Santiago de Compostela’s history is incredibly fascinating and provides an incredible study abroad opportunity for students! If you undertake this study abroad program you’ll learn all about its roots and how they go back all the way to the ninth century when a hermit saw mystical lights shining over a forgotten tomb. He spread news of what he saw and soon it was determined to be the tomb of St James the Greater. This is what makes pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela so prevalent today and even back then. When visiting the city you can learn all about this pilgrimage and just how important faith is to Santiago de Compostela. Maybe even come for the festival of St James on the martyrs feast day in July. However, it is no stranger to hardship. Towards the end of the tenth century the Muslims destroyed everything in Santiago de Compostela but the tomb survived. This shows the ancient struggle against Islam in the Iberian peninsula. These two religions fought fiercely and much can be learned from this city of that struggle.
Of course, this did not stop Christianity and it was later rebuilt in the eleventh century featuring an impressive cathedral being built on top of the tomb which was ordered by King Alfonso VI of Leon and Castile which is pictured above. Later on a royal hospital was built to house the pilgrims who took on the pilgrimage. It is now Spain’s oldest hotel and it sits right next to the cathedral and was built in 1501 by Enrique de Egas. It is still taking guests even today, maybe even you’ll stay here on your study abroad trip? The city also features an impressive mix of architecture styles including Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassicist buildings. All of these styles mix together and make this city incredibly historical and faithful.
Another impressive section of this city is the Plaza de la Quintana which translates to Square of the Dead which is pictured above. It features a large stair case which splits the plaza in two. The upper section is called Quintana dos vivos. There also used to be a graveyard here and when you go to that spot at night, local legend says you can see the dead. That spot is called Quintana dos Mortos.
In this upper section there is a plaque that reads “A LOS HEROES DEL BATALLON LITEARIO DE 1808 LOS ESCOLARES COMPOSTELANOS DE 1896 Y LOS AYUNTAMIENTOS DE 1822 1865 1866.”, this in English translates to “In memory of the heroes of the literary battalion of 1808. Posed by the scholars of Compostela in 1896 and by the city in 1822 1865 1866.” This highlights another important topic of Spain’s history, the invasion of Napoleon’s armies in 1808. Santiago de Compostela, along with other cities, stood up to Napoleon’s invasion. A group of scholars got together and formed a battalion called the “literary battalion”. These young students set out to rescue King Fernando VII and to end Napoleon’s reign. They fought for two years until 1810 when they then disbanded and all were promoted to officers in the military. Just above this plaque reads “Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera”. This name is also deeply rooted in Spain’s history. He was the one who founded the Falange which was the political party that rose up and began a civil war in 1936 in Spain. He was later killed and laid to rest in the Valley of the Fallen. The Spanish civil war took a heavy toll on the city due to being under control of Franco’s dictatorship which closely resembled Fascism and was repressed heavily. You can still see some of this oppression in places in the city. Be sure to be on the lookout for these scars as they tell an important part of the cities history. Later on, Santiago de Compostela became the capital of Galicia. All this is scraping the surface on what you’ll learn and experience here in the great city of Santiago de Compostela.
Centre, U. W. H. (n.d.). Santiago de Compostela (old town). UNESCO World Heritage Centre. https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/347/
Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. (2023, November 3). Santiago de Compostela. Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/place/Santiago-de-Compostela
Musmon.com. Plaza de la Quintana | Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela | MUSMon.com. (n.d.). http://musmon.com/en/content/64/en/CatedralDeSantiagoDeCompostela/31
Parador de Santiago de Compostela | Paradores. (n.d.-a). https://paradores.es/en/parador-de-santiago-de-compostela
Santiago de Compostela – Wikitravel. (n.d.-b). https://wikitravel.org/en/Santiago_de_Compostela
Santiago de Compostela: Praza da Quintana and some weird tangles of history. Photos On The Road. (2015, March 14). https://photosontheroad.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/santiago-de-compostela-praza-da-quintana-and-some-weird-tangles-of-history/