In English-speaking countries we call open public urban spaces “squares.” They are called “plazas” in most Spanish-speaking countries. But in Santiago de Compostela they use the Galician term “prazas.” And the largest of these prazas in Santiago and probably in all Galicia is the Praza do Obradoiro which spreads out in front of the western facade of the Santiago Cathedral. Stonemasons working on the cathedral’s new baroque facades in the 1600s set up their workshops in this praza whose name in English is Square of the Workshops.
Pilgrims greeting each other at the end of the Camino Santiago in the middle of the Praza do Obradoiro.
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The archway to Praza do Obradoiro from Praza da Inmaculada. Santiago’s Parador (see below) is on the left.
The Hostal dos Reis Catolicos dominates the north side of the Praza. It was built in the 15th century by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella after they walked the Camino and were surprised to discover that there was no place for pilgrims to rest and obtain health care after their long journey. The building is now a five-star hotel and part of the Spanish government’s Parador chain.
Entrance to the Parador. The building has a Plateresque facade.
Guests relaxing on the Parador’s terrace at the northwest corner of the Praza.
I had seen hundreds of pictures of Santiago Cathedral prior to our trip to Spain this year but I guess they were all at least a couple of years old and I did not expect to see all of this scaffolding. What a disappointment!
View of Catedral de Santiago from the northwest corner of the Praza. That’s the city hall on the right.
View of the Cathedral from the middle of the Praza. The main entrance to the cathedral is now completely closed. Visitors have to walk around to the south entrance.
Across the Praza from the Cathedral is the Rajoy Palace (Pazo de Raxoi), a former seminary which now serves as Santiago’s City Hall and the seat of the autonomous Galician government. You can find statues of St James all over Santiago. Sometimes he looks like an Apostle. Sometimes he looks more like a medieval pilgrim. But the sculpture on top of this building is of Santiago Matamoros (St James the Moorslayer), the major symbol of the Reconquista.
Local citizens replace pilgrims and tourists to attend an early evening Star Wars show in the Praza.
The Colexio de San Xerome (College of St Jerome) marks the south boundary of the Praza. It was founded in 1501 for students who couldn’t afford to attend the University of Santiago. This building dates from the 17th century but its fancy portal comes from another building that was built in the 15th century. The University of Santiago has now taken over the building.
Entrance to the Cathedral’s museum and cloister near the Praza’s southeast corner.
We’ll walk around to the cathedral’s south side and the Praza das Praterias in my next posting.