Santiago de Compostela, Botafumeiro

St. James Under Wraps

Group 1 — Brianna, Jessica, Monica and Trenton

Having had the previous day to ourselves to unwind after finishing the Camino, we began today by refocusing on what we originally came here for, the Cathedral of St. James. We had all of course seen the breathtaking facade, taking ample time to take it in upon first entering town, but today offered the opportunity to see the collections housed within the Cathedral’s museum as well as the interior of the Cathedral itself. We all took the museum at different paces. Some of us took extra time admiring the many examples of fine medieval and later artwork on display while also trying to fit them into the wider pilgrimage narrative as we both had studied and experienced it. Others rushed through eager to get to the Cathedral itself. It was the reason we spent the better part of the week walking after all.   

Sky light cathedral Santiago and ropes and pulleys for the Botofumeiro.
The Botafumeiro pulley mechanism was installed in the dome of the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in 1604.

Unfortunately inside we were met by perhaps the biggest disappointment of the trip. We all knew that the interior was undergoing restoration going into the trip, but what that actually meant was rather lost on us before today. Scaffolding and tarps lined the walls. What should have been a spacious and open environment felt cramped and confined. To “embrace the Apostle” one had to stand in a long line wrapping around what open space was left. To the more cynical of us comparisons to Disneyworld couldn’t be escaped. While some of us chose to brave the line to see the Apostle’s silver casket, most called it quits deciding instead to take the time to further explore the city, partake in siesta, and dodge the occasional rain shower.

View of Santiago street from above with umbrellas
View of UNESCO World Heritage Santiago de Compostela (Old Town) from the loggia of the Cathedral.

As disappointing as the Cathedral may have been, we all found more than enough to make up for it on the storied streets of this gorgeous city. From intriguing street vendors, to quaint winding streets, and even delicious ice cream, not one of us can say we did not enjoy our time in Santiago de Compostela.