Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Santiago de Compostela

On the day before Easter Sunday, the plan had been to drive west to Salamanca, Spain but the rain there was terrible too.  Instead we changed plans and headed north from Porto into Santiago de Compostela the capitol city of Galicia in Spain.

Santiago is best known for the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral and is the final stop on the The Way of St. James, a well-known pilgrimage. Although the pilgrimage dates back to the 9th century, it gained in popularity for tourists in 2010 on the heels of the Martin Sheen movie “The Way”. 

The Cathedral is MASSIVE. 

Preparations were being made for the Easter service the following day.  Therefore we got to see Botafumeiro, the world’s largest incense thurible, which is only brought out for religious holidays.  It supposedly reaches swinging speeds of 50 mph.

The tomb of St. James
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The scallop shell is a symbol of St. James and is seen all over Santiago and is used to guide the pilgrims on their various routes.

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After the cathedral visit, we took a little walk through the old quarter and enjoyed a light snack.  It was fun to chat with the many people who had just finished their trek.  
Most of the “pilgrims” I spoke with had made the walk for personal growth or as an interesting travel opportunity rather than religious purposes.  Regardless though, it was very inspiring to watch them all arrive into the cathedral’s plaza – young, old, walking, biking. 

Although the clouds were ominous at times, we got through the day without a downpour of rain, our first in over a week.  At dusk we headed back to Porto, and I added St. James’ Way to my bucket list.


  1. Sounds like fun! I'd love to go there!

    1. So far that's been my only visit to Spain. I'd like to go back and explore more of it. Someday!

  2. WoW!
    Looks like you had a great time...where will you head next Easter break?

    1. No plans for spring break but I think I'm going to Austria and the Czech Republic for Christmas. This Portugal trip is taking so long to get through...maybe just a post or two left.

  3. The weather certainly looks better.
    I've in mind to walk the Camino. Actually I've had it in mind for ages now but something always came up. The nearest was when I had to cancel when a court case about my fathers estate was listed for hearing at the same time.
    I will say though, going to Finisterre would be my true goal.
    It seems to be getting more ultra Catholic these last few years.

    1. Wait until you see the last day in Portugal...sunny and beautiful, then we went home.
      I do remember you mentioning this walk in some of your past posts. I had not realized until visiting that it is not one set route, but rather so many, starting from all over Western Europe. For me it would just be an amazing way to SEE so much and be able to really stop and look rather than traveling through these gorgeous places in a car or a bus or a train and not being able to stop. Where would you start from?

      I also hadn't realized, until you wrote it above, that Finisterre is the "true" end of the walk. I had assumed the cathedral was because walkers receive their certificate for completing the walk at that point. Apparently there is an additional certificate for making it to Finisterre or "the end of the world". :) The photos I've seen are beautiful, especially the sunsets.
      Sorry it took so long to reply - finally connected again.

    2. Callanish in Scotland. Where my fathers people are buried on Omey Is, and to an extent Carnac in Brittany are all finis terre also, perhaps the most important orientation in the Celtic study of astronomy.
      You still have the importance in the 'name' of that place in Spain. We don't call it Santiago, St James. We call it Compostela, the field of stars, even today. What you'd see looking out on the Atlantic on a clear night.
      The church latched on to the idea of a camino but didn't create it. Here's the little twist. It's the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St James as we think and call it today. But originally it would be the Camino the Compostela. The Way to the Field of Stars.
      For a good long time the church tried to halt the pilgrims waking to Finisterre but with the need for money to kick the Muslims out of Spain they used the tradition but shortened it to that cathedral, it became(is) the third in importance as a place of pilgrimage after Jerusalem and Rome.

    3. Yes it's a very pretty name - in meaning and sound. I had to look up Callanish. It looks like a beautiful place.

  4. Why were the pilgrims all laying on the ground?

    1. They were tired, relieved to be done, emotional, all of the above. When we first arrived, there were a couple of girls who walked into that area crying, overwhelmed. They walk about 15 miles every day to make the stops that have lodging available for the walkers and have to walk 62 miles or more to receive the completion certificate.