Introducing Santiago de Compostela
There can be few cities in the world as beautiful as Santiago that are founded on the basis of so preposterous a story. The corpse of Santiago Apóstol (St James), the myth relates, was transported in a stone boat from the Holy Land to the far side of Spain by two disciples after his execution in Jerusalem in AD 44. They landed at Padrón and buried Santiago in a spot 17km inland.
In 813 the grave was supposedly rediscovered by a religious hermit following a guiding star (hence ‘Compostela’, a corruption of the Latin campus stellae, field of the star). The saint’s purported grave became a welcome rally‑ing symbol for Christian Spain, the Asturian king Alfonso II turned up to have a church erected above the holy remains, pilgrims began flocking to it and the rest is history.
Aesthetically the city has only improved with age and various architectural additions down the centuries. Apart from the undisputed splendour of its gold-tinged monuments and the charm of its medieval streets, Santiago de Compostela is today a very lively city with a huge summer contingent of international pilgrims and tourists, and during college term a student population of up to 40, 000. There’s a great entertainment and nightlife scene to tap into at the end of a day investigating the city’s history and culture.
Last updated: Mar 2, 2009
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