Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Date ca. 1075-1120

Movement Mature Romanesque

Located at Santiago de Compostela, Spain


Pilgrimages were a fundamental part of life for people of all classes in Romanesque times, especially to visit relics that were thought to grant superpowers and the churches that housed them. These relic-containing churches adopted a pilgrimage plan that enabled visitors to view the relics without interrupting normal church functions. Here, pilgrims would have been able pass through side aisles throughout the entire church, stopping at the apsidioles to view the relics and pray. As in Medieval structures, this plan follows a modular formula—the bays of the nave and transept are half the size of the crossing, and the side aisles of the nave and bay are one-quarter the size of the crossing.


Given the sheer height of the nave, a clerestory could not have been installed; however, the galleries above the side aisles lend support to the vaulted nave roof; only a small amount of exterior light would have come through the galleries. Four round colonnettes grace the compound piers in place of Sant Vicenç’s rectangular forms. So much support was needed that it allowed for numerous opportunities to incorporate Roman architectural devices—arcades, Corinthian columns, arches, and barrel arches. Though altars may have been placed within the galleries, their ultimate function is not known; perhaps they were to accommodate overflow space for visitors.