was finished by Domingo de Andrade. The architecture of the towers has a great effect of perspective thanks to its vertical lines and the sequencing of its floors.

North Tower or Tower of the Carraca (ratchet)

The North Tower of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (or Tower of the Carraca, which means “ratchet”) is located on the left side of the façade of the Obradoiro.

It was designed by Fernando de Casas Novoa in 1738 imitating the Tower of the Bells built by Peña del Toro and Domingo de Andrade in the seventeenth century, achieving a baroque decoration with all kinds of ornamentation that provided an architectural unification throughout the façade.

The second main tower of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Since it uses a ratchet, it cannot be seen bells in it.

Tower of the Ratchet (Carraca)


In April 2010 it was installed a replica of the old ratchet since its restoration is not possible, becoming part of the cathedral museum. The new one is a faithful copy of the old instrument and it has been made with the same kind of chestnut wood. It consists of four rectangular resonance boxes with a reed in each one that makes them sound when turning on a toothed axis and hitting them. The boxes are placed in the shape of a cross and each arm measures a little more than two meters. This ancient instrument, currently in disuse in the liturgy, was played during the Holy Week celebrations as a symbol of mourning for the death of Jesus, in order to silence the sound of the bells during this time of recollection.

Interior of the Tower of the Ratchet. A man is using the big and new ratchet.

Ratchet (the new one) used in the tower

Tower of the Clock, Tower of the Trinity or Tower of the Berenguela

The Tower of the Clock of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, also known as Tower of the Trinity or Tower of the Berenguela, is located at the intersection of the Square of the Silverware and the Square of the Quintana.

Traditionally it is considered that its construction began in 1316 as a defense tower at the request of Archbishop Rodrigo de Padrón. When Domingo de Andrade was named major master of the cathedral, he continued its construction and between 1676 and 1680 he elevated the tower two additional floors, as well as he achieved a harmonious and ornamental crowning with a pyramidal form and a lantern as a final finish (inside which remain lit, permanently, four incandescent lamps). Its height is of seventy-five metres.

In 1833 it was placed a clock with four dials (one on each side of the tower). It was made by Andrés Antelo and it was commissioned by Archbishop Rafael de Vélez. It has two bells as part of its mechanism: the bell of the hours, called Berenguela, and a smaller one that marks the quarters. They both were melted in 1729 by Güemes Sampedro. The Berenguela has a diameter of 255 cm and a height of 215 cm, with an approximate weight of 9,600 kilos, and the bell of the quarters weighs 1,839 kilos with a diameter of 147 cm and a height of 150 cm. Both bells suffered a cracking that forced their replacement; the current replicas were melted in Asten (Netherlands) by the house Eijsbouts in 1989 and were placed in the cathedral in February 1990.

High stone tower highly decorated with shapes and sculptures. It can be seen one of its four clocks.

Tower of the Clock

Choirs and Chapels of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Choir of Stone

Built by the master Matthew around 1200, the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela had a stone choir that occupied four sections of the central nave of the building.

It had the shape of a rectangle with crest and the ceremonial seats were decorated with images of apostles and prophets that were between buildings, in a representation of the heavenly Jerusalem.

It was dismantled from the cathedral in 1603 to replace it with another wooden one, and its pieces were used for other purposes and also used as masonry. Twenty-four sculptures of apostles, prophets and patriarchs from this stony choir can be found on the façade of the Square of the Quintana. Pieces that belonged to this stone choir were found in various works of excavation and restoration of the cathedral, and they are currently on display in the museum of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

Beige room made of stone with sculptures and other stone decoration on the walls.

Reconstruction of the Choir of Stone

Wooden Choir

The new wooden choir of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela was the work of sculptors Juan Davila and Gregorio Español, commissioned by Archbishop Juan de Sanclemente at the beginning of the 17th century, who decided to dismantle the previous one in order to install the missing archbishop’s chair and to adapt it to the provisions of the Council of Trent.

