|The Church of Santiago under a typically cloudy La Coruña sky|
All photos in this post 2018 Jessica Knauss
This church was established as the beginning of the walking Camino (Santiago pilgrimage) for English pilgrims arriving in Galicia by sea. It was restored multiple times in the medieval era because of fire damage, which makes the structure a historical record in itself. Fortunately, the original apse area, as we see here, survived to display the particularities of Galician Romanesque for visitors today.
The outside of the apse has many delightful corbels. Here, a bearded man and a man pulling at his mouth.
The shortest street in La Coruña is found between Santiago's tower and the old consulate building, which has a Renaissance coat of arms and interesting Romanesque Resurrection, both taken from other, unknown sites.
The plant-themed column capitals on the other side are finished off with a story that's not often seen in Galicia, but this blog's readers have seen before, also closely associated with Daniel in the lions' den: the sacrifice of Isaac. Abraham wields a sword, which an angel takes hold of to stop him turning toward Isaac, crouched and tied up behind him. Between the angel and Abraham, the sacrificial lamb ready to replace Isaac on the altar saves his life.
On both sides of the door, angels with scrolls create that signature Coruñan shape. Below them, we have additional figures, elongating the indentations. These have both been carved in a Gothic style that harks back to "Mateo" to beautiful effect. The figure on the left is Santiago, bearded and with a pilgrim's walking stick. The younger beardless man on the right is probably Saint John, pointing to the gospel he wrote. A closer look reveals that his head has been replaced, as the angle is slightly uncomfortable and the stone a different color. As it still successfully copies the "Mateo" style, albeit with Gothic waves in his hair, it was probably replaced no later than the fifteenth century.
From the inside, Santiago and John appear to float over the street even as they guard the entrance.
Gazing toward the main altar, Santiago reminded me of San Cipriano in my Zamora. Like that temple, it used to have three parallel naves that were turned into a single large nave in Gothic times to create the sense of spaciousness so favored in that artistic period.
The church features many seventeenth-century burials, of which this is the most striking example. This noble lady and her husband are portrayed as praying figures, both with their heads turned drastically to face the altar of their devotion.
This life-sized Saint James survived the medieval fires in the apse and has been moved to the foot of the church, where I stand for perspective. I'd seen a photo of this image before I arrived, and was pleasantly surprised by the presence it exuded because of its size.
In the well-preserved side chapel, a figure of the Virgin Mary, pregnant with the Son of God, is venerated. Such figures are often called Our Lady of the O, because of the surprised reaction they illicit.
Santiago is a well-lit place to hang out in the evening.