Santiago de Compostela

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Santiago de Compostela
Flag of Santiago de Compostela Coat of arms of Santiago de Compostela
Flag Coat of Arms

Location of Santiago de Compostela within Galicia
Coordinates : 42°52′57″N 008°32′28″W / 42.8825°N 8.54111°W / 42.8825; -8.54111Coordinates: 42°52′57″N 008°32′28″W / 42.8825°N 8.54111°W / 42.8825; -8.54111
Time zone : CET (GMT +1)
- summer : CEST (GMT +2)
General information
Native name Santiago de Compostela (Galician)
Spanish name Santiago de Compostela
Nickname Santiago
Postal code 15700
Area code +34 (Spain) + hud6f79 (A Coruña)
Country Spain
Autonomous Community Galicia
Province A Coruña
Comarca Santiago
Mayor Xosé Antonio Sánchez (PSOE)
Land Area 223 km²
Altitude 260 m AMSL
Population 92.919 (2007)
Density 416,68 hab./km² (2007)

Santiago de Compostela (also Saint James of Compostela) is the capital of the autonomous community of Galicia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located in the north west of Spain in the Province of A Coruña, it was the "European City of Culture" for the year 2000. The city's Cathedral is the destination today, as it has been throughout history, of the important 9th century medieval pilgrimage route, the Way of St. James (Galician: Camiño de Santiago, Spanish: Camino de Santiago).


[edit] Name

One etymology for the name "Compostela" is that it comes from the Latin phrase campus stellae, i.e. "field of the star", making Santiago de Compostela "St. James of the Field of the Star". This would reflect the belief that the bones of St. James the Greater were taken from the Middle East, to Spain and then buried where a shepherd had spotted a star. A church was eventually built over the bones, and later replaced with the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela.

Other etymologies derive from the Latin word Compositum, i.e. "The well founded", or Composita Tella, meaning "burial ground". Yet another etymology derives it from "San Jacome Apostol".

[edit] Transportation

Santiago de Compostela is served by an airport[1] and rail service. There are also plans to provide access to Santigo de Compostela by the Spanish High Speed Railway Network, a project under construction.

[edit] The city

Santiago's old Town UNESCO World Heritage Site

The cathedral borders the main plaza of the old and well-preserved city. Across the square is the Pazo de Raxoi (Raxoi's Palace), the town hall and seat of the Galician Xunta, and on the right from the cathedral steps is the Hostal dos Reis Católicos, founded in 1492 by the Catholic Monarchs, Isabella of Castille and Ferdinand of Aragon, as a pilgrim's hospice (now a parador). The Obradoiro façade of the cathedral, the best known, is depicted on the Spanish euro coins of 1 cent, 2 cents, and 5 cents (0.01, 0.02, and 0.05).

Santiago is the site of the University of Santiago de Compostela, established in the early 16th century. The main campus can be seen best from an alcove in the large municipal park in the centre of the city.

Within the old town there are many narrow winding streets full of historic buildings. The new town all around it has less character though some of the older parts of the new town have some big apartments in them.

Santiago de Compostela has a substantial nightlife. Divided between the new town (la zona nueva or ensanche) and the old town (la zona vieja or a zona vella), one can often find a mix of middle-aged residents and younger students running throughout the city until the early hours of the morning. Radiating from the center of the city, the historic cathedral is surrounded by paved granite streets, tucked away in the old town, and separated from the newer part of the city by the largest of many parks throughout the city, Parque da Alameda. Whether in the old town or the new town, party-goers will often find themselves following their tapas by dancing the night away.

Santiago gives its name to one of the four military orders of Spain: Santiago, Calatrava, Alcantara and Montesa.

The prevailing wind from the Atlantic and the surrounding mountains combine to give Santiago some of Europe's highest rainfall: about 1,900 mm (75 inches) annually.

[edit] Demography

Santiago de Compostela (Old Town)*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Obradoiro façade of the grand Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela: an all-but-Gothic composition generated entirely of classical details.
State Party  Spain
Type Cultural
Criteria i, ii, vi
Reference 347
Region** Continental Europe
Inscription history
Inscription 1985  (9th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

Demographic evolution of Santiago de Compostela between 1900 and 2006
1900 1930 1950 1981 2004 2006
24,120 38,270 55,553 82,404 92,298 93,458
A Coruña Province Population c. 1787
District population
City of Coruña 13,575
City of Ferrol (Civilian Pop. Only) 24,993
Santiago de Compostela 15,584
Towns, Villages and Hamlets c.229,123
All the Province (Total): 283,275
(Ferrol - Urban History, 2004) [1]
A Coruña Province Population c. 1833
District population
City of Coruña 23,000
City of Ferrol (Civilian Pop. Only) 13,000
Santiago de Compostela 28,000
Towns, Villages and Hamlets c.233,000
All the Province (Total): c.297,000
(U. P. Gazetteer By Th.Baldwin, 1847) [2]
A Coruña Province Population c. 1900
District population
City of Coruña 43,971
City of Ferrol (Civilian Pop. Only) 25,281
Santiago de Compostela 24,120
Towns, Villages and Hamlets 580,184
All the Province (Total): 653,556
(Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911) [3]

[edit] History

Santiago de Compostela was originally founded by the Suebi people at the end of the 4th century or the beginning of the 5th century just after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Then, in 584 the whole settlement together with the rest of Galicia and northern Portugal was incorporated by Leovigild into the Visigothic kingdom of Spain. Raided from 711 to 739 by the Arabs, Santiago de Compostela was finally recaptured by the Visigothic king of Asturias in 754, about 60 years before the discovery of the remains of Saint James the Great. So, from the 9th century onwards, with the recognition of the Pope and Charlemagne, during the reign of Alfonso II of Asturias, this settlement was not just a city, but a holy city, and one of the main centers of Christian pilgrimage, rivaled only by Rome itself and the Holy Land. Still, there are some who claim that the remains found here were not those of the apostle James but those of Priscillian. They are also thought by many to be someone else altogether.