It was designed by Davila with two rows of seats: the first consists of thirty-five seats with backs of half-body figures, while the second consists of forty-nine seats with standing figures representing apostles, prophets, doctors of the church, martyrs and other holy founders and locals. The archbishop’s chair in the centre of the second floor presides over the ensemble.

After occupying a space in the central nave of the cathedral, in 1945 it was decided to dismantle it and to move it to the Monastery of San Martín Pinario (also in the city of Santiago de Compostela) and, afterwards, to the Monastery of Santa María de Sobrado in 1973. The consequence of these journeys caused a significant damage to the masonry, which is why in 2002 it was decided to restore and reassemble it in the Monastery of San Martín Pinario.

Walls covered with wooden motifs, shapes and religious sculptures.

Wooden Choir

Major Chapel

The Major Chapel of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela was originally Romanesque, but it was reformed during the Baroque period by order of the new master builder, José de Vega y Verdugo, appointed by Innocent X.

At the entrance there are Renaissance pulpits on both sides with scenes from the life of the Apostle painted by Juan Bautista Celma in 1578. It has a 17th century baldachin supported by angels and a baroque dressing room.

The altar was built by Domingo Antonio de Andrade on the sepulchre of the Apostle and in which he placed three representations of the saint. Inside there is a safe-keeping room with an image of Apostle James (Santiago) seated in polychrome stone from the XIII century, who is dressed as a pilgrim with a silver short cloak adorned with great stones. It is possible to climb up the back of the altar to make the traditional embrace to the saint.

Above the tabernacle is represented Apostle James The Greater (Santiago) in an equestrian statue while four kings honor him: Alfonso II, Ramiro I, Fernando el Católico and Felipe IV.  It can be found on each angle the representation of the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance.

The Mexican archbishop Antonio Monroy was the patron who donated the silver for the construction of the front of the altar, the tabernacle, the exhibitor and the image of the Immaculate Conception.

Main chapel of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. It is very highly decorated in a way that it looks like it is fully made of gold. There are some scultures of angels and apostle James the Greater in the middle.

Major Chapel

Chapel of the Pillar

The Chapel of the Pillar of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is formed by the union of the old chapels of Saint Andrés and Saint Fructuoso built by order of the archbishop Diego Gelmírez. Its new construction was due to the wish of Archbishop Antonio Monroy and to be used as a sacristy. It was commissioned in 1694 to Domingo de Andrade y Novoa and it was continued by the new master builder Fernando de Casas after the death of the previous one in 1712.

The altarpiece was made by Romay following the design of Fernando de Casas.

The central image of the Virgin of the Pillar is made of stone and contains among others the figures of the saints Domingo de Guzmán, Sebastián, Tomás de Aquino and John the Baptist.

In the attic there is a painting of the Apparition of the Virgin of the Pillar to James the Greater (Santiago), painted by Juan Antonio García de Bouzas who in 1719 was in charge of the set of the pictorial decoration of the chapel with marbles and jasper.

This chapel also has the sepulchre of Archbishop Antonio Monroy represented in an attitude of prayer, made by Diego Fernández de Sande.

The chapel has an octagonal dome with a lantern decorated with carvings of military and heraldic motifs. It was used as sacristy until 1879 when, by order of Cardinal Miguel Payá y Rico, it started to be used only as a chapel.

Highly decorated room with wooden seats for praying. It can be appreciated the red cross symbol of the apostle James the Great.

Chapel of the Pilar

Chapel of Mondragón

The chapel of Mondragón of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, also known as Chapel of the Piety (Piedad), was founded in 1521 by Canon Juan de Mondragón under licence from Archbishop Alonso de Fonseca y Ulloa and completed the following year.

It is made following the Gothic style from the 16th century.

It stands out the terracotta relief of the Descent of Jesus or Lamentation on the Dead Christ, made by Miguel de Sevilla in 1526.

Small chapel whose main decoration are some religious sculptures made of wood and the main one made of terracotta (it is in the central wall).

