We decided that a trip to the Church of Santa Maria do Sar was in order (as it was included in the entrance to the Cathedral Museum and you can visit it the next day as we were doing for no extra charge). It is about 15 minutes from the Cathedral Quarter down some beautiful and yet more modern streets (pictured).
The Church itself is almost as old as the Cathedral but on a much smaller scale. It has some massive flying buttresses holding the walls up.
When you go inside the Church you can see why, the central pillars are leaning away at the top, and apparently after an earthquake in Northern Portugal in the 18th Century it was deemed sensible to shore up the church as best possible. The Church is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and was a place Pilgrims would often go to either on route to the Cathedral or prior to their return home. Of all the Churches we visited it was the least ornate, and had the least number of altars and memorials and had a minimal use of marble and precious metal inside. It felt, thus, more English in style. There is a beautiful Cloister which was being renovated but I still got some lovely photos (pictured).
Attached to the Church is a Museum which tells of the History of the Church and also displays some beautiful vestments,
altar frontals and church requisites (I loved this Thurible especially).
It also included this relic of St Peter.
Bearing in mind this is supposed to be of the Apostle Peter to find it in a museum and not behind an altar was quite astounding and also it was virtually unheralded. When you compare this with the shrine to St James at the Cathedral it is strange to note that this is almost sidelined!
The other church of note to visit especially (there are many lovely churches around and in Santiago) is the Church of St Francis.
It is said that St Francis decided to walk the Camino and was so moved by the experience that he built a Church a few hundred yards from the Cathedral to say thanks to God for his visit. There is a beautiful way cross outside the Church
and the Church, which is attached to a Franciscan Convent, is externally beautiful without being “over the top”. The inside is quite different, it is garish, overly ornate and stifling due to massive monuments, altars and the over use (in my opinion!) of Gold and Marble. It seems out of character with St Francis who dedicated his life to the poor to have a building that must have cost so much to decorate in this fashion. It is still, however, worth the visit especially being so close to the Cathedral.
My next blog will be about my observations concerning Modern day Pilgrims to Santiago, about the way the church is responding to that and also some final thoughts on the City and the experience itself.