Visit the outside of the building
The Cathedral is the stony icon of the city that developed around it; You can see from anywhere in the city. To preserve that image, the regulations prevent the construction of buildings that hinder their vision.
Oriented to the west is its most famous entrance: the facade of the Obradoiro, which is located in the square of the same name. What you see is the product of two constructive phases – Romanesque and Baroque – that despite their almost six centuries of difference have been successfully merged. This extraordinary work was commissioned to the architect Fernando Casas y Novoa to protect the Porch of Glory (which was the old Romanesque façade) from the deterioration that was suffering from the inclemencies of the weather; that intervention was concluded in 1750 without its author being able to see it finished. This facade was much criticized by contemporaries, who were not in favor of covering the Romanesque temple and the Portico de la Gloria with a baroque “altarpiece”. With the passage of time, the facade has become the icon of Spanish Baroque architecture. The Portico de la Gloria was designed by Maestro Mateo and worked over twenty years, between 1168-1188. Besides its evident beauty it is a theological story destined to impress and indoctrinate the faithful with precise messages on the Apocalypse of San Juan and other texts of the Old Testament. This masterpiece of Romanesque sculpture is composed of three semicircular arches that correspond to each of the nave of the church; Each arch is supported by pillars with attached columns. The central arch is the largest and the only one that has a tympanum, and is divided by a central column – the so-called mullion – with the figure of Santiago. In the center of the tympanum, the Pantocrator (the image of Christ in the position of majesty) is shown, showing on his hands and feet the wounds of the crucifixion. At the foot of the mullion, there is a small statue called the “Santo de los Croques” and it has been speculated that it could be a self-portrait of the portico’s author: Maestro Mateo. It is named because the absurd tradition of giving three croques (blows to the head) and asking for a wish spread; fortunately the bishopric does not allow that ritual that caused so much damage to the statue. All the figures of the group were painted; but the effect of the passage of time on the pigments and those absurd gestures eliminated the color.
The baroque facade of granite and glass is formed by three symmetrical bodies: the central one and two towers that flank it. The central body has a structure in the form of a pyramid with columns that divide it into three parts. In the lower is where the three access doors are; the central door is linteled under a semicircular arch. The upper part of the façade consists of large glazed windows that allow light into the temple. And at the top of the central body of the facade, a curved and split pediment, decorated with a sculpture of the apostle Santiago represented as a pilgrim.
The towers that flank the central body are the so-called “tower of the Bells” (facing north) and the “de Carraca” (which faces south); These are identical. As they gain height both towers are narrowed and the upper part appears perforated, ending with spiers. The singularities of this building also include its inhabitants; until a few years ago, in the tower of the bells – to which there is access from the roof of the cathedral – resided a tailor in charge of the religious vestments; He came to raise pigs and several chickens on the roof.
The facade of Platerías is the south access, that gives to the cruise of the cathedral. It was built between 1103 and 1117 under the command of Bishop Gelmírez; Three sculptors participated in it: Master Esteban, the Master of the Lamb and the Master of the Treason. It is of Romanesque style, granite and marble, and consists of a double doorway that accommodates many sculptures; These works are estimated to have been originally designed to decorate the façade of Azabachería. The tympanum of the left door is dedicated to the Temptations of Christ; there is the famous figure of the adulterous woman, which is the most famous sculpture on the facade of the Platerías. The tympanum of the right door is dedicated to the Passion of Christ (scenes dedicated to the arrest, the flagellation and the crowning with thorns); as well as other varied ones: the creation of Eve, Christ on his throne, the sacrifice of Isaac and the Adoration of the Three Wisdom Kings.
The facade of the Quintana has two doors. The so-called Puerta Real -which receives that name because the kings of Spain acceded to the cathedral of Santiago- is of Baroque style. It was initiated under the direction of José de Vega y Verdugo in 1666 and finished by Domingo de Andrade in 1700; This one made its great columns, a balustrade with great pinnacles, all decorated with bunches of fruits and military trophies. On the lintel of the door is the royal shield. The entrance closest to the steps of the square is called Puerta del Perdón; It is usually closed with a gate and opens only the Jubilee years, on December 31 of the previous year. On this door is the image of Santiago and his disciples. In the lower part, on both sides of the door there are twenty-four figures of prophets and apostles.
Towards the north the facade of Azabachería is oriented. The Romanesque portal was built in 1122 by Bernardo and was demolished after having suffered a fire in 1758. Very few things were saved but some of the recovered sculptures were placed on the facade of Platerías. A new one was built with elements of Baroque style -work by Lucas Ferro Caaveiro- and neoclassical -works of Domingo Luis Monteagudo and Clemente Fernández Sarela-; ending in the year 1769. In the upper part of the façade the statue of Saint James has at his feet in a position of prayer the kings Alfonso III and Ordoño II.
Visit the inside of the building
If we were in the jubilee year and entered the cathedral through the aforementioned Puerta del Perdón on the façade of Quintana, as we pass a small patio, we reach the Puerta Santa; and through it you enter the ambulatory around the altar, located under the apse of the temple. It is identified by its decoration and by being under a window; We make this precision because that interior door is often confused with the Puerta del Perdón.
The cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is conceived as a pilgrimage temple. The plant is of Latin cross: the greater arm has 92 meters in length and the transepto or smaller arm has 70. It consists of three naves, the central one of 10 meters of width and the lateral ones of 5 meters. It has a semicircular head with ambulatory, which acts as an ambulatory behind the altar and in which five apsidioles are opened. In the transept there are four apsidal chapels, two on each side of the head.
The central nave measures 22 meters high, is covered by a barrel vault reinforced with arches fajones and is supported on cruciform pillars with semi-attached columns that extend to the fajón arch. It communicates with the side aisles through semicircular arches. The two lateral naves are covered with arched vaults and the grandstand (on the side aisles) with vault of quarter of cannon. The cruise is covered by a Gothic dome on pendentives and cruciform pillars; It has a height of 32 meters. Also in the central nave there are two large organs that in 1978 merged into a single one (to which electronic and computer mechanisms were included).