Santiago de Compostela, declared by the UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the capital city of Galicia and one of the most important places in Catholicism because of its reputation to be the place where St. James, one of the twelve Apostles of Christ, is buried. Santiago de Compostela was conquered by the Visigothic king of Asturias in 754, about 60 years before the identification of remains as those of Saint James the Great, and their acceptance as such by the Pope and Charlemagne, during the reign of Alfonso II of Asturias. Certainly, the remains were found in the small and close town of Iria Flavia, but they were moved to Santiago according to political and religious reasons. From then on, this settlement was not just a city, but a holy city, and one of the main centers of Christian pilgrimage.
The University of Santiago de Compostela (USC) is one of the oldest Spanish universities and it has more than 40,000 students, making Santiago one of the centers of the university education in Spain, with Salamanca and Granada. This fact makes Santiago a frequented city all year round, offering a vibrant atmosphere created by a genuine mix of students,pigrims and local,friendly people.
The historic centre of Santiago has many streets with old stone pavement and different pronounced hills. It is not always recommended for manual wheelchair users, as moving around without help can be very difficult. However, here is an accessible itinerary to follow around the historic centre:
Praza do Obradoiro: Praza do Obradoiro is the heart of the city, and it’s named after the workshop of the stonemasons that was established during the construction of the Cathedral (Obradoiro is the Galician word for workshop). This is the arrival point of thousands of pilgrims every day and starting point of the Way to St. James is located just in the center of this square. The Prazas’ paving looks old, but it is probably the most modern addition, with the slabs being laid to protect clothing from the mud of this former swamp. The surrounding buildings are examples of different architectural styles.
Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela: Santiago´s Cathedral has so many examples of different architectural styles that it would be impossible to reflect here everything. Maybe the most important are the Baroque front of the Praza do Obradoiro and the interior porch, Pórtico da Gloria. For a better idea of what this Cathedral means for the art and the Catholic religion, the tomb of Santiago (“Saint James”) is located under the Cathedral, and there’s the possibility to visit its tomb and even hug the sculpture that represents the saint. On regular occasions the church shows its Botafumeiro, a huge solid silver incense burner which is swung from the ceiling of the church by a team of energetic men (“tiraboleiros”) hauling on ropes. The main entrance to the cathedral is not accessible, as there are stairs. There is an alternative route accessible by the Plaza de la Quintana.
Museum of the Galician People: The Galician People’s Museum was established in 1977 as an organization at the service of the local community and feels committed to safeguard traditions that were forgotten or relegated from official history, but which are essential for people to find the Treads of their identity. The Museum provides a general view of the most representative expressions of Galicia’s own culture through a wide-ranging and varied collection of pieces. Except the permanent rooms, different temporary exhibitions are regularly organized on a variety of subjects.
Alameda Park: This beautiful park consists of three different parts: Paseo da Alameda, Carballeira (“oak grove” in Galician) de Santa Susana and Paseo da Ferradura. The three main paths of the park were designed for use by the three social classes of the time. The one on the right was created for the lower classes, the center for the nobility and the left for professors, clerics and other educated professionals. Its privileged location, bordering part of the old town and with a magnificent view of its west monumental side, made it the main city park.