The final destination of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route is a magnificent medieval cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. For more than 1200 years, this cathedral is a religious center for Catholics and attracts visitors from all over the world. The town and cathedral have a long and twisted history full of significant and dark moments, but this place maintains its importance for pilgrims, its magic, cultural appeal, and deep religious meaning.
The cathedral dates to the ninth century and it is the third most important spot for Christian pilgrims after Jerusalem and Rome. Santiago de Compostela became a famous and meaningful location when the remains of Saint James were found in this place around 815. According to the Bible, Saint James was beheaded by the guardians because of spreading the philosophy of Jesus. This Saint was executed in the region of Galicia, and his remains were found by a hermit. This case was explained as a miracle by the bishop, as a result, King Alfonso II ordered to build a church that would be an honorable grave for a saint James.
However, the first clay church was demolished by Moors and the visits of pilgrims were banned. When the invasion of Moors was over, the works of the rebuilding of the church began under the order of King Alfonso 6th and archbishop Diego de Peláez. Later, the monastery of Martine Bernardo was established as a supplement of a rebuilt church, and the number of visiting pilgrims were increased. Some areas of the imposing 16th-century building were used as an Academy of the University of Santiago de Compostela for many years. It became more open to the public when the monastery of Benedictine was established because this monastery is hosting pilgrims and tourists during the months of spring and summer.
The interior and exterior of the cathedral reflect every reconstruction made during different centuries, so many various architectural styles such as Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, Plateresque, and Neoclassical can be spotted. However, the major part of the facade reflects the typical Spanish Baroque style of the late 18th century. The exterior of the Santiago de Compostela cathedral is also called an open gallery because there are many different porticos, statues, and galleries made by different artists of different centuries. The most spectacular part of the exterior is Gloria Portico, which is its main entrance. It is a massive decoration that recreates the scenes of Apocalypse. It is consisted of 200 statues and was made by master Mateo in 1188. The interior of the cathedral is very authentic as the major part of details have survived since the middle ages. It is decorated by many pieces of religious art and colored stained glasses.
The highlight of the interior is a huge censer called Botafumeiro. It weighs 53kg, measures 1.5 m length, and it is suspended 20 m high above the crowd via a system of ropes and pulleys. This censer is used during the most important Catholic holidays and special occasions. There is a special team of 8 priests called tiraboleiros, and only they can operate this censer. They can swing this massive piece of iron across the cathedral and reach the speed up to 68 km/hr.