8th July, 2009.
Yesterday, we got up early and after breakfast made our way to the train station, a 20 minute walk according to the Information Centre. Wrong, 45 minutes and we missed the train so we crossed the road and found the bus depot. Almost immediately we were off to Santiago and after a quick 50 minute journey on the motorway we were walking the streets of Santiago.
We were on a mission to see the Cathedral as it contains the monument of St. James. According to legend the body of Christ’s apostle James was brought to Galicia. In 813 the relics were supposedly discovered at Santiago de Compostela, where a cathedral was build in his honour. In the Middle Ages half a million pilgrims a year flocked to Santiago from all over Europe, crossing the Pyrenees at Roncesvalles or via the Somport Pass. They often wore the traditional cape, long staff and curling felt hat adorned with scallop shells, the symbol of the saint. The various routes, marked by the cathedrals, churches and hospitals built along side are still used by travellers today. The present King of Spain walked the pilgrim’s route when he was younger. We saw lots of people walking around Santiago with rucksacks on their backs and long sticks in their hands with a white shell tied to the rucksack.
The Cathedral is the Roman style of architecture with twin towers, an octagonal lantern roof, Spain’s finest collection of stain glass, wonderful carvings, a collection of gold and silver plate including the 13th century gold filigree cross, a tapestry museum of original weavings dating back to the 13th century, and one special doorway with statues of the apostles and prophets. We went into the crypt to view the tomb of St. James and two disciples who are said to lie in the tomb under the altar in the original 9th century foundations.
An interesting item hanging over the altar is the botafumeiro. It is a giant censer which is swung high above the altar by eight men during important services.
With our map in hand we managed to see and wander into several churches and places of interest highlighted. We had a very nice day and treated ourselves to four very nice cakes and coffee before returning to La Coruna on the bus.
In the evening we went to view the church of Santa Maria in the old town. The saint to whom the 13th century church is dedicated is visited by sailors who pray for her protection before setting off to sea on their voyages. We wanted to find the Gardens of San Carlos which contains the tomb of Scottish General Sir John Moore who was killed by the French at the Battle of Elvina in 1809 and to view the sea gates which were built into the old 15th century walls at different points. Mission completed we returned to Ariel exhausted!!!!
Our next port of call is to be Camarinas, 53 miles along the coast.
A very big thank you to my friend, Sue Moran for suggesting we went to Santiago.