The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is one of the most known cathedrals, and is, for many pilgrims, the end of their pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. It is believed that the remains of the apostle Saint James the Great are safeguarded in the cathedral. I have been inside the cathedral more than 30 times, opting to spend hours sitting and reflecting on my many journeys to this amazing location.
During my second journey and volunteering experience in Santiago, I opted to take the rooftop tour offered throughout the day in multiple languages. I must admit I had no idea that such tours were available, and it seems other well-known cathedrals such as Milan’s Duomo, Exeter’s, St. Peter’s, St. Stephen’s and Seville Cathedrals.
On the day we took the tour, the sun was strong and the temperature so high I could feel the heat of the roof through my sneakers. We were warned not to sit or touch the stones for fear of burns. Our group was small and the tour guide asked how many of us were pilgrims. Turned out most of us were, and those who were not heard a lot about the Camino during the tour.
Our first stop was inside the cathedral on the gallery level where, in medieval days, pilgrims slept. The location provided a beautiful bird’s eye view of the central nave.
Upon completion of our ascent to the rooftop, we were met with amazing views of the area, including a one of the Plaza De Platerias.
The architecture of this cathedral is quite amazing. The first stone of the present cathedral was placed in 1075. The cathedral consecrated in 1211. The cathedral was expanded and embellished with additions in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries and is currently undergoing extensive restoration.
The cathedral is of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architectural style. It was built mostly in granite. I was quite surprised to see random plants and flowers growing in various corners and surfaces.
The photo on the left is a fire pit where, in medieval times, pilgrims would burn their one robe, and were given a replacement robe for their walk back to their home. The robes were sewn by the local nuns who took care of the pilgrims during their stay in Santiago. The photo on the right shows the back of the Western facade with the statue of St. James with his cloak and staff.
If you ever find yourself in Santiago, I hope you get the chance to take the rooftop tour. It is one of the best tours I have taken in Spain.
Have you taken any cathedral or church rooftop tours? Tell us about it!