The central nave

Now let’s continue on our way towards the high altar, while we take a look at the whole of the central nave section.

We are moving in the opposite direction to the stages in which the cathedral was built, which began with the apse and the Portico of Glory. To prevent any potential collapse affecting the whole of the vaulted ceiling, it was common to build in independent sections that were then joined together.

Everything was designed so that church activities were not interrupted by crowds of pilgrims. So the side naves were extended towards the apse, ending in a circular passage known as an ambulatory that goes around the back of the high altar, allowing processions to take place and enabling worshippers to get to the tomb of the saint without disturbing the services taking place at the high altar.

This layout is typical of what are known as Pilgrimage Cathedrals, which were becoming widespread at that time, and it gave them status on an international level.

Now raise your eyes towards the ceiling, and look at the barrel vaulting that covers this nave. This semi-circular roof was a common feature in Romanesque architecture. The weight of the vaults is born by the large pillars and external buttresses, which were also a typical Romanesque feature. Here in Santiago, they are especially robust. Despite their size, they look slender as a group, thanks to the effect of geometrical figures on which they stand and the half-columns that hold up the typical Romanesque arches.

The organs, which you may find surprisingly ornate, and which stand at either side of the nave, were built between 1705 and 1713 and occupy the area that was once taken up by the choir.

Now look up at the second floor, which looks like the arcaded gallery in a palace. It is known as the triforium.

(c) (R) 2013, MUSMon com S.L.
Text (a) Diego Laforga Marcos

Source: Own work
Author: Diego Laforga (2013)