While it was my intention to do a single posting for Santiago, it seems that the experience merits more (so apologies for rambling in my ramblings).
The Camino de Santiago or Way of Saint James is the series of paths leading to the pilgrimage site in Santiago. Owing to mobility issues, I was limited to traveling only 7 km of The Way. It was nonetheless a beautiful and moving experience. The various paths across Spain and beyond come together at Santiago. They do in a sense as the fan out from the cathedral form a scallop pattern. It is this symbol that marks the way. I found them along the short distance outside of Santiago, but also in Guernica. As I got closer to the cathedral it is with some irony that this is where pilgrims’ staves are sold. But, even this can make a souvenir of the spiritual journey one has made.
As the cathedral was approached we first came upon the Convent of Saint Francis (Convento de San Francisco). This is a beautifully designed convent, and the monument to St Francis is also wonderfully constructed. Both serve as inspirational landmarks on the way to the cathedral, and mark the spiritual heritage of the order, and of the city.
We soon arrived at Plaza del Obradoiro. This is a grand plaza at the end of the pilgrims’ trail. It features the main entrance to the cathedral, and the Palacio de Raxoi. There are buskers, beggars, vendors, and pilgrims galore, and the views are great. It is a shame that the cathedral on this side is undergoing restoration, as it does slightly diminish the visual impact, though the spiritual and cultural feel is still powerful here.
The Palacio de Raxoi is a truly grand building with its massive facades and pillars. With the Cathedral under scaffolding at present, this building maintains the grandeur of the plaza. I believe it is a former seminary, and if so it would have been a inspiring place to study. As far as architectural landmarks go, this is a must see.
To the side of the Plaza is the Igreja de San Fructuoso. This is a small round church, which sits below the main square. Because of its recessed position, its top is essentially at eye level to those in the square. This is a beautiful little church on the approaches to the cathedral. It has a wonderful exterior, and works as a useful landmark as well when finding one’s way back from the plazas.
As the main entrance of the cathedral is under renovation, we had to make our way to a smaller square at the side of the building. This square is the home of Fuente de Los Caballos. There was no real seating here, though one could rest on the steps of adjoining buildings. The queues were long to enter the cathedral, but square did offer great views of this lovely horse-motif fountain.
As mass was about to begin the lines were especially long. My wife sought some assistance for me as the steps at this entrance were rather severe, and I was allowed to enter from an alternative entrance.
Next up, the cathedral experience and beyond.