Discover the History of Compostela walking through its streets (2nd part)

After making a stop to savor some tapas washed down with wine of the region, walk towards the Porta Faxeiras, at the end of Franco Street, one of the most popular places for the inhabitants of the city, especially on sunny days, as the terraces that sit here are a constant attraction to enjoy the first rays of the king of the stars. Before reaching it, the arcades of the rúa do Vilar are discovered on the left. To the right, a narrow street called “Entrecercas” that alludes to the ancient walls that surrounded the city. The only remaining part of this wall is the toponymic one, since it was demolished in the middle of the 19th century.

In this place is the pulpería/ bar Ideal Azul, one of the most emblematic of the city. Nothing better than tasting here a cold Ribeiro or Rosal wine before lunch.

From this place you can clearly see the separation between what is known as the old town and the Ensanche. If you turn around, the street Bautizados (a name that refers to the former presence of Jewish converts in this place) appears in front of you. Halfway down the street is the well-known Casa de los Quesos, a famous establishment where you can buy a good tetilla cheese, herbal brandy or any other Galician product with confidence.

A little further on is the Plaza de Fonterrabía, where one of the last bootblack shops in Compostela is located, which over the years became a place frequented by various characters: artists, politicians, merchants, etc. In the building on the right, on the corner with Senra street, the remains of the old walls of Compostela were found in 1994, after some renovation works.

Arriving at the Plaza del Toural we see a fountain built in 1820. Closing the north side of this square is the pazo of Bendaña, dating from the eighteenth century.

It has a symmetrical facade in three bodies that are organized around a linteled main door, with multiple moldings and side bends. On its coat of arms appears a figure that sometimes is interpreted as Atlas and others as Hercules, holding the ball of the world where the moon and the stars are represented. The popular tradition says that he will drop the ball the day a maiden crosses the door.

This building, owned by the municipality, was converted into a cultural venue for exhibitions, conferences, lectures… among many other activities.

The interior of this palace is structured around the staircase, following the Italian concept of “theatrical manifestation”.

From this square we will arrive at the rúa do Vilar, characterized by its famous arcades. In 1866 a municipal order ordered the demolition of many arcades in Compostela due to their ruinous state. Only those of rúa do Vilar, rúa Nueva, San Benito, Cervantes and Cantón del Toral were saved because of their good condition, thus preserving the memory of medieval Santiago, giving the city a note of charm and admiration for its visitors.

In this street we can find some of the most famous bookstores or pastry shops in Compostela. A narrow street connects the Rúa Nova with the Rúa de Vilar, it is called Entrerúas and its particularity is that all the slabs of this alley are numbered.

Near this area we will find the tourist office of the Xunta de Galicia where we can obtain information about the city and the whole Galician community.

A little further on is the branch of the newspaper “La Voz de Galicia”, the newspaper with the largest circulation in Galicia and one of the first in Spain.

Following a stretch of small arcades we will arrive at the palace of Monroy, of Italian inspiration that stands out for its large inner courtyard.

Closing the street on the right is also the Deán’s house (1747-1753) whose façade was conceived to be seen from the Plaza de Platerías, when leaving the Cathedral.

If you enter from the street on the right, Xelmírez, you will see a house called Casa de la Balconada, now restored. According to legend, this place was the scene of a crime of passion.

Rúa Nova is another of the most emblematic streets of Compostela that also has these characteristic arcades. Upon entering it we see, a few meters away, two buildings of different styles and periods. On the right, the one known as “Casa das Pomas”, designed by the architect Domingo de Andrade at the end of the 17th century. It is distinguished by the decoration of its main facade, at the ends of which hang two strings of fruit from a shell at the top. Above these strings, two graceful gargoyles guard the stone fruits.

Opposite is the palace of Santa Cruz, built in the early nineteenth century, according to plans by Fernando Domínguez y Romay. Of clear neoclassical influence, highlights the lower part with a slight padding and the triangular pediment that crowns it, sheltering the coat of arms of the Marquis of Santa Cruz.

A few meters from this building is the Teatro Principal and in front of it, the Salón Teatro, both competitors at the beginning of the century to attract the most distinguished bourgeoisie of the city. The first of them was rightly restored by the City Council, after buying it in 1986, thus recovering one more space where to celebrate different cultural shows, such as theater cycles, cinema or concerts. Built by the municipal architect Manuel de Prado y Vallo in 1841, it has a classic-looking facade, fully integrated into the urban landscape of Compostela. This theater was during the 19th century the main social and cultural meeting place for the bourgeoisie of Compostela.

A few meters away, on the right, is the Salón Teatro, rebuilt for this purpose by the Liga Mutua de Señoras de Santiago in 1919, and inaugurated the following year with the support of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. After a period of splendor, it began to hit bottom in the mid 80’s, becoming a second-class hall.

In front of this cinema is the church of Santa María Salomé, a building that honors the mother of the apostle Santiago. Founded around 1140 by Pelayo Abad, there are hardly any remains of the medieval masonry, except for the main doorway, where the seated Virgin of the Milk with the child in her arms (early 15th century work) can be seen above the keystone of the door. On each side, two images of the Annunciation, made in the 15th century; on the left, Mary and on the right, the angel Gabriel.

The medieval work was reformed in the baroque period, when a chapel was added, the Soledad chapel, formerly called Santa Teresa chapel. It was built between 1662 and 1668, in an arm of the transept. The interior has a square floor plan with small arms formed by four semicircular arches supported on the elevation of the fluted pilasters. The dome is semicircular and rests on pendentives. It is decorated with coats of arms.

In the 17th century Miguel de Romay was in charge of the main altarpiece, which was moved years ago to the church of Souto, in A Estrada (Pontevedra). In 1743 the bell tower was erected, according to a design by José Crespo. The entrance portico dates from the early 16th century.

Outside, on Tras Salomé Street, there is a building with walled arcades. It seems that these arcades belonged to a Renaissance palace known as the palace of Fonseca (around the sixteenth century).

Returning to the Rúa Nova, we can see under the arcades a series of craft stalls. On the right stands the palace of Ramirás, a former Irish school. Following this sidewalk we can see a section of the alley of Enterrúas, at the end of which is located one of the oldest kiosks in the city.

These are some of the most important tourist sites that we can visit on our tour of the historic center of Compostela after our obligatory visit to the Cathedral. Other interesting places we can see are the City of Culture, the Alameda Park, the Abastos market or perhaps some of the 12 most important museums in the city that collect from modern works of art to priceless architectural pieces.

Are you ready to live your experience as a pilgrim and visit one of the most beautiful cities in Europe? Contact us and we will inform you about the particularities of our tours.

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