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Insider's Guide to Santiago de Compostela

Major attractions, tips and our top things to see and do.

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Mosteiro de San Martino Pinario Church

Located near the southern facade of the Catedral del Apostolo, the Mosteiro de San Martino Pinario was once one of the most important monasteries in all of Galicia. The exterior of this Benedictine monastery is baroque and intimidating, carved in scenes of Biblical drama (such as St. Mark rending his cloak) and gargoyles. Its interior is no less striking - in addition to its centuries-old sculpture and adornments, the monastery houses an exhibition of large portraits of people living in small villages throughout Italy and Spain. These stirring pictures drive home the plight of these isolated cultures steady decline, making for a moving experience.

The altar, a magnificient piece carved by the monks themselves, is visible from the door, and if you visit this church, it will likely be a focal point of your experience. Indeed, even the facade is designed as an altar, creating a central theme of sacrificial veneration that continues inside.

The monastery's accoutrements and exhibit are not the only draws, however. During the summer, two 17th century cloisters, normally closed during the rest of the year, provide lodging for visitors and pilgrims.

Practical Info

At one time, the Benedictine order was very powerful in Galicia, perhaps even moreso than the Catedral. As such, the city's powerbrokers passed a law forbidding the monastery and its church from building towers taller than its ostensibly more important neighbor.

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