A tour of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela: chapels of the main nave and south transept (5th part)

We continue our tour through the different chapels of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. A week ago we talked about the chapels of the main nave and the transept. Now we will visit those located in the ambulatory.

But before we go into it, it is worth stopping at the chapel of the Conception or Prima. It has some artistic treasures of great value: an 18th century Descent from the Cross and a polychrome image of the Immaculate Conception carved in stone by Cornielis de Holanda in the 16th century.


We enter the ambulatory and in front are the stairs that descend to the tomb of the Apostle. To the left is the chapel of San Bartolomé or Santa Fe, which still conserves remains of its primitive Romanesque construction. The small plateresque altar shelters the images of the Virgin of Buen Consejo, Santiago Peregrino and San Bartolomé. Next to this chapel is that of San Juan Apostle and Santa Susana.


Adjoining the previous one is the chapel of Nuestra Señora la Blanca, of irregular shape due to the Romanesque walls of the lateral chapels. The vault has a ribbed vault supported by columns with vegetal capitals. In the altarpiece is the image of the Virgin, work of Gregorio Fernandez.


In the center of the ambulatory is the Chapel of the Savior, the place where the construction of the Cathedral began. Diego Peláez and King Alfonso VI are depicted on the capitals of the entrance columns. We also see here a polychrome altarpiece built by Alfonso III de Fonseca.


This chapel borders with the Holy Door that is opened only in the holy years, that is to say, when the 25 of July coincides in Sunday. It is flanked by two Romanesque sculptures. On the lintel we see one of the consecration crosses of the Cathedral and on the jambs, two other simple crosses through which the pilgrims are accustomed to pass their fingers wet with the holy water that is in the basin placed in the door.

To the right is attached the chapel of San Pedro or of the Azucena. A baroque altarpiece by Fernando de Casas y Novoa presides over this chapel. The chapel of Mondragón or of the Pietà, adjacent to the previous one, is also known as the chapel of the Marquis of Santa Cruz. It was built by the architect Jácome García in the first third of the 16th century. The Descent from the Cross is a Renaissance work.


Arriving at the intersection with the south transept, one enters the Pilar Chapel (built between 1696 and 1723). It has a dome with octagonal shape and profuse decoration. It highlights its image of the Virgin of Pilar carved in stone, which was brought from Zaragoza.


Before continuing through the south transept of the Cathedral, we will go up to the chapel of the Apostle to give him the traditional embrace and then go down to the tomb where his remains rest.


We will go down the stairs where we can see the footprints left by millions of pilgrims. Once in the ambulatory, turn left and go down other narrow stairs that lead to the crypt under the main altar, where there is a silver urn with the relics of the Apostle. From this point we can see the pulpits of the main altar, made by Juan Bautista Celma (1583) and the dome of Gothic structure over the transept, from which hangs the botafumeiro, the great censer of the Cathedral.

To the left, under the other side nave of the transept, there are two doors that give access to the cloister of the Cathedral and the sacristy. Next to them there is a tympanum with a relief of the battle of Clavijo (11th century).

Doubling the lateral nave with the central one, after crossing a stony section and several confessionals, we arrive at the chapel of the Relics and the chapel of San Fernando. In the vestibule of both we contemplate the tomb of Bishop Teodomiro, found in excavations in 1955 and under whose pontificate the body of the Apostle was discovered. In this chapel 140 relics are venerated, including the bodies of Saints Fructus, Cucufate, Sylvester and Susanna.

In front of this chapel is the chapel of San Fernando that today keeps the treasure of the Cathedral.

Leaving the side chapels, we go out to the central nave full of precious chandeliers and organs. From this point you can admire the splendor of the main altar, a masterpiece of baroque art (1658-1777) in which artists such as Pedro de la Torre, Francisco de Antas and Domingo de Andrade, among others, participated.


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