Discover the History of Compostela walking through its streets (Part 1)

One of the characteristics that best defines the baroque urbanism that is breathed in Compostela, is undoubtedly the unique layout of its streets. The main streets cross the historic center in a north-south direction, towards the Cathedral.

Its arcades, its cobblestone floor, its perspectives, pazos and squares, make these arteries of the historic center of Compostela an ideal place for a stroll, a friendly conversation or the simple enjoyment of its architecture.

Starting from the Obradoiro square, you walk towards the college of San Xerome. Once here, you enter Franco Street, a name that seems to derive from the presence of numerous French merchants who settled in this area in the Middle Ages. To the right, next to the school, you can see the headquarters of the Padre Sarmiento Institute of Galician Studies, which houses one of the most important libraries in Galicia.

Next to the main entrance there is a window with a peculiar grille in the shape of a tree of science with the name of several university careers. According to tradition, you have to stand with your back to this tree, stretch an arm towards the grille and touch one of its branches. The one you have chosen is the career you have to study.

The tower of the building was erected with the intention of placing a clock on top. This unfinished work by Mateo López connects the Colegio de San Xerome and the Colegio de Fonseca, which is located further on, in front of a welcoming plaza, the Plaza de Fonseca, in the center of which there is a small fountain with four spouts and four figures of angels. The name of the square derives from the building of the college of Fonseca or Santiago Alfeo, founded by Alfonso III of Fonseca as the seat of the University of Compostela.

This construction of Renaissance and Plateresque traces, was erected by Alonso de Gotín and Jácome García, according to the plans of Juan Álava and Alonso de Covarrubias, between 1532 and 1544. On the main doorway are the arms of its founder, a shield with five five-pointed stars.

The two figures that decorate the lower part of the façade correspond to Santiago Alfeo and the Virgen de los Placeres. On both sides of the shield are St. Gregory the Great, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine and St. Jerome, the four highest doctors of the Latin church. Above them, from left to right, St. Peter, St. Catherine, St. Ildefonso and St. Paul.

Passing through the door is the coffered hall of Mudejar type, which was the seat of the first democratic parliament of the Galician community, now converted into a temporary exhibition hall organized by the University. Opposite this hall is the college chapel with its tribune and covered by a ribbed vault. The cloister of the building is one of the most beautiful in the city. It is two stories high and is topped by a Plateresque cresting. The lower body, formed by lowered arches, is supported by curious pillars with recessed fronts. A series of busts and coats of arms alternate between the arches. From this cloister there are good views of the cathedral towers.

Once outside this building, on the other side of the square, the Raíña street opens up (named after Queen Isabel of Portugal who spent the night there when she came to the city as a pilgrim).

Continuing along Franco Street, there is a small fountain on the left where, according to tradition, the oxen carrying the body of the Apostle stopped to drink. On the corner between this street and Travesa de Fonseca is the Telefónica, Correos y Telégrafos building, which maintains on its main façade a door with Gothic traces belonging to the house that stood on that site before the current building was built in 1930. The demolished house was known as Casa Grande, built by the chapter at the end of the 15th century.

Up the street coexist the largest number of tascas, bars and restaurants in the area. Good seafood, Ribeiro wine or tasty empanadas (among many other specialties) will be tasted in any place in this street at a reasonable price.

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