Mondragon chapel

Chapel of the Lily (Azucena) or Chapel of Saint Peter (San Pedro)

Situated next to the Holy Door of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the next chapel through the ambulatory is formerly called Saint Peter (San Pedro) and later Lily (Azucena). It was founded by Mencía de Andrade in 1571, who also has in the chapel his tomb with lying statue made by Juan Bautista Celma.

The Baroque altarpiece was designed by Fernando Casas Novoa and built by Francisco de Moas in 1731, and it shows the images of the Virgin of the Lily and saints Peter, Joseph, Judas Tadeo and Rita de Casia.

The mural paintings are also noteworthy, which were discovered after a restoration carried out in 1998 by Juan Bautista Celma and which represent the Exaltation of St. Peter and the Conversion of St. Paul.

Small room with paintings on the walls and some seats to pray. There are some wooden (and painted) religious sculptures right in the middle.

Chapel of the Lily (Azucena), also known as Chapel of San Pedro

Chapel of the Savior (Salvador)

The Chapel of the Savior (Salvador) of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is located in the center of the ambulatory, and it is where the construction of the Romanesque cathedral began in the eleventh century by the master Bernardo the Elder, as evidenced by the inscriptions on two of the capitals of the entrance arch in the chapel, one with the representation of King Alfonso VI and the other one with two angels.

In this chapel there is an altarpiece in polychrome marble of plateresque style whose principal was the archbishop Alonso Fonseca y Ulloa, made at the beginning of the 16th century. This altarpiece contains the images of the Savior, of the Mother of God with the Child and of Apostle James on pilgrimage.

Room with some seats to pray and some sculptures dedicated to apostle James the Greater.

Savior chapel

Chapel of our Lady the White

The chapel of Our Lady the White (Nuestra Señora la Blanca) of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, also called the chapel of the Spain (de Los España) in memory of its founder Juan de España (whose sepulchre is in this chapel) and his family, who donated it to Pedro de Arosa because they died without succession.

Its Neo-Gothic altarpiece dates from 1906 and contains in its centre the baroque image of Our Lady of the White, carved by Gregorio Fernández Prieto in 1747, and on one side is the image of the Virgin of Montserrat.

In this chapel the guild of silversmiths worships Saint Eloy.

Thin chapel with some seats to pray. On the main wall there is a monument made of wood representing some saints. On a side wall there are some stone coffins. It can also be appreciated the Virgin of Montserrat, made of black wood.

Chapel of our Lady the White (Nuestra Señora la Blanca)

Chapel of Saint John (San Juan)

The Chapel of Saint John (San Juan) of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, previously known as Chapel of Saint Susana, was founded by Archbishop Diego Gelmirez to worship this saint.

Its altarpiece contains the images of Saint John, from the 15th century, and of Saint Susana and Saint Domingo de la Calzada, modern works made by Mariñas in 1902.

The tombs of Bishop Miguel Novoa Fuente on the ground and the tomb of the sister of Archbishop Juan de Sanclemente are in this chapel too.

Thin room with some seats to pray. At the end there is a highly decorated wall with some religious sculptures made of painted wood.

San Juan chapel

Chapel of Saint Bartholomew (San Bartolomé)

The chapel of Saint Bartholomew (San Bartolomé) of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, previously known as Chapel of the Saint Faith (Santa Fe), has a plateresque polychrome marble altarpiece, the work of the Flemish Mateo Arnao, which contains the images of the Virgin of Good Counsel in the center, with representations of Saint Bartholomew and pilgrim James (Santiago) on both sides.

The chapel also has a Renaissance tomb made by the master Arnao too, where they buried the remains of Diego de Castilla, great-grandson of King Peter I the Cruel, who died in 1521.

The tomb has the figure of a lying body dressed in a rain cape and embroidery adornments. The head is on two pillows and the feet rest on a lion.

Above the sarcophagus there is a bas-relief of the Resurrection of Jesus.

Small chapel with almost no decoration. There is a carpet on the floor and some religious sculptures on the wall.

