The interior of the cathedral was under renovation when I visited. This meant I couldn’t see the Portico de Gloria, the original west front dating from 1188, which lies immediately behind the new west front facing Obradoiro Square. The Portico is the culmination of Romanesque sculpture and is a precursor of the new Gothic style.
The Botafumeiro was also out of commission. This is the large incense burner, which swings in a thirty metre sweep from ceiling to ceiling across the transept. It’s original job was to fumigate the pilgrims attending mass, but now only incense is used.
The most sublime view of the cathedral is from the west in Obradoiro Square / Praza do Obradoiro towards the end of the day when the low levels of gentle sunlight bring out the warmth of the stone. The facade with its two great bell towers was created between 1738 and 1750 in the Churrigueresque style. On here, there are many statues of St James in the guise of a traveller on his way to Santiago.
To the north of the square is the Parador for Santiago de Compostela, housed in the Hostal dos Reis Catolicos. On the opposite side of the square from the cathedral is the Pazo de Raxoi / Palacio de Rajoy, a neoclassical palace dating from 1766.
The Praza da Inmaculada is to the north of the cathedral and is dominated by the Monastery of San Martino Pinario, a vast edifice which is now partly a hotel. The monastery also houses a church and a museum.
Nearby on the Praza das Praterias is the Museo das Peregrinacions. The first version of this museum was opened in 1951, but the modern incarnation really started in 2012. The original building holding the collection and the Casa Gotica or Gothic House now functions as the Museum’s administrative headquarters. The current building was formerly occupied by the Bank of Spain and was restored between 2009 and 2012 as the museum’s new exhibition centre.
This museum provides vast amounts of information on the history of the Camino and gives insights into other pilgrimage sights around the world. The church had a huge influence on the business benefits of the Camino.
Another lovely museum is the Museo do Pobo Galego. This is a folk museum, or ethnographic museum, with wonderful displays of traditional clothing such as straw suits worn by shepherds and examples of early machinery like hand-powered looms.
There are two outstanding features for me. The first is the unique seventeenth-century triple stairway. Each one takes people to different floors. The second is the Panteon de Galegos Ilustres which holds the remains of famous people from Galicia, such as the poet Rosalia de Castro and the writer and artist Castelao, who died in exile in Argentina in 1950.
This museum is on the route of the tourist train that leaves from in front of the western facade of the cathedral.