Monastery of San Martin Pinario

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 dates from 6C and is named for 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.

Location of the Monastery

The buildings dominate 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. Like many other religious establishment it closed during the ‘ecclesiastical confiscations’ of PM Mendizabal in the 1830s. Today it houses a seminary.

Monastery o San Martin Pinario
Monastery of San Martin Pinario
Layout of the Monastery of San Martin Pinario
Layout of the Monastery

One part of the original monastery remains – the Corticela Chapel dedicated to St Mary. The Chapel is now in the Cathedral of Santiago. It is hidden in a dark, quiet corner 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 of the Cathedral which faces the Monastery. This is the ‘parish church’ for pilgrims and foreigners.


The Church of the Monastery of San Martin Pinario

The Church of San Martín opens on to the Square of San Martín, behind the Square of Inmaculada. The architect was Mateo Lopez, the best monastery architect of his time, although he did live to see the church completed in 1652. 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 stairs were added to the main entrance in 1771, but excavations were too deep and the original doorway is now the fanlight above the door.

Main entrance into the Church of the Monastery of San Martin Pinario
Main entrance into the Church of the Monastery of San Martin Pinario

Inside the Church of the Monastery of San Martin Pinario

High Altar of the Church of San Martin
High Altar of the Church of San Martin
Behind the High Altar of the Church of San Martin
Behind the High Altar of the Church of San Martin

Choir stalls

Behind the High Altar the carved choir stalls of 1639-47 are astounding. Photography was difficult because of the low light, and because I only had the small Canon SX-240.

Choir stalls in the church
Choir stalls in the church
Carved choir stalls in the church
Carved choir stalls in the church

The Museum of Religous Art

The Museum of Religious Art is in part of the church. Here I saw an astounding display of wood block printing.

Wood blocks in the Museum
Printed document in the Museum
Printed document in the Museum

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…

Further information

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