The street Cardenal Payá takes us to Plaza de Mazarelos, which features the only existingarchway from the medieval walls. The 11th-century fort, with its 2-kilometre perimeter, enclosed an area of 30 hectares, whose limits correspond more or less to the present-day old town. Demolished in the 19th century, when its original defensive function was no longer required, it had a series of seven main gates that facilitated the controlled access of people and goods. All that remains today is their use as place names. The exception is Arco de Mazarelos, whose preservation is due to the fact that the city council left some parts of the walls standing in order to extend nearby houses. This is the case of the upper part of this gate that is still privately owned, through which Ribeiro wine and Castilian cereals were brought into the city.
The archway gives us a view of the façade of the Convent of Las Madres Mercedarias, founded in the 15th century, whose baroque building was designed by Diego Romai. The entrance relief, made by Mateo de Prado, represents an Anunciation.
The building that now houses the Geography and History Faculty is, for many Compostela residents, simply `the University´. It is a solid neoclassical construction, to which an upper floor was added between the 19th and 20th centuries. That was when it was decided to replace the figure of Minerva, which used to crown the building, with statues of the University´s founders.
This was not, however, the University of Santiago de Compostela´s first location. That distinction belongs to Colegio de Fonseca, near Plaza del Obradoiro. The fusion of what was then the `Colegio de Santiago Alfeo´ school and the so-called `Estudio Vello´ (Old Study), founded in 1495 in San Paio de Antealtares, gave rise to the University that celebrated its 5th centennial in 1995. Its facilities now occupy 1,300,000 square metres and house more than 30,000 students, 2,000 lecturers and researchers, and a thousand employees divided between the campuses of Santiago and Lugo.
Beside the Geography and History building there is the Church of La Universidad or Church of La Compañía, from the 17th century, which belonged to the Jesuits until their expulsion in 1767, when the façade statues representing St. Ignatius and St. Francis Xavier were converted into St. Peter and St. Paul. The interior houses interesting baroque altarpieces and university exhibitions.
Going around the faculty building towards the market gives us a wide-ranging view, centred on the complex made up of the Convent of Belvís, founded in 1806 to house Dominican nuns, and the `Seminario Menor´ (Minor Seminary) of the same name, which is now a pilgrim hostel. The Virgin of El Portal is venerated in the Chapel of Belvís; she is attributed with the miracle of constantly `fleeing´ from the chapel and appearing in the small alcove in the gatehouse, where she was originally placed.
The street leads to the small Church of San Fiz de Solovio. According to tradition, it occupies the site of the hermitage of Paio, the one who discovered the Apostle´s tomb in the 9th century. It appears in the Codex Calixtinus as one of Compostela´s ten churches in the 12th century. The façade is all that remains from that time. The polychrome tympanum of the Adoration of the Magi was made in 1316; the tower and the rest of the present-day church belong to Compostela´s fertile baroque style.
The market has been held here everyday, except Sundays, since 1873, when the vegetable gardens that used to belong to the Count of Altamira were occupied. The buildings that were erected by J. Vaquero Palacios at the end of the 1930s reflect the forms of traditional Galician architecture, based on Romanesque and baroque styles and elements of rural constructions.
The visit to the market is of triple interest: cultural, gastronomic and architectural. The traditional shopping style, based on direct dealings and bartering, is still used and is one of its main attractions. The most striking building is probably the one housing fish and shellfish, which are so fresh that they are often still alive. Meat, live poultry and rabbits, potatoes, bread, fruit and vegetables, cheese, and also flowers, seeds and plants, complete this still life and enable us to understand Galicia´s gastronomic culture.
In addition to the permanent stalls, the Plaza de Abastos (food market) still features the figure of the `paisana´, a female farmer from the municipalities of Santiago and the surrounding area who sells her own produce. On the busiest days there are around 110 `paisanas´, grouped together according to their locality and type of produce.
Now a hall of residence, it was constructed between 1633 and 1648. The unfinished towers of its church façade stand out: the left-hand one was struck by lightning in 1788, while the right-hand one was never completed. Rúa Travesa takes us to theChurch of Santa María del Camino. This church, which was rebuilt in the 18th century, is dedicated to the patron saint of pilgrims; it is the last Marian church along the Way of St. James before reaching the Apostle´s tomb. The main feature of its façade is its large oculus, while its main altarpiece from the 18th century stands out inside. Its name indicates the proximity of the Puerta del Camino, which is called after the gateway through which pilgrims entered the city –it was left open at night for that purpose. The route bringing pilgrims from Monte del Gozo, through the Concheiros neighbourhood and Rúa de San Pedro, still passes by here.
Opposite Compostela´s old town, time has brought Galicia´s cultural past and present together at a single monumental site. The old Dominican Convent of San Domingos de Bonaval, transformed into the `Museo do Pobo Galego´ (Museum of the Galician People), has been joined by the neighbouring Galician Contemporary Art Centre. And they are both now surrounded by a park, which took advantage of the presence of the Dominican vegetable garden to create a large green space right in the town centre.
It was founded by St. Dominic, who wanted to finish his second journey to the Apostle´s region by founding a religious community in 1220, shortly before his death. The only remaining Gothic elements are in the church. The present-day building is mostly the work of the baroque architect Domingo de Andrade, who also designed the surprising freestanding triple spiral stairway leading to the different rooms of the `Museo do Pobo Galego´. Opened in 1977, it has the objective of restoring and exhibiting ethnographic and anthropological material about Galician life and customs.
Church of San Domingos de Bonaval
This is a transitional building halfway between the Romanesque and Gothic styles, with an elegant sanctuary featuring large stylised windows. The transept houses the Pantheon of Galicia, where important personages of Galicia´s history and arts are buried, such as the politician and writer Daniel Alfonso Castelao, the creator of the theory of Galician regionalism Alfredo Brañas, the poet Ramón Cabanillas, the poetess Rosalía de Castro, the sculptor Francisco Asorey and the humanist Domingo Fontán. The building is also used to hold concerts and exhibitions.
The CGAC, which was opened in 1993, occupies a granite building designed by Álvaro Siza, the Portuguese architect that won the Pritzker Prize in 1992. Its layout was carefully studied so as not to block the view of the baroque convent. Its spacious rooms, which have hosted more than a hundred exhibitions, display the latest tendencies in painting, sculpture, photography and installations by contemporary Galician, Spanish and European artists.