Faculty Advisor

Kotsis, Kriszta

Area of Study

Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Publication Date

Summer 2014


As a prominent world power through much of western history, Spain was a fundamental player in creating several western cultural establishments especially regarding the realm of Christianity. As the culminating shrine of the Pilgrimage Road to Santiago de Compostela, the shrine to Saint James in the northwest corner of Spain boasts a rich history of religious, political and cultural significance. Through a visual and contextual analysis, this paper asserts that the two primary renovations of the western façade at Santiago de Compostela (the Portico of Glory in the 12th-13th century and the Façade of Obradoiro in the 18th century) were created during periods of particular interest for the trajectory and development of Santiago de Compostela as a Christian Pilgrimage site. This analysis placed the shrine within its relationship to other pilgrimage sites, other advances in the Catholic world, and the subsequent immergence, expansion, and decline of the Spanish empire. The cathedral’s relationship with other famed sites, including that of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, is discussed to exemplify that not only was the structure of Santiago de Compostela used as a vital assertion of power in the Iberian territories but also was a competitive ecclesiastical authority seeking intentionally to rival Rome and Jerusalem. These works, both in decoration and context, serve as manifestations of the religiopolitical controversies occupying the Medieval and Baroque periods as they attempt to reassert Santiago de Compostela as a powerful sacred shrine. Lastly, this façade adds to a history of Spanish-Christian dominance as the figurehead and patron Saint of Santiago leads Spain to conquer infidels around the world.


University of Puget Sound