Due to the discovery of the Apostle’s mortal remains, many religious orders were established in the city and still exist today.
Little by little, the Benedictine monks of San Martin Pinario became very powerful, even more so than the cathedral’s chapter. Their rivalry was such that canons prohibited Benedictines from building the towers of the church of San Martín above the height of its façade, so as to prevent them from competing with those of the cathedral. In spite of that, it can be said that this monastery is the second-most important monument in Santiago after the cathedral.
The church was built at the end of the 16th century. The façade, designed in 1597, is conceived as a stone altar. It is dominated by the figures of Our Lady, St. Benedict and St. Bernard, while the upper frontispiece shows San Martín tearing his cloak in two to share with a poor man. However, the building’s most striking element is its curved, descending stairway from the 18th century, designed by the Dominican friar Manuel de los Mártires, reflecting a clear baroque style similar to that of other Italian models.
The church has a Latin-cross plan with three naves in the main arm and one in the transversal arm, and a balcony all around them. The marvellous altarpiece will not go unnoticed, since it is considered to be the best baroque altarpiece in Galicia and probably in Spain. It was designed by Fernando de Casas y Novoa and carved by Romay. Also the choir stall, located behind the main altar, and carved in walnut wood by Mateo de Prado.
Recently, another choir stall has been added to the rich church of Pinario. It is the former ligneous choir of the Cathedral, from the 17th century, which was dismantled in 1945 and moved to the Galician monastery of Sobrado dos Monxes. In 2004, after a complex and laborious restoration, it was brought back to Santiago to reveal its Renaissance splendour carved in walnut wood.