Santiago de Compostela was captured by the French during the Napoleonic War and its capture broke the spirits of the many Spanish guerillas who were fighting the mighty invading armies of Marshals' Soult, Victor, Massena and Napoleon's brother, the new King of Spain, Joseph Bonaparte. During the war, many attempts were made to recapture it by Spanish partisans, who believed St James would come down on the field and destroy the French if they earned his favour by beating the French out of the holy city, which was St James's city. Many of the attempts to return the holy city to the Spanish failed, and the only one that didn't fail was unsuccessful in retaining its hold on the city, and the combined British and Spanish forces were beaten back, where they retreated with the British, and the city was back in French hands by 48 hours.

[edit] History of the Way of St. James Pilgrimage

Way of St. James.

The legend that St James found his way to the Iberian peninsula, and had preached there is one of a number of early traditions concerning the missionary activities and final resting places of the apostles of Jesus. Although the 1884 Bull of Pope Leo XIII Omnipotens Deus accepted the authenticity of the relics at Compostela, the Vatican remains uncommitted as to whether the relics are those of Saint James the Great, while continuing to promote the more general benefits of pilgrimage to the site.

According to a tradition that cannot be traced before the 12th century, the relics were said to have been discovered in 814 by Theodomir, bishop of Iria Flavia in the west of Galicia. Theodomir was guided to the spot by a star, the legend affirmed, drawing upon a familiar myth-element, hence "Compostela" was given an etymology as a corruption of Campus Stellae, "Plain of Stars."

[edit] The establishment of the shrine

St. James' shell

As suggested already, it is probably impossible to know whose bones were actually found, and precisely when and how. Perhaps it does not matter. What the history of the pilgrimage requires, but what the meagre sources fail to reveal, is how the local Galician cult associated with the saint was transformed into an international cult drawing pilgrims from distant parts of the world.

The 1000 year old pilgrimage to the shrine of St. James in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is known in English as the Way of St. James and in Galician as the Camiño de Santiago. Over 100,000 pilgrims travel to the city each year from points all over Europe, and other parts of the world. The pilgrimage has been the subject of many books and television programmes notably Brian Sewell's The Naked Pilgrim produced for UK's Five.

[edit] Pre-Christian legends

As the lowest-lying land on that stretch of coast, the city's site took on added significance. Legends supposed of Celtic origin made it the place where the souls of the dead gathered to follow the Sun across the sea. Those unworthy of going to the Land of the Dead haunted Galicia as the Santa Compaña.

[edit] Alchemical metaphor

In Fulcanelli's Mystery of the Cathedrals the pilgrimage to Compo-stella is decoded as a metaphor for one of the processes for making the Philosopher's Stone, namely the method using antimony. This method will produce stellated crystals in the arm of the retort, which are then further worked upon. A common misunderstanding which mislead many, including Newton, is that the "stellate regulus" of antimony is the matter to be used.

The pilgrim's shell was a motif used by the alchemist Jacques Coeur on the many buildings he erected, and was his personal motif; it is also the shell upon which Venus rides as she rises from the sea (morning star = stellated matter); this ocean is green, the color of many Venusian minerals, but it's meaning is deeper. Basil Valentine said that the alchemists called their first matter by the name of anything green to confuse the ignorant, but in truth there is such a first matter that is a green esculent water. Venus represents the generative force, the power of attraction/repulsion which brings forth the cosmos. Her water is that of the Fire of Desire which motivates this push and pull. The shape of the calabash carried by the pilgrims is another clue to the source of this green water.

It was also common for churches to place holy water in a container shaped like this shell, although it is unlikely most clerics would know why. This holy water (imbued with the Spirit) was another metaphor for the Mercury of the Philosophers.

[edit] Main sights

[edit] Sister Cities

These are the official sister cities of Santiago de Compostela:

Flag of Portugal Santiago do Cacém, Portugal (1980s)
Flag of Iran Mashhad, Iran (2000s)
Flag of Argentina Buenos Aires, Argentina (1980s)
Flag of Iran Qom, Iran (2000s)
Flag of Mexico Santiago de Querétaro, México (2005)
Flag of the Dominican Republic Santiago de los Caballeros, República Dominicana (2004)
Flag of Italy Assisi, Italy (2008)

[edit] See also

Saunders, Tracy, Pilgrimage to Heresy: Don't Believe Everything They Tell You (iUniverse 2007), for a somewhat different slant on the occupant of the tomb in Compostela. Though a fictionalised history, it looks at what we know of Bishop Priscillian of Avila, arrested on charges of "heresy and witchcraft" along with eight of his followers, including a noblewoman, Euchrotia, and subsequently decapitated in 385 CE by the Romans with the full knowledge of the newly formed Catholic Church, and whose remains have been suggested (by Prof. Henry Chadwick and others)may be entombed in the sepulchre which is said to contain the remains of St. James. See also: Priscillian, and Priscillianism, and The Way of St. James

[edit] References

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

  1. ^ The airport code for Santiago de Compostela’s Metropolitan Airport is (IATA: SCQICAO: LEST).

[edit] External links

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