Camino de Santiago - French Way - Stage 33 - Monte do Gozo to Santiago de Compostela
Total distance: 4.5 km
As you wake up on the last morning of your journey you will hopefully rise with a great sense of achievement and that your long Camino is soon to come to an end in what I consider to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Mind you I am biased as I was born a stone's throw from the Cathedral.
In ancient times the tradition was that pilgrims would walk the last 4.5 kilometre stretch barefoot, however I wouldn't recommend it especially if your feet are really sore.
From the albergue the path takes you past the Capilla de San Marcos where there is a little picnic area. The path continues downhill passing a house with various creatures made from concrete in its garden. From here the path continues down some steps and over a bridge across the motorway. You are now entering the area known as San Lázaro, one of Santiago's suburbs where there are a number of café/bars and other shops as well as a tourist information office which provides free maps of Santiago, well worth picking one up before you continue on. After crossing the motorway walk down Rúa do Valiño and past the Iglesia de San Lázaro. Continuing down Rúa do Valiño the road soon becomes Barrio das Fontiñas and then at the main junction take the Barrio de los Concheiros.
The path goes through a small square or plaza where there is a cross to Homo Sancto and then down Rúa San Pedro and then to Porta do Camiño. This is the traditional entry point for pilgrims into the old town of Santiago de Compostela.
The path now takes you down the Rúa das Casas Reales, across the Plaza de Parga and the Plaza de Animas where you will need to take a left down to the Plaza Cervantes and then take a right down Calle Azabachería to the Praza da Immaculada, taking some steps down past the side of the cathedral and down a walkway under the Arco del Obispo which will take you into the Plaza del Obradoiro and the front of the cathedral.
If you arrive before noon you will be able to attend the pilgrim mass, but if you have time pop down to the pilgrim's office in the Casa do Deán to collect your Compostela. From the Plaza del Obradoiro and whilst facing the front of the cathedral walk to your right down the Rúa de Gilmirez and then take another right down Rúa Vilar where you will find the Casa do Deán on your left and the pilgrim office is found on the second floor. At the next day's pilgrim mass your name, country of origin and the starting point of your pilgrimage will be announced at the mass.
You are entitled to a Compostela as long as you've completed at least 100 kilometres of the Camino and you have had your pilgrim passport or credencial stamped along the way. This credencial is proof of where you have been. If you have undertaken the Camino for spiritual or religious reasons you will be given the traditional Compostela. If you undertook the Camino for any other reason you will be given a slightly different, more colourful alternative.
Going back to the Plaza del Obradoiro you will have passed the 15th century Hostal de los Reyes Católicos. This now very grand parador hotel was once a pilgrim hostal founded by the catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella and is regarded as one of the oldest hotels not only in Spain but the whole world. If you are lucky you may be able to get one of the free meals that they offer to pilgrims with breakfast at 9am, lunch at noon or dinner at 7pm. You will need to have your Compostela with you as proof that you have completed the Camino and wait at the garage entrance to the hotel, which is to the left of the main entrance. In busy periods the free meals are limited to the first 10 pilgrims. It might seem a little unfair, but at the end of the day they are a business.
In summer or peak times arrive early as the free meals are only limited to the first 10 pilgrims. You are entitled to take these meals within 3 days of your arrival in Santiago.
There is so much to see in Santiago de Compostela, it really does have one of the most stunning old town's of any city I've ever been to. Not only has it got a truly impressive cathedral but there are a large number of other historic buildings worth visiting.
In the Praza do Obradoiro there is the 18th century Pazo de Raxoi built for Archbishop Raxoi by the French engineer Charles Lemaur. It is now used as the main council offices and some of the local government departments of the Xunta de Galicia.
The Cathedral itself is vast covering around 10,000 square metres. It was originally consecrated in the very early 13th century, having been commission by Alfonso VI the king of Leon and Santiago's first Archbishop Diego Gelmirez. The cathedral has been added to over the years, but the Portico de la Gloria designed by the sculptor Master Mateo was an original feature. The twin Baroque towers, the iconic symbol of the cathedral were added in the late 18th century.
One monument with an interesting legend is that of the Convento de San Francisco de Valdediós. It is rumoured to have been founded by St Francis of Assisi. St Francis is said to have made a pilgrimage to Santiago in 1214 where he received a vision of the Apostle St James asking him to build a monastery.
St Francis decided to move into a small hermitage close to Monte Pedroso where he met a coal merchant by the name of Cotolay and to whom St Francis entrusted the building of his monastery. Poor Cotolay had no idea how he was going to complete this mammoth task, he wasn't a builder and he was extremely poor and didn't have the resources to undertake a venture such as this.
One day St Francis asked Cotolay to accompany him on a walk to look for the right spot to build the monastery. They came across a piece of land in an area known as Val de Dios which belonged to an existing monastery. St Francis spoke to the Abbot who agreed to hand over the land to St Francis on the condition that they would receive from him a basket of fish on an annual basis.
St Francis and Cotolay continued on their walk until they came upon a fountain where St Francis asked Cotolay to dig a hole. This he did and soon struck something solid which turned out to be a chest containing gold coins and other riches. Cotolay now had the financial means to build the monastery and he put the money to good use. He was even able to live comparatively comfortable for the rest of his life.
Little remains of the original 13th century church but you will still find Cotolay's tomb and 5 gothic arches in the cloister.
There are so many sights to see that it will take some time to collate them all for you. Information on some of the historic buildings can be accessed by clicking on the following links. We will continue to add more information as soon as we can.