Interior of the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral
In this section we will describe the most interesting elements to enjoy during your visit to the Santiago cathedral.
The cathedral has a nave and two aisles and a Latin cross ground plan.
How big is the cathedral of Santiago? The nave and aisles are 325 ft. long, the transept 218 ft. The nave is 28 ft. 6 in. wide and 80 ft. high. The interior is a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture. The broad, very tall nave and aisles, with Romanesque round arches and gallery, and the transept make a superb impression. Around the nave and aisles there is a string of chapels, which are mostly Romanesque and have richly decorated altars, tombs and sculptures.
The centrepiece is the baroque Capilla Mayor with the reliquary of the Apostle. Adjoining this is the Gothic Capilla de San Fernando, which is now a treasury. In particular note the monstrance by Antonio de Arfe (1539 -44), a triptych of the Flemish school (15C) and the candelabra (cornucopias) by the German J.Jäger (1683).
To the right of the Capilla Mayor is the Capilla del Pilar from the early 18C, in Galician baroque style. A further series of chapels radiates off the apse (Capilla de San Bartolomé, Capilla de la Concepción, Capilla de Santa Cruz…
In front of the Capilla Mayor is the octagonal lantern-tower (cimborio), which displays Romanesque, Gothic (drum) and Renaissance elements (attic, dome and lantern); the lantern provides the cathedral with light in front of the high altar.
Where is Santiago apostle buried?
The crypt beneath the high altar, where the apostle is reputed to have been buried in a silver shrine (1896), has relics of the saint and his disciples, St.Theodore and St.Athanasius.
The cloister, one of the largest (inner court 100 ft. x 100 ft.) and most beautiful in Spain, was designed by a whole team of architects and built in a mixture of Castilian late Gothic and Renaissance styles in 1521-46. From the cloister you proceed to the museum section with the archive and library , whose valuable treasures include the Tumbos Catedralicios and the Codex Calixtino with miniatures, incunabula, and also tapestries designed by David Teniers.
What is the butafumeiro? It is a vast silver censer, which is swung like a bell through the transept of the Cathedral during services is also kept here.
The Tapestry Museum,
It contains the “Pennant of Lepanto’, was founded in 1571 by Don Juan of Austria. Of particular interest are the 8 tapestries of the Life of Achilles by Jan Raës (to designs by Rubens), the 12 made to Goya’s designs and 25 carpets to the designs of David Teniers. The Archaeological Museum contains interesting sarcophagi, tombstones, capitals, reliefs and sculptures
The entrance to the crypt-like lower church is on the Plaza de España. It lies with the apse below the Western bay of the cathedral nave; the rest extends in front of the cathedral. It is not clear whether the Old Cathedral was simply taken over in 1168 or whether it had been in existence for longer. The Romanesque building (with Gothic architectural elements) contains a 13C statue of the wife of Alfonso X.