San Bartolomé chapel

Chapel of the Conception (Concepción)

The chapel of the Conception of Mary (Concepción de María) of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, also known as the Prima because the canons celebrated in it the “missa prima”, was reformed and projected in 1525 by Juan de Álava and dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, whose image was made in polychrome stone by Cornelis or Cornielles of Holland in the 16th century.

Its altarpiece with double altar is the work of Simón Rodríguez, and the image of the Descent of the Cross from the left altar is the work of Diego Fernández de Sande, all done in 1721.

In the ground is buried the architect Domingo Antonio de Andrade.

Sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding her child. They both are wearing a crown.

Conception chapel

Chapel of the Holy Spirit (Espíritu Santo)

The chapel of the Holy Spirit (Espíritu Santo) of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is located near the entrance door to the church-chapel of Corticella, on the north arm of the transept. It was founded at the end of the thirteenth century, with endowment for twelve clergymen to whom, in the fifteenth century, the archbishop Alvaro de Isorna granted the title of “rationers of the Holy Spirit” with the obligation, among others, to sing every evening the Salve Regina to Our Lady.

The image of the Virgin of Solitude (Virgen de la Soledad), made in 1666, was transferred from behind the cathedral choir to this chapel for worship. The embroidered mantle is a gift from the archbishop and Capuchin religious, Fray Rafael de Vélez. The pedestal, angels and ornamental pieces are also donated pieces, and the silver front was made by Antonio Morales in 1747.

It stands out the magnificent tombs from the 13th to 16th centuries that are within this chapel.

The Holy Spirit chapel was enlarged in the 14th century and later reformed on several occasions.

Room with some seats to pray. In front of the seats there ir a big sculptural composition made of many angels and Virgin Mary in the middle.

Holy Spirit chapel

Chapel of the Corticela

The Chapel of the Corticela of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela had its origin in an oratory dedicated to Saint Mary, called the Corticela, which was destroyed in the ninth century. It was rebuilt in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and it was integrated into the layout of the cathedral towards the eighteenth century. This chapel can be accessed through a passageway on the north transept.

The Romanesque door consists of various archivolts with columns and capitals decorated with plant and zoomorphic motifs, and the tympanum depicts the Adoration of the Three Kings (Magi).

The floor consists of three naves separated by semicircular arches with columns of capitals also decorated with vegetal motifs.

The apse of the head has a window with checkered decoration.

In the right lateral nave is the tomb of Cardinal Gonzalo Eans, who died in 1342, with his recumbent figure installed under an ogival arch with a moulding decorated with diamond tips.

Chapel with no decoration on the walls. Nevertheless, there is some red carpet and flowers on the floor, as well as red chairs.

Corticela chapel

Chapel of the Communion

The Chapel of the Communion of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, also called Chapel of the Sacred Heart (Capilla del Sagrado Corazón), is found in the nave on the side of the Gospel. On the entrance wall there is an alabaster image of the Virgin of Forgiveness.

This chapel was founded by Lope de Mendoza in 1451 for his burial. In the eighteenth century it had some reforms under the mandate of Archbishop Bartolomé Rajoy, where the architect Miguel Ferro Caaveiro transformed good part of the chapel to neoclassical style with a dome on eight columns of Ionic order.

The altarpiece was made by Francisco de Lens and it contains four images of doctors of the Church made by the astorgan Gregorio Español and Juan Dávila, who also executed the choir stalls of the cathedral between 1599 and 1608, which is currently preserved in the monastery of Sobrado del Obispo.

The sepulchre of Archbishop Rajoy is on the right of the chapel, while the sepulcre of Archbishop Lope de Mendoza is on the left.

Big chape with many seats made of wood for praying. There are sculptures on the walls and a big lamp on the roof.

Communion chapel, also known as Chapel of the Sacred Heart

Chapel of the Christ of Burgos

The chapel of the Christ of Burgos of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela owes its name to the image of a Christ carved in wood in the Spanish city of Burgos in 1754 by an anonymous author.

It was founded by Archbishop Pedro Carrillo y Acuña as a funerary chapel, and it has his sculpture in an attitude of prayer in the left part of the chapel.

