I had of course heard of the Cathedral in Santiago, but didn’t know about this astonishing building. The original Benedictine Monastery of San Martín Pinario was begun in 6C and associated with the pines (pignario) in which the buildings stood. Today’s buildings mainly date from 16C, and the Monastery was closed in 19C during the desamortizacion. The buildings dominates the Square of Inmaculada, facing the North Door of the Cathedral, and now include student accommodation (and a hostel during the holidays), a seminary, and offices. By the end of 15C this was the largest and most powerful monastery in Galicia and the second largest in Spain after the Escorial.
There is one part of the original monastery which remains – the Corticela Chapel dedicated to St Mary. It is in the Cathedral of Santiago, hidden in a corner of the cathedral, dark, quiet, and when I found it I felt I was being drawn back in time – now I understand why. It is most easily accessed through the North Door, facing the Monastery.
The Church of San Martín opens on to the Square of San Martín, on the opposite side to the Monastery, and was built by Mateo Lopez, the best monastery architect, in 1590. The Monastery had accumulated wealth, particularly after they came under the Benedictine Congregation of 1494 and this enabled them the build the lavishly decorated church.
The main entrance faces east and the stairs were added in 1771, but excavations were too deep and the original doorway is now the fanlight above the door.
Behind the High Altar the carved choir stalls of 1644 are astounding. Photography was difficult because of the low light, and because I only had the small Canon SX-240 and an impatient companion!
And in the museum an astounding display of wood block printing.
I would have loved to linger – we only had half an hour before closing time – and I would love to return with a ‘proper’ camera’ – perhaps another time…
You may be interested in
Monastery of San Martin Pinario and here and here
Carved Choir Stalls
The photograph of the Corticela Chapel doorway
The Hospederia of San Martin
Staying in the Hospederia – article with photographs