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Hola!  My name is Diego, and I have a special role at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.  I'll tell you more about that later.  First, let me show you around a bit.

The Cathedral is a magnificent place.  The towers can be seen from miles away, and they tell stories of how the pilgrims who had walked a long way would leap and dance and weep for joy when the caught sight of these towers from far away.  They were so joyful, in fact, that one mountain close to the city is called the ""Monte del Gozo," "Mount Joy."
 
During Holy Years, like this year, the pilgrims come through the "Holy Door."  It's only open in years when the Feast of St. James falls on a Sunday.  That doesn't happen very often!  Look at the statue of our patron, St. James, above the Holy Door.  He has a friendly face, don't you think? 
 
One of the greatest treasures of the Cathedral is the portal at the west entrance.  It's so beautiful that we call it the "Portico della Gloria," the "portal of glory."  It shows Jesus, surrounded by apostles, prophets, saints, and angels.  The sculptor who created these wonderful carvings is Master Mateo.  We know that he lived in the 12th century and that he was also the palace architect for King Ferdinand II of Spain.
 
Inside the Cathedral, the nave is very simple.  It's the oldest part of the Cathedral.  The altar is highly decorated.  Just behind the altar, there is a narrow staircase.  The pilgrims climb the stairs and stand right behind the bust of Saint James.  It's the custom to give James a hug " we call it the "Abrazo del Apostol."  Hug the apostle!  In the old days, before there was a halo on the statue of James, pilgrims used to take off their hats and set them on James" head while they hugged him!

After going up the stairs, pilgrims go down below the high altar, where they can pray before the tomb of James and his two companions, Anastasius and Theodore.

Guess who this is?  James" mother, called Mary Salome. She is the one who said to Jesus, "Grant that these sons of mine may sit, one on your right and the other on your left, in your kingdom."

And here is one of the most famous things at the Cathedral " the giant thurible or incense burner, which is called the botafumeiro.  I am a tiraboleiro, which means I get to help swing the botafumeiro

 

The botafumeiro has been swung at the Cathedral for hundreds of years.  As the story goes, they first hung the giant thurible to perfume the air, because the pilgrims who had walked hundreds of miles from all over the world didn't smell very nice when they all crowded in together!  But I think the thurible is really there to express what the pilgrims are feeling when they finally arrive at the Cathedral.  They want to say "thank you" to God, and the joyful swinging of the botafumeiro is the perfect way to express our thanksgiving to the Lord.

 

Return to the Pilgrim Way of St. James page to continue exploring!

 

Return to St. James Cathedral Parish Website

804 Ninth Avenue
Seattle, Washington  98104
Phone 206.622.3559  Fax 206.622.5303