Santiago de Compostela Cathedral (II) today

I must make this short if I can and if I can do that without disrespect to something so extraordinary.

I don’t know what they’d be like without it physically in front of you, but, as ever, I think the wikipedia pages are good: and I liked this by a Texan with a wry appreciation that I chimed with mine:  Both of those really helped me get a feel of the cathedral.  I didn’t get to go on the roof which must, as Trevor Huxham, and the lovely receptionist here both say, be amazing.  There are only guided tours and today’s was in Spanish and clearly my Spanish didn’t pass the necessary competency in the ears of the lovely ticket lady.   (I could just have looked but I thought she was right, oh, that takes me back to Samos and some near written and unposted and unwritten posts.  Damn.)

I think if you are planning to come here, it’s worth giving it a couple of days and going to the ticket office first thing to see what you can see while here.

OK.  No services today but still devotion.  A man in his seventies, smartly dressed, kneeling at one of the chapels, a lass in her 20s with what I then realised was a Christian tee shirt clearly happy to sit in quiet rapture for ages in one of the grander baroque chapels, the woman in front of me in the queue hugging Saint James for a long time with real passion and, as we then filtered down into the crypt beneath the altar, falling on her knees and praying silently.  These were in the minority but clearly that faith is very active in the hearts and minds of many here and I find it impossible to much fear that, or not to actually feel respect for it.  At those moments these seem very undangerous humans.  The man was thin, the suit had fitted a bulkier man and I suspected he had been ill or grieved.  I couldn’t help noticing the surgical repair over the woman’s left fibula: old fracture with pin I’m sure.  Why on earth do those markers of frailty, and perhaps of repair and survival, she had no limp at all, matter?  I guess they just do to me.

I don’t take photos of those things and was a bit uncomfortable taking the scouts yesterday but I think they were making a very public statement and none of them looked uncomfortable with that.

So this was different.  A rather grey day (and it’s just been raining really heavily outside now, late in the evening).  None of the crowds really, no basketball, no carnival, no car show.  Loads of pilgrims and quite a few locals.  The queue to snake through and hug Saint James wasn’t even out into the square so I queued and hugged him, twice, once with a rather pale facsimile of he bear hug I’m sure my ex-client had twice, and would again given the chance, have given him.  That, in some way, for that man and was that saying goodbye to doing therapy?  I think now it may have been.  Also a lesser hug from me and partly still because I know that man would have been very unhappy to have felt I’d only hugged for him.

I also tried again, and again failed utterly, to capture some of the sensational beauty of the place. This is the ceiling of one of the umpteen apsidal chapels looking over a high and pretty complete wooden barried to it.


This was the chapel before it.  Full of trompe d’oieul and OTT but really caught me.






This is the entrance to the simplest chapel of all, an original romanesque one off the north transept.



Inside it has a timber roof and is very simple but I couldn’t really catch anything worth reproducing.

And all around, these sorts of baroque effervescences.



I guess that might be 19th or even 20th Century.  Not sure.  Never seen a chandelier like that in the nave of a cathedral.


And outside, following the human chain out that threaded us through and then back under the choir and altar, moments where you can see the earlier work inside the walls around it.  This is one of my partial panoramas as we came out.  Apsidal and transept (I think) romanesque chapels:


More of those:


And turn and here’s a curtain wall onto the square, classical.


Incredible place! Enough already!  Good night anyone reading this!


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2 thoughts on “Santiago de Compostela Cathedral (II) today”

  1. So glad the cathedral was a good encounter.

    I keep coming back to this that you wrote above: “At those moments these seem very undangerous humans.” It’s making me think. A lot. (Slightly uncomfortable, even given my repositioning.) There would probably be no cathedrals without such people – though I appreciate that is a simplistic statement about a much more complex historical, political, ecclesiastical and human backdrop. I *think* I’m glad cathedrals are there, and for many reasons. Mostly to do with aesthetics, some with the senses of … ?numinosity ?transcendence … they can evoke, some to do with individuals/friends, and all that even though I don’t like significant chunks of what the organizations they are affiliated to espouse :-/

    Then again, I’d also take issue with the power and wealth behind many grand houses and fortifications…

    Haven’t reconciled these (slightly) uncomfortable juxtapositions yet, quite probably never will.

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