9 secrets you didn’t know about the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Posted on September 27, 2021

We go back a thousand years to analyze this temple in a historical way will help you to enrich your visit. Because, undoubtedly, this is one of the most special moments of the Camino de Santiago: arriving at the Cathedral after walking miles and miles, admiring it and walking it from end to end.

In this article we want to share with you 9 secrets and curiosities that you probably didn’t know about one of the most famous cathedrals in the world.

1 Who is buried in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela?

In the cathedral, there is the tomb of the Apostle St. James the Greater, who is credited with spreading Christianity in Spain. After being executed, he was buried in Galicia.

2 Who was Santiago?

Santiago was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus. After the death of the Lord, and after Pentecost, Santiago went to preach in Europe and his favorite area was Galicia. Over the years he returned to Jerusalem and died beheaded at the hands of Herod. But… how did his remains appear in Spain?

Here is the legend. There are rumors that two of his disciples stole the remains of Santiago and brought him on a ship to Spain.

In the year 813, it is said that a hermit named Pelayo found the tomb of the apostle.

3 What is the origin of the Camino?

After the discovery of the remains, King Alfonso II of Asturias ordered the construction of a pre-Romanesque chapel. Having found the tomb was a miracle, and curiosity grew more and more. So over time it became a place of pilgrimage.

So now you know that this is the origin of the Camino de Santiago!

4 Spoliation and relocation

The primitive church, built somewhat later by Alfonso III, was destroyed by Almanzor, moving the door and the bells to Cordoba, although they later ended up forming part of the cathedral of Toledo.

This unpleasant fact led to build again in 1075: the Romanesque temple that you can visit when you are there. The Pórtico de la Gloria began to be built in 1168.

5 The Obradoiro Square

The facade of the Plaza del Obradoiro is of baroque architectural style and dates from the 18th century. Its main function was to protect the Portico.

…… WRITE MORE: how many pilgrims come to the square every year, what to visit.

6 Do you want us to tell you another curiosity?

Do not lose sight of the botafumeiro when you enter the cathedral of Santiago. It is a large incense burner that was installed to mask the bad smell of the pilgrims.

Nowadays it has no function because we have better hygienic habits than two centuries ago. This fact is curious to say the least.

7 Do you know the origin of “tetilla” cheese?

There is a legend that links the Pórtico de la Gloria with this famous Galician cheese. It seems that the clergymen did not like the fact that the sculpture of Daniel was looking at Queen Esther with a certain mischievousness, a sculpture that showed her attractiveness. So they ordered to modify and reduce his chest.

Do you know what happened? The Galician inhabitants as a protest, decided to give away cheese with this characteristic shape and that gave him the fame he has today. And how good they are!

8 What is the Puerta Santa or Holy Door?

This is probably one of the best-known curiosities of the Cathedral.

The Holy Door is only opened during the Jubilee years. That is, when July 25, the feast day of St. James the Apostle, falls on a Sunday. The tradition is to go through the door to obtain full absolution of sins. It is a kind of clean slate to start from scratch.

9 What is the greatest curiosity of the Cathedral?

Tradition has it that you had to bang your head three times (without hurting yourself) against the head of Mateo you get his wisdom. This tradition was encouraged by the students of the University of Santiago. The harder the blow, the greater the effect.

This was restored, and currently this practice is forbidden. The reason is the deterioration of the statue after more than four centuries suffering the head knocks of the pilgrims.

This sculpture is located at the foot of the Pórtico de la Gloria and lies on its back. Did you know some of these secrets? If you liked this article and want to know more do not hesitate to make any route of the Camino de Santiago. Contact us and we will help you prepare and organize everything. 


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