It was built by Melchor Velasco y Agüero in 1665 with a Greek cross plant shape and a dome of coffers.

It has two lateral altars of baroque style executed by Melchor de Prado. In the altar of the right part it is represented the evangelical scene of María Salomé interceding in favor of her children Santiago and Juan before Christ, and in the left altar it is shown the scene of the cry of San Pedro after denying Jesus.

Sculpture of Christ on the Cross on a highly decorated wall.

Christ of Burgos chapel

Chapel of the Relics (Reliquias)

The Chapel of the Relics of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela was built between 1520 and 1535 by order of Archbishop Alonso de Fonseca y Ulloa to the architect Juan de Álava (disciple of Juan Gil de Hontañón) who made it with a cross vault roof.

It contains an important collection of relics. This collection began during the Middle Ages when it was used to contain the mortal remains of the different bishops of the cathedral.

The reliquaries are placed in a 1924 Neo-Gothic altarpiece designed by Rafael de la Torre over an earlier one by Bernardo Cabrera and Gregorio Español in 1630, which was partially destroyed by a fire in 1921, although the reliquaries and their relics were not damaged.

Wall highly decorated with many religious relics.

Relics chapel

Sepulchral Crypt

According to Catholic tradition, beneath the shrine is the sepulchre of Apostle James the Greater and his two disciples, Athanasius and Theodore.

Fearing the frequent raids by English pirates, especially the ones from Francis Drake who had threatened the city of Santiago de Compostela after landing in the province of La Coruña in 1589, by order of Archbishop Juan de Sanclemente the relics of the cathedral were moved that same year and hidden in the floor of the apse of the temple next to the Main Chapel. After some time this place was forgotten until January 1879, when Cardinal Miguel Payá y Rico decided to recover the relics and several excavations were carried out to find an urn containing bones in the area of the apse. After an analysis by the University of Compostela, the Holy See carried out a process that culminated in its authentication by Pope Leo XIII in 1884 through the bull Deus Omnipotens.

The crypt of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela was reformed in order to show the relics in a new Romanesque-style chiselled silver urn. It has a central image of Maiestas Domini inside a mandorla surrounded by the tetramorphs and the Apostles on both sides, which was designed by José Losada in 1886 and placed on a marble altar.

Silver and shiny coffin on a big block of white stone. There are some flowers and a cross next to it.

Sepulchral crypt of the Apostle James the Greater


The Botafumeiro of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is an immense silver plated brass censer that weighs 62 kilograms empty and measures 1.60 meters high. The previous Botafumeiro weighed 60 kg, but in 2006 a silver bath was added and it increased its weight to 62 kg.

The rope that holds the Botafumeiro, tied to the cathedral cruiser, is currently made of a synthetic material, has a length of 65 m, 5 centimeters in diameter and weighs 90 kg. Previously the ropes were made of hemp or esparto.

Hanging silvered botafumeiro in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

Botafumeiro used in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

The Botafumeiro is filled with about 40 kg of coal and incense (which makes it to exceed 100 kg in weight at the beginning of its movements). Then it is tied with strong knots to a long rope that goes to the roof of the building, and afterwards it is moved by a mechanism of pulleys through the nave of the church. To achieve this, a group of eight men, known as tiraboleiros, push it first to set it in motion, and then pull the rope to get speed.

The movement of the Botafumeiro can reach a speed of 68 km/h during its movement through the cathedral transept, from the Azabachería door to the Silverware (Platerías) door, describing an arch of 65 meters and a maximum height of 21 meters (an angle of 82º).

Tradition says that the use of incense in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela began in the eleventh century, with the idea of perfuming the temple and eliminate the bad smell left by pilgrims, who were tired, sweaty and many of them sick.

King Louis XI of France donated to the cathedral in 1400 a sum of money to replace the medieval censer, which was not made until 1554. The new incense burner was made entirely of silver, but it was stolen by Napoleon’s troops in April 1809 during the War of Independence, being replaced by the current one, which was created by the goldsmith José Losada in 1851.

More pictures of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

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