A Rooftop Tour of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

A rooftop tour is a spectacular way to appreciate the magnitude of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The hour you spend on the rooftop will contribute to the restoration of the the cathedral, through your ticket purchase, it will provide you with a bird's eye view of the plazas and the city, and it will greatly increase your admiration of the centuries of human effort required to make this a timeless place for all to enjoy. 

"Whenever we witness art in a building, we are aware of an energy contained by it." ~ Arthur Erickson

Join me in my photo journal of my rooftop tour of the great cathedral that is the ultimate destination of the Camino de Santiago.

On my second visit to the holy city, I was determined to see the cathedral museums and take this tour that I had read so much about! I was not disappointed.

If you purchase the museum ticket for four euros, it is only eight euros more to include the rooftop tour. In my opinion, it is well worth the price. Be sure to take your pilgrim's pass port as this is the pilgrim's reduced price (in 2015). For current pricing, please consult the official cathedral web page by clicking here.

There are many rooms to be seen on the museum part, so allow yourself plenty of time to see it all as there is no readmission. In addition,  you can see a video and displays on how the cathedral restoration is being done. After seeing this video I greatly appreciated the amount of time it is taking for this restoration!

The cathedrals treasures are a sight to behold. They include furniture, tapestries, stone carvings, pieces of older architecture, pageantry pieces, altars and various sacred pieces of gold and silver.   

It is forbidden to take photos while in the museum, however, you can take photos of the cloister, shown below. The cloister is no longer used today. It is on the second floor and it feels quite airy and heavenly, when you tour it.  You are getting closer to the roof here!

Cloister, Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, SpainThe Central Tower as Seen from Inside the Cloister

There is always a serenity present when you walk in a cloister. Even though it is not used, one can feel the energy of many monks who meditated as they walked here. I only wish I had more time to walk the circuit myself. 

Cloister Hallways of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, SpainCloister Hallways
Cloister Hallways of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, SpainCloister Hallways

Through the arches of the cloister, the clock tower of the cathedral can be seen. 

Clock Tower as Viewed from the Cloister, Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, SpainClock Tower thru the Cloister Archway

I walked into the center to admire this clock tower. Not only can it be seen from many vantage points within the cloister, it is seen throughout the city of Santiago de Compostela. It is as if this towering clock connects all, within and without the city. A nice reminder when one reflects that we indeed, are all One Heart, One Spirit, One Love. 

Clock Tower as Viewed from the Cloister, Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, SpainClock Tower Seen from the Center of the Cloister

From the western end of the cloister and museum rooms, you can walk out to a balcony and look out over Obradoiro Square. I find that I can gaze on this Square and watch all the activity for hours. 

The energy here, is one of great awe and unparalleled joy, as you watch the pilgrims from all over triumphantly enter this square. It is a powerful place!

Obradoiro Square from 2nd Floor Balcony of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, SpainObradoiro Square Seen from 2nd Floor Balcony of the Cathedral

After returning to the museum entrance meeting place, our group for the rooftop tour assembled. With our guide, we make our way up many flights of stairs. I imagine that these narrow stairs are "secret passageways" that the monks used to shuffle about the cathedral.  

Stairway Leading to Roof of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, SpainNarrow Stairway that Leads to the Roof

Were great plots formed in these very stairwells? Were great moments of joy experienced as a monk excitedly raced to the next level to share? 

Our first stop towards the roof was at the gallery level. This is where, we were told, the medieval pilgrims slept! Quite fascinating, to imagine them, lined up in rows, side by side in this narrow galley-way on their makeshift mats.

Today, very large marionette-type figures are stored here. These figures are worn on the shoulders of strong men in a parade for the Festival of St. James. This festival is an annual event, every July 24th and 25th. To read more about the festivities, click on the link. 

Marionettes for the St. James Festival, Santiago de Compostela, SpainMarionettes for the St. James Festival

Also seen on the gallery level is the enormous pipe organ. You can hardly see this organ from the ground level. Here you can see every inch not taken by the pipes are elaborately decorated, with cherubs, other figures and embellishments. 

Embellished Organ of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, SpainCathedral Organ
Cherub on Cathedral Organ, Santiago de Compostela, SpainCherub Blows His Trumpet

Finally we climb the stairs for the rooftop tour itself! It was so fabulous to have such a clear and sunny day for this visit. A rare thing in Santiago de Compostela! 

Immediately in front of us, to the east, as we emerged onto the rooftop that would be over the nave, is the clock tower to our right and the central tower directly over the cathedral crossing to the left, see below. (For a description and photos of the architectural parts of a cathedral, click here).

Roof of the Nave, Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, SpainAtop the Roof of the Nave

Immediately behind us, was the back of the Western Façade. How lovely to see it from this vantage point! It was breathtaking.

You can really see how beautiful and white the restored tower is, on the right, compared to the dullness of the middle tower. 

Behind the Western Façade, Rooftop of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, SpainBehind the Western Façade

Here is a close-up of the towers from the photos above. So grand, they were from this viewpoint. I was immediately in love with the rooftop tour!

Central Tower, Rooftop of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, SpainThe Central Tower
The Restored Western Tower, Rooftop of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, SpainThe Restored Western Tower

Directly to the south was the view of the cloister, from above, as well as the city and surrounding hillsides. The majority of objects in view was a sea of red tiles! 

