The Santiago de Compostela Cathedral is the end destination of the Camino de Santiago. The cathedral is part of the World Heritage Site and has been the site of pilgrimage since the Early Middle Ages. While the cathedral was initially built as a Romanesque structure, it was later given Gothic and Baroque additions. Today the cathedral is spectacular and a stunning place to end a week's-long pilgrimage.

The cathedral is said to be the burial place of Saint James the Great (an apostle of Jesus Christ). Today it is one of the most venerated places in Catholicism - the most venerated are Jerusalem and the Vatican City in Rome. One can visit the Vatican with an early morning private tour.

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History of The Santiago de Compostela

According to the legend, it was Saint James the Great that introduced Christianity to the Iberian Peninsula. The legend goes that his tomb was rediscovered in AD 814 around 750 years after his death by a hermit called Pelagius. He found it after seeing strange lights in the night sky.

  • Tomb: Of Saint James The Great (Called James, son of Zebedee In The Bible)
  • Discovered: Saint James' Remains Were 'Discovered' in AD 814

Bishop Theodomirus claimed it was a genuine miracle and informed the Visigothic king Alfonso II of Asturias and Galicia. In response, the king ordered a chapel to be built on the site, and (according to the legend) the king was the first to make the pilgrimage there.

In 997 the early church that had grown up on the site was destroyed by the Islamic Moors under Al-Mansur Ibn Abi Aamir - he was the commander of the caliph of Cordoba. But the actual St. Jame's tomb and the relics were left undisturbed.

The capital and center of power for Moorish Spain was Granada. Granada is a remarkable city that everyone should visit and still preserves much of the best of Islamic architecture in Spain.

  • Built: The First Parts Of The Modern Church Were Built In 1075
  • Expanded: The Compostela Has Been Greatly Expanded Over The Centuries

The cathedral seen there today started construction in 1075 and was expanded and embellished through the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.

Related: Planning To Walk The Camino De Santiago? These Are The Items You Must Bring In Your Backpack

Santiago de Compostela And Its Spiritual Significance For Catholics

The Santiago de Compostela is only one of three remaining churches in the world to claim to be built over the tomb of an apostle of Jesus. They are:

  • Saint James: Santiago de Compostela Cathedral
  • Saint Peter: St. Peter's Basilica In The Vatican City
  • Saint Thomas: St. Thomas Cathedral Basilica in Chennai, India

Today the tomb of the Apostle St. James is in a crypt beneath the Main Altar. Pilgrims arriving here can visit the tomb. The remains of the Apostle St. James are kept in a silver urn - alongside those of his disciples Saint Athanasius and Saint Theodore.

Today these relics make the town of Santiago one of the most important pilgrimage destinations (it is considered one of the three most important Christian pilgrimages - the other two being to Jerusalem and Rome).

In recent times, the Vatican has not made reference to the relics of St. James here, but rather that the Compostela is "associated with the memory of Saint James."

Pope Benedict XVI stated in 2010 "To go on pilgrimage is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art or history. To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where he has revealed himself..."

For Catholic pilgrims, there is confession and mass held at the cathedral. Confession is available throughout the day at the cathedral. If there are no priests in the confessionals or if one wants to confess in one's own language, one should ask in the sacristy.

  • Note: As Of The Time Of Writing The Cathedral Is Being Restored And Pilgrim Mass is Taking Place In Churches Around the City

Related: This Hiking Trail In Spain Is The Closest You'll Get To Experiencing Middle Earth IRL

Compostela Accreditation Of Pilgrimage

The "Compostela" is the accreditation of pilgrimage to the Tomb of St. James. To be awarded a "Compostela" one must:

  • Religious Reasons: One Must Make the Pilgrimage For Religious or Spiritual Reason or Even In An Attitude of Search
  • Walk The Last 100 KM: One Must Do The Last 100 KM (63 Miles) On Foot or Horseback (or 200 Km - 126 Miles - By Bicycle
  • Collect Stamps: One Must Collect Stamps On The "Credenical de Peregrino" From Places Pasted through To Certify One Was There (From Churches, Hostels, Monasteries, Etc.

Plan for the pilgrimage of a lifetime and be in awe in at long last the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral comes into view and one gets to see the tomb of St. James.

Next: 20 Most Impressive Cathedrals Around The World (That Make Us Feel Small)