The first stop on the program’s tour of cities in northern Spain is La Coruña, a busy port on the Atlantic Ocean that provides a distribution point for agricultural goods from the region including catches from the ocean-going fishing vessels that depart from the city’s harbor. Related to La Coruña’s history in fishing and other sea-faring industries are its characteristic glazed window balconies, called galerías. The wives and families of the crews of the ocean-going vessels would maintain a constant vigil for returning ships and keep watch from the balconies behind these banks of windows. The design of the windows with row upon row of glass set in wooden munions has become a staple of the city’s architectural style, even though the advent of GPS navigational systems and satellite cell phones has made the practice of keeping watch for returning ships a novelty.While in La Coruña, we will visit the Roman Tower of Hercules, a lighthouse in continuous operation for nearly 2,000 years and the Casa de las Ciencias museum which was built only twenty years ago.
Santiago de Compostela
About one hour to the south, we will make a daytrip to Santiago de Compostela, a small city which holds an important place in the Christian history of Spain. The city’s cathedral is reputed to be the final resting place of Saint James, the apostle whose tomb is contained in the cathedral’s catacombs. The legend is that St. James' remains were carried by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain where they were discovered at Compostela. As a result of this claim to the sacred remains of one of the original apostles, Santiago de Compostela is the destination city for the Camino de Santiago or The Way of St James, one of a number of pilgrimage routes to the city. One of the most important Christian pilgrimages since medieval times, the tradition of walking to the cathedral from thoughout Christendom has been in existence for about 1000 years, and presently attracts a growing number of modern pilgrims from around the globe.
Thousands of Christian and non Christian pilgrims each year still set out on foot from their homes, or from popular starting points from all across Europe, like St. Albain’s church in Paris, to walk for weeks or months to visit the cathedral.