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In the early 9th century, Bishop Teodomiro of Iria, discovered the tomb of the Apostle Saint James. Kings Alphonso II and Alphonso III built churches and founded the Antealtares and Pinario Monasteries. The worship of St James made the Moorish chief Al-Mansur distrustful, so he set fire and razed Compostela, taking the bells to Cordoba.

Later on, the pilgrimage reached its peak and Alphonso VI commenced work on the Romanesque Cathedral in 1075. Some years later, count Ramón de Borgoña and Diego Gelmírez promoted the work on this and other churches. The city grew and the population even revolted against Queen Urraca and Gelmírez in 1117. In spite of everything, the "Calixtine Codex" refers to the city as "the Apostle's sublime city, filled with every kind of charm . . . so it is regarded as the happiest and most distinguished of the Spanish cities".

In 1211 Master Mateo and his school finished the Cathedral. The Middle Ages, not always peaceful, were coming to an end. The Renaissance arrived with the reign of the Catholic Monarchs and one of the first works of this period is the Royal Hospital, today a splendid hotel. Moreover, Archbishops of the Fonseca family left an indelible trace by founding the University, paying for the Cathedral's splendid cloister and building Fonseca College.

The Baroque period restored the historical city, the cathedral, churches and monasteries, and left them almost exactly as they are now. The century-old tradition and Santiago's contribution to the formation of Europe have lately brought the city international recognition. Thus Santiago has been declared World Heritage, and the Road to Santiago has been acknowledged as the First European Cultural Route and a World Heritage site. The calls for European unity coming from Santiago give clear proof of its transcendental role. All this, and the fact that it is the capital of the region, predict a promising future for Santiago.


Visitors to Santiago Cathedral come across a ritual that pilgrims have been carrying out for almost a thousand years. The itinerary begins by facing the Portico of Glory, one of the most remarkable Romanesque sculptures, by the Master-Sculptor Mateo, erected in a period of twenty years and finished in 1188. A sculpture of the Apostle James stands on top of a column, which rises up like the trunk of a tree. As a second step, the pilgrim must touch this column and introduce his or her fingers into the cavities shaped by the millions of visitors who have caressed this marble pillar. After this, the pilgrim must go around the pillar, lean over and gently bump his or her head against a figure, known as Santo dos Croques (which is said to be by the Master-Sculptor Mateo), whose intelligence seems to influence students. The next step involves making one's way to the main altar and facing the gold image of St. James. In front of this, the pilgrim must carry a memento for all those who have helped him or her on their journey along St. James' Way. Then he or she must go behind the altar, up several steps, until they come on a level with the Apostle's back, and embrace him round one or both shoulders. Finally, a narrow stairway leads down beneath the main altar to a little golden crypt, containing the Saint's remains.