Santiago de Compostela (Old Town) is located in Galicia, situated in the far north-west of Spain.
In the beginning of the 9th century, a hermit called Pelagius saw a mysterious light shining over a Roman tomb forgotten in the middle of a forest. Very soon, the incredible news spread all over the Christian world: the tomb of St. James the Greater, the beloved apostle of Jesus Christ, had been discovered in a far site near the finis terrae, the end of the known Earth, in the northwest of Iberian Peninsula. A few years later, this site became a famous pilgrimage town, one of the most important of Christianity.
Pilgrims came from all over Europe following the Camino de Santiago to reach the city born around the Holy Tomb, exercising a great influence on the surrounding area. This is evidenced in the small towns, churches, hospitals, and monasteries that were built near the Camino to attend to the thousands of pilgrims who came to visit the tomb.
This influence in the local architecture and art was especially strong and long-lasting in the north-west of Spain, but the fame and the reputation of the sanctuary of Santiago de Compostela went well beyond; Galicia was even known in the Nordic sagas as Jakobsland.
This famous pilgrimage site also became a symbol in the Spanish Christians’ struggle against Islam. Destroyed by the Muslims at the end of the 10th century, it was completely rebuilt in the following century.
The Old Town of Santiago de Compostela, together with the outlying Santa Maria de Conxo Monastery, constitutes an extraordinary ensemble of distinguished monuments. The squares and narrow streets of the Old Town contain Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassicist buildings. This town is not only a harmonious and very well preserved historical city, but also a place deeply imbued with faith. The cathedral, considered as a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture, keeps the remarkable Pórtico de la Gloria, a jewel of the medieval sculpture. However, the authentic symbol of the city is the Baroque western façade of the cathedral, which forms one of the sides of the square of Obradoiro, one of the world´s most beautiful urban areas.
The phenomenon of pilgrimage is not only a relevant historical fact, but also a continuous movement thanks to the celebration of the Holy Years.
Text via whc.unesco.org