The "Fachada da Obradoiro" (Photo: Helen Bunting).
Out of all the cathedrals in
There is a palpable sense of joy in Santiago de Compostela. For hundreds of thousands of pilgrims each year, it is the end of a long, wearying journey across northern
The city has been a site of religious pilgrimage for over 1,000 years, and construction of the cathedral first began in the year 1075. The cathedral actually has four façades (and four adjoining plazas): the Obradoiro façade, completed between the 16th and 18th centuries; the Platerías façade, which is the cathedral’s only surviving façade from the Romanesque period; the Cabecera, or the front of the cathedral during the Romaneseque period, which is now enclosed by a wall; and the Neoclassical Azabachería façade, completed in 1769 as a replacement for another façade that was destroyed eleven years earlier.
The Obradoiro façade might be my favorite exterior part of the building itself, but my favorite plaza is the one that adjoins the Cabacera—the Praza da Quintana, in the Galician dialect (Gallego). With cafés at one end and a giant set of stone steps at the other, it’s bursting with opportunities for people watching. Street performers frequently treat the stone staircase as their own auditorium, and stage shows at the bottom of the steps. At night, the plaza’s cafés set up rows of open air tables, much to the delight of both foreigners and locals.
In fact, nighttime is when the cathedral is at its best, with its illuminated towers soaring into the dark sky. People gather in front of the Obradoiro façade just to gaze up in wonder for a while. After a few silent moments, they leave, arm in arm with their companions.
On my last night in
For more information on the cathedral, visit www.catedraldesantiago.es/ .