We are facing the impressive facade of the Monastery of San Martín Pinario. It was founded in the 10th century in order to host a group of monks tasked with watching over the Apostle’s relics. It is the second largest monastery in Spain after El Escorial, covering an area of more than 20 thousand square metres.
Prosperous times started in 1494 when the monastery became dependent on the Valladolid Benedictine Congregation. It owned properties and collected rents all over Galicia, becoming the most important monastery in Compostela and one of the largest lodgings in the country during the Middle Ages, with the largest library in Galicia. The monastery was so wealthy that in the 18th century it used to give charity to nearly 800 poor people in the city. Men and women received money on alternate days, with the monastery and the Archbishopric taking turns to provide the funds. At that time, the power of the Benedictine Order was such that it even competed with the Cathedral until its abolition in 1837.
The present-day building has a Renaissance façade finished in 1738. The central niche holds the figure of St. Benedict, founder of the order, and above the coats of arms of Carlos the First we can see the equestrian statue of the titular saint, St. Martin de Tours, tearing his cloak in two pieces to share it with a beggar.
Nowadays this monastic building hosts the Major Seminary, some of Compostela University’s lecture rooms and a hostel for tourists. However, surrounding its interior cloisters from the 17th and 18th centuries are collections that can be visited and some exhibition rooms. The visit to the church features some of the best Spanish baroque altarpieces and the old wooden choir stall that occupied part of the Cathedral’s central nave.