The chancel, or “capilla mayor” is the heart of the Cathedral, as it stands exactly over the spot where the remains of the saint were found, and thus defined how the church was built.
The work you see here is an elaborate fusion of architecture, sculpture and ornate decoration, full of marble, gilded wood and over three hundred kilogrammes of silver. The narrowness of the chancel makes the crowded decoration feel rather overwhelming.
First of all, look at the baldachin, which is the canopy structure over the altar. Ever since the Middle Ages, there had been one made of silver and enamel. This was gradually modified until in the 17th century the one you see here was constructed. It was intended to rival that of the Vatican.
Now look at the marble altar, which is 19th century. This is the consecrated table at which the Mass is held. As you can see, the inside is decorated with an ornate and very elaborate sheet of silver.
Crowning it all is the most well-known image of the Apostle St. James. It is a seated figure, carved by the school of Master Mateo in the 13th century. As you know, it is embraced by the faithful. Very little of the face of the original image can be seen, as it is hidden behind an ornate mantle decorated with precious stones, which is a later addition. There two more images of the apostle here. Can you see them? One is the sculpture over the chamber. We see the saint standing, dressed as a pilgrim. The other is on top of the baldachin, dressed as St. James the Moor Slayer.
Now go over to the Platerías doorway, where you came in.
(c) (R) 2013, MUSMon com S.L.
Text (a) Diego Laforga Marcos
Source: Own work
Author: Diego Laforga (2013)
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