Southern View of the Cloister and the City of Santiago de Compostela, Spain from the Rooftop of the CathedralSouthern View of the Cloister and the City

Here is a close-up view of the back of the middle piece of the western façade. I just love the St. James statue in the middle, with his pilgrim's staff, cloak and travelers cap. 

Rear View of the Western Facade, Rooftop Tour, Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela, SpainClose-Up of the Western Façade

Another vantage point of the central over the crossing of the cathedral, below. You can really see how much in need it is of a restoration. Look closely and see the white and green lichen as well as plants growing right out of the building! The moisture in Galicia is sufficient for this growth on the walls. The need for restoration of this grand cathedral was never more noticeable than on this rooftop tour. 

Close-Up of Central Tower, Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, SpainClose-Up of the Central Tower

As we walked around the roof, there was a place where you could peer over the balustrade and look down on the Plaza de Platerías. What a lovely bird's eye view! I felt very special being here, and I couldn't imagine why more folks didn't take this rooftop tour? 

Bird's Eye View of the Plaza de Platerías, Santiago de Compostela, SpainBird's Eye View of the Plaza de Platerías

Here is a view of the balustrade that surrounded the rooftop. It is impressive, from this vantage point, as well as from below, that you can see in my article on the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.  It is fun for me to look at the cathedral photos of the Plaza de la Quintana from the ground, look up to the balustrade, and say, that is where I walked!

Rooftop Balustrade, Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela, SpainRooftop Balustrade

In fact, here I am! I look quite small next to the posts on the balustrades, don't I? It speaks to the magnitude of this architecture that surrounded me like towering trees. I actually couldn't decide which felt more impressive - the cathedral from the ground view, or from up here on the rooftop tour!

Rooftop Balustrade, Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela, SpainElle, Dwarfed by the Balustrade

As we rounded the roof to the East, and the Plaza de la Quintana, this is the view of the rooftops that we saw. The small church in the distance was where we were told that many pilgrims got married while in Santiago de Compostela! Apparently, just like today, pilgrims meet and fall in love!

Isn't this a glorious view? We walked up and around on those tiered stone steps that you see here and in a lot of the photos. 

Eastern Rooftop View, Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, SpainEastern Rooftop View

Next stop on the rooftop tour of the cathedral, was this small tub-like structure in the middle of the point of the roof. We were told that here the pilgrims burnt their clothes as a cleansing ritual. However, when I climbed up to have a look inside, I wasn't able to see any blackened stones. Could it have been cleaned so well as to see no trace of the fires? 

Rooftop Fire Pit, Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela SpainRooftop Fire Pit?

As we rounded the apse and headed north, this view of the Seminario Mayor came into focus. It is a former monastery and present day hotel for pilgrims.

See the statue over the Northern doors to the cathedral? Fantastic. I missed this in the view from below. 

Northern rooftop view, Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, SpainNorthern Rooftop View

A closer shot of the Eastern rooftop view. Here we were standing directly over the ambulatory, behind the choir of the cathedral.

Eastern Rooftop view, cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, SpainEastern View Close-Up, Over the Ambulatory

Peering down over the balustrade from the East, you see the Plaza de Quintana. This is the southern end of it, and on a beautiful sunny day like we had for our rooftop tour, the coffee shop and restaurants are abuzz with people. 

Birds Eye View of the Plaza de Quintana, Santiago de Compostela, SpainView of Southern End of the Plaza de Quintana

This is the northern end of the Plaza de Quintana. On these very steps, below, is where we sat with a large crowd of people the very same night, to watch a wonderful street performer. He was magician, juggler and comedian, all rolled up into one man. 

Birds Eye View of the Plaza de Quintana, Santiago de Compostela, SpainView of Northern End of the Plaza de Quintana

A closer view, to the north of the Seminario Mayor. Built in the 16th to 18th centuries, it is a site to behold in and of itself. There is a museum on the north end, and the hotel on the south, called the Hospedería San Martín Pinario. My next trip, I will have to see the museum. This time I didn't have enough time. 

On the rooftop of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, SpainThe Hospedería San Martín Pinario, looking North from the Apse

With our rooftop tour coming to a close, I glanced back one more time to where we crossed over the apse and down the tiered steps. 

Roof of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, SpainLooking East, on the Roof of the Apse

From the northern views on the rooftop, below, you can see the famous Monte Pedroso (with the radio towers), which I climbed the year before in the pouring rain!

I was supposed to take grand photos of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela from this high point, but what I have instead are foggy, rainy, yet quite mystical photos. True to Galicia most times! Click here to read my soggy story. It shows views of Santiago you may have never seen before!

Monte Pedroso, Santiago de Compostela, SpainMonte Pedroso outside Santiago

My husband and friend Saskia, are taking the final steps back to the "hidden staircase" on our rooftop tour. You can see where we were able to walk on the roof, up and down the peaks of the transept and the nave of the cathedral. 

On the Roof of the Nave, Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela, SpainReturning Over the Nave

It was a fascinating hour spent on our rooftop tour of the Cathedral of Santiago. What a glorious day it was. We were so lucky to have such wonderful weather, to experience a part of the cathedral that not many venture to. To imagine that we were there in medieval times, made the tour all that more special!

I hope you enjoyed journeying with me, to this most fabulous work of art, and felt it's energy along with me!



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