What You Need To Know
Santiago de Compostela, commonly known as Santiago, is the capital of the autonomous community of Galicia in northwestern Spain. The city has its origin in the shrine of Saint James the Great, now the city’s cathedral, as destination of the Way of St. James, a leading Catholic pilgrimage route originated in the 9th century. In 1985 the city’s Old Town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Population: Estimate 96,107
Area: 220 km²
Santiago’s economy, although still heavily dependent on public administration (i.e. being the headquarters of the autonomous government of Galicia), cultural tourism, industry, and higher education through its university, is becoming increasingly diversified. New industries such as timber transformation (FINSA), the automotive industry (UROVESA), and telecommunications and electronics (Blusens and Televés) have been established. Banco Gallego, a banking institution owned by Novacaixagalicia, has its headquarters in downtown rúa do Hórreo. Tourism is very important thanks to the Way of St. James, particularly in Holy Compostelan Years (when 25 July falls on a Sunday). Following the Xunta’s considerable investment and hugely successful advertising campaign for the Holy Year of 1993, the number of pilgrims completing the route has been steadily rising. More than 272,000 pilgrims made the trip during the course of the Holy Year of 2010. Following 2010, the next Holy Year will not be for another 11 years when St James feast day again falls on a Sunday. Outside of Holy Years, the city still receives a remarkable number of pilgrims. Editorial Compostela owns daily newspaper El Correo Gallego, a local TV, and a radio station. Galician language online news portal Galicia Hoxe is also based in the city. Televisión de Galicia, the public broadcaster corporation of Galicia, has its headquarters in Santiago.
Spanish is the official language.
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 or Estadea.
Santiago de Compostela is served by Santiago de Compostela Airport and a rail service. The town is linked to the Spanish High Speed Railway Network. On 24 July 2013 there was a serious rail accident near the city in which 79 people died and at least 130 were injured when a train derailed on a bend as it approached Compostela station.
Santiago is the local Galician evolution of Vulgar Latin Sanctus Iacobus “Saint James”. According to legend, Compostela derives from the Latin Campus Stellae (i.e., “field of the star”); it seems unlikely, however, that this phrase could have yielded the modern Compostela under normal evolution from Latin to Medieval Galician. Other etymologies derive the name from Latin compositum, local Vulgar Latin Composita Tella, meaning “burial ground”, or simply from Latin compositella, meaning “the well-composed one”. Other sites in Galicia share this toponym, akin to Compostillain the province of León. Compostela, camp of stars, long before christianity appeared in the region, the area was part of a pilgrimage that came from France to this site following the stars.
The cathedral borders the main plaza of the old and well-preserved city. Legend has it that the remains of the apostle James were brought to Galicia for burial. In 813, according to medieval legend, the light of a bright star guided a shepherd who was watching his flock at night to the burial site in Santiago de Compostela. The shepherd quickly reported his discovery to the bishop of Iria, Bishop Teodomiro. The bishop declared that the remains were those of the apostle James and immediately notified King Alfonso II in Oviedo To honour St. James, the cathedral was built on the spot where his remains were said to have been found. The legend, which included numerous miraculous events, enabled the Catholic faithful to bolster support for their stronghold in northern Spain during the Christian crusades against the Moors, but also led to the growth and development of the city.Along the western side of the Praza do Obradoiro is the elegant 18th century Pazo de Raxoi, now the city hall. Across the square is the Pazo de Raxoi (Raxoi’s Palace), the town hall, 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 II of Aragon, as a pilgrims’ 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 flats in them. Santiago de Compostela has a substantial nightlife. Both in the new town (a zona novain Galician, la zona nueva in Spanish or ensanche) and the old town (a zona vella in Galician or la zona vieja in Spanish, trade-branded as zona monumental), a mix of middle-aged residents and younger students maintain a lively presence until the early hours of the morning. Radiating from the centre 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. Santiago gives its name to one of the four military orders of Spain: Santiago, Calatrava, Alcántara and Montesa. One of the most important economic centres in Galicia, Santiago is the seat for organisations like Association for Equal and Fair Trade Pangaea.
Under the Köppen climate classification, Santiago de Compostela has a temperate oceanic (Cfb) climate, with mild to warm and somewhat dry summers and mild, wet winters. The prevailing winds from the Atlantic and the surrounding mountains combine to give Santiago some of Spain’s highest rainfall: about 1,545 millimetres (60.8 in) annually. The climate is mild: frosts are common only in December, January and February, with an average of just 8 days per year, while snow is rare; temperatures over 30 °C (86 °F) are exceptional.