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Santiago de Compostela was declared a World Heritage City by UNESCO in 1985, in view of its urban beauty and monumental integrity, as well as the profound echoes of its spiritual significance as an apostolic sanctuary and the destination of the Middle Ages' most important religious and cultural movement: the Way of St. James pilgrimage.

Justification of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) for the inclusion of Santiago in the World Heritage list

An extraordinary ensemble of distinguished monuments grouped around the tomb of  St. James the Greater, the destination of all the roads of Christianity's greatest pilgrimage from the 11th to the 18th century, Santiago de Compostela is beyond the shade of a doubt one of the world heritage's most obvious properties as this city, owing to monumental integrity, enshrines both specific and universal values. To the irreplacable uniqueness of romanesque and baroque masterpieces is added the transcendental esthetic contribution which makes use of diachronic and disparate elements in the construction of an ideal city which is overflowing with history and timeless as well. The exemplary nature of this city of Christian pilgrimage which is enriched by the ideological connotations of the "Reconquista" is echoed by the great spiritual significance of one of the few places which are so deeply imbued with faith as to become sacred for the whole of humanity (...)

ICOMOS reccomends the inclusion of Santiago de Compostela cm the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria I, II and VI.

Criterion I. Around its Cathedral which is a world renowned masterpiece of romanesque art, Santiago de Campostela conserves a valuable historic center which is worthy of one of Christianity's greatest holy cities.

Criterion II. During both the romanesque an baroque periods the sanctuary of Santiago exerted a decisive influence on the developmark of architecture and art not only in Galicia, but also in the north of the Iberian peninsula.

Criterion VI. The proposed cultural property is associated with one of the major themes of medievalhistcry. From the shores of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea thousands of pilgrims carrying the scallop and the pilgrim's staff for centuries walked to the Galician sanctuary along the paths of Santiago, veritable roads of the Faith.

ICOMOS suggests that a number of subsequent proposals be made which will associate the various essential sites which are located in several countries under one singleheading such as "paths to Santiago" or "Pilgrimage to Compostela", thereby enhancing the worldwide significance of the inclusion of Santiago de Compostela on the World Heritage List (*).

ICOMOS, May 1985.

(*) In fact, the Camino de Santiago was declared World Heritage Site the by UNESCO eight years later, in 1993.

Since then, numerous awards and distinctions have joined the worldwide recognition of the great conservation and habitability of Compostela heritage.


The Group of World Heritage Cities of Spain was founded in 1993 to "act jointly in the defense of the historical and cultural heritage of these cities and in the maintenance and empowerment of certain forms of life that these historic centers need, carrying out projects and common proposals and establishing policies for the exchange of experiences ”.

Current members are the cities of Alcalá de Henares, Ávila, Baeza, Cáceres, Córdoba, Cuenca, Ibiza / Eivissa, Mérida, Salamanca, San Cristóbal de la Laguna, Santiago de Compostela, Segovia, Tarragona, Toledo and Úbeda.

More about Heritage Cities:

Presentation of the cities

TV Series Ciudades Patrimonio in RTVE 

Turism: World heritage Cities of Spain

Accesible cities: Accesible guides to visit the cities

Heritage: Didactic guides

Culture and Education: Cidades de Cuento


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World Heritage