5 things you should know before visiting the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Visit the Cathedral of Santiago

Table of Contents

Everything you need to know about the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de compostela is a city that is worth visiting, whether you are a pilgrim who reaches the finish line after completing some of the stages of the different Caminos de Santiago, or you simply want to enjoy a weekend in a Spanish city where the food is delicious, there is a great artistic and architectural heritage, and that is populated by a truly welcoming and hospitable people.

In addition, Santiago de Compostela is not only home to its world-famous cathedral, but also a beautiful historic center, the Alameda Park, its centuries-old university and the Mercado de Abastos, to name just a few examples.

It is true, however, that is the Cathedral of Santiago, as the culminating point of the tens of thousands of pilgrims who make the Camino de Santiago every year, the icon of this Galician city.

The Cathedral of Santiago is one of the most famous and one of the things to see in Galicia.

The Cathedral of Santiago is one of the most famous and one of the things to see in Galicia.

Although it is famous for the pilgrimage, other people visit it because it is a monumental building. To begin with, you have to know that the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral began to be built in 1075, during the reign of Alfonso VI. The temple was erected under the direction of Bishop Diego Peláez, on the site of an old church dedicated to the apostle Santiago.

Work on the cathedral stopped after the initial stages and did not continue until 1100, when the architect Maestro Esteban created three naves in the shape of a Latin cross. Construction continued throughout the 12th century, and over the years many additions were added in various architectural styles, including Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, Plateresque and Neoclassical.

In 1188, Master Mateo was commissioned to resume the construction of the cathedral and added one of its most spectacular elements: the Portico de la Gloria, which is its main entrance. It is decorated with 200 figures that represent the Apocalypse and the figure of Santiago, who welcomes the pilgrims at the end of their spectacular and exhausting journey.

The basilica was finally consecrated in 1211 in the presence of King Alfonso IX.

On the other hand, you have to know that one of the most interesting elements of this cathedral is its well-known Botafumeiro (incense burner).

It is a censer that scatters incense among the congregation. It measures 1.5 meters and weighs 53 kilos, which makes it one of the largest incense burners in the world.

This incense burner hangs 20 meters above the crowd, supported by a set of ropes and pulleys. And on some occasions, the tiraboleiros spin it, causing it to spread incense in the cathedral.

According to legend, and as a curious fact, this tradition began with the arrival of pilgrims. Thanks to the incense, they were able to mask the bad smell that they carried with them after many kilometers.

What is the best period of the year to visit the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela?

Being such a famous and visited place, it is not easy to determine the best time to visit the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

Most of the pilgrims who dare to make the Camino de Santiago They are concentrated between the months of April and October, with July and August being the busiest period.

The quietest months are January and February, when you will find few people in the cathedral, which contributes to the feeling of isolation.

What is the best time of day to visit the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela?

The first hours of the morning and the last hours of the afternoon are usually the best times of the day to visit the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in the months of October to March. However, during spring and summer, the best time is in the afternoon, right after lunch.

When can I see the botafumeiro of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in movement? One of the most interesting elements of the Cathedral is the famous Botafumeiro.

If you want to see the show of the botafumeiro in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, you should know that if it coincides with a año Xacobeo, It is performed at each midday mass.

In any other year, the botafumeiro performs its distinctive dance only at the pilgrims’ Friday night mass (at 7:30 p.m.).

Did you know....?

Most of the pilgrims, especially after having made the camino francés, They decided to continue traveling.

For this reason, many, after having rested in Santiago, decided to go see the end of the world with their own eyes, that is, Finisterre.

This is how the pilgrimage to the end of the planet was born, according to the ancient Romans, which began in Santiago de Compostela and ended in the Cabo de Finisterre.

How to dress to enter the Cathedral of Santiago

How to dress to enter the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Clothing is not strictly respected (especially in the summer months), however you must try to respect it.

What to see in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

EOutside, the Obradoiro façade and the Pórtico de la Gloria are the first sights that all pilgrims will see after completing the Camino de Santiago. All pilgrimage routes end there.

There are only a few drawings of the medieval construction of the Obradoiro façade on the western side. In 1738 the old façade, badly deteriorated, was demolished and the current one was built.

The Portico de la Gloria was built between 1168 and 1188, from the original church. This part of the cathedral is considered one of the main Romanesque works in Spain.

The facade of the Azbachería is located on the north side of the Cathedral of Santiago. This façade was rebuilt in 1758 after a fire. The current façade combines baroque and neoclassical styles. The Las Platerías façade is located on the south side of the transept. This is the only Romanesque facade that is preserved.

Inside, several chapels stand out (such as the Cristo Burgos, the Holy Spirit and the Conception), the beautiful main basilica, the mythical botafumeiro, the crypt, the treasury and the Cathedral Museum.

A complete visit to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela usually takes no less than an hour and a half.


So, what are you waiting for? The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela awaits you!