on May 7, 2007
One of the best recommendations from our guidebooks was to do the rooftop tour of the Cathedral. At 11am, we showed up at the ticked office on the Praza Obradoiro surprised to learn that we couldn’t book onto the next tour. Thankfully they had space at 7pm so we made our reservation and left to explore some of the city parks for a few hours.By the time we got back to the office, it had started raining. However, this did little to spoil what turned out to be a very memorable and unique tour. Our guide had been kind enough to book us onto an English guided tour. We hadn’t even asked as the Rough Guide book recommended the tour even in the event that you can’t follow the Spanish commentary as the views make it all worthwhile.We were taken up a short staircase to a banqueting hall where the room’s history was explained by reference to the stone sculptures on the walls. Another short staircase took us up an interior gallery that looked down over the length of the cathedral. Here our guide indicated the different periods of the cathedral’s construction from Roman to Gothic to Baroque. We also found out that to swing the colossal Botafumeiro, it takes 8 trained (and I’m guessing fit) men to pull the rope.Once on the roof it took a lot of self-restraint not to skip around like a chimney sweep from Mary Poppins. The views are outstanding and it’s difficult to know when to stop taking photos. The commentary from our enthusiastic guide was extremely engaging as he noted buildings of significance in the surrounding areas. Speaking of chimneys, we learnt that in recent centuries, families would flaunt their wealth by constructing the largest chimney possible atop their house. The building across from the cathedral on the Praza das Praterias, once owned by a winemaker, was one extreme example as this particular family worked to outdo their holy neighbours (people of religion in Santiago de Compostela traditionally being the wealthiest individuals in the city.)We also learnt about the sacrificial enclosure perched high on a ridge and watched over by a symbolic sheep. The belief is that pilgrims used to burn their clothes in the pen at the end of their pilgrimage to Santiago. Some believe the burning took place on the roof, and others believe that the pen was moved from the Praza de Immaculada (the site of the previous entrance to the Cathedral) where pilgrims originally destroyed their clothes.We heard about the two towers, and how one was reconstructed so that it would match the height of the other and so many other fascinating tidbits. The hour seemed all too short, even with the rain coming down on us. The other nice aspect is that despite being a roof tour, it was extremely easygoing with very little climbing or walking involved - a big selling point to those worried about their fitness abilities.
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