Time has brought together in a single place Galicia’s cultural past and present.
To our right, the old Dominican convent of Santo Domingo de Bonaval, transformed into the museum called Museo do Pobo Galego, and to our left, the Centro Gallego de Arte Contemporáneo (Galician Centre of Contemporary Art). Both are surrounded by a park that transformed the former convent gardens into a green space right in the city centre. The two museums and the park are three of Santiago’s not-to-be-missed visits.
The convent’s foundation is attributed to the saint himself, Domingo de Guzman, who, according to tradition, wanted to conclude his second visit to the Apostle’s region by establishing a religious community in 1220, shortly before his death. The convent’s present-day building is, to a great extent, the work of Domingo de Andrade, who also designed the impressive triple free-standing spiral staircase that we can see inside. The technique and beauty of the three independent ramps make it one of Santiago’s most singular architectural elements.
After being used as a convent, charity and school for the deaf and dumb, in 1977 the building became the site of the Museo do Pobo Galego, Galicia’s first anthropological museum. Its rooms are devoted to the sea, the countryside, traditional architecture, trades, fabrics, crafts and music. It also features archaeology sections and organizes temporary expositions on the history and everyday life of Galicia.
The Church of Santo Domingo de Bonaval, for its part, is a transitional building halfway between the Romanesque and Gothic styles. The church, in the so-called Pantheon of Illustrious Galicians, houses the mortal remains of, among others, Rosalía de Castro and Castelao, key figures of Galician identity and culture.
To our left, the Centro Gallego de Arte Contemporáneo occupies the granite building designed by the renowned Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza and opened in 1993. The building was designed so as not to block the view of the baroque convent, creating a harmonious contrast. Design, light and volume come together to form austere, serene architecture, which uses stone to link it with traditional Compostela. The bright interior spaces open up like a fan to showcase recent artistic tendencies, especially by means of its permanent collection featuring more than 1,200 items. The harmony and dialogue between the works of Galician and international artists are the museum’s hallmark.