This square is known as Quintana de los Muertos, which means Square of the Dead. The unusual name came from the many tombs that had lain here since Pagan times.
You have come out onto the square through the Royal Doorway. This door gets its name from the coat of arms over it which, as you can see, is immense. Its main features are the four Doric columns and the enormous bronze nails in the doors.
The facade looking onto this square was built in the 17th century to hide the chaotic additions made to the Romanesque apse. It features the Holy Doorway, which you will identify from its many carvings. Here again, you can see the scene with the Apostle St. James and his disciples Athanasius and Theodore, who are accompanied by 24 Romanesque carvings from Master Mateo’s stone choir. The ones in better condition were restored in the 19th century.
As I mentioned before, this door is only opened on Compostelan Holy Years, which are when the 25th July falls on a Sunday. Until then, the doorway remains sealed up. On 31st December, the archbishop strikes the door with a small silver hammer, recites some prayers in Latin and the stone wall is broken down. The remains are collected by the faithful, to protect them from storms, and the doorway remains open for the rest of that year.
Let’s move on to the next doorway, which is Neo-Classical in style. It is the doorway of the Arch-Guild of the Apostle, which you may join if you are a worshipper of St. James. Go up to the top of the steps and you will reach Quintana de los Vivos, or Square of the Living, where you will get an unusual view of the towers and domes of the cathedral.
We continue our tour of the outside of the Cathedral, and are heading towards Plaza de la Azabachería.
(c) (R) 2013, MUSMon com S.L.
Text (a) Diego Laforga Marcos
Source: Own work
Author: Diego Laforga (2013)
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