Santiago de Compostela (2002 pop. 93,273) named the European City of Culture for the year 2000, is located in the north west region of Spain in the province of A Coru˝a in the autonomous community of Galicia.
"Santiago" ("Sant' Iago") means "St. James", and the city is supposedly the final resting place of Jesus's Apostle St. James the Great, the brother of John. His remains are said to be under the altar in the crypt of the cathedral. One etymology for "Compostela" (or "Campostela"; in Latin "campus stellae") is "field of stars", so he is sometimes called "St. James of the Field of Stars".
Another theory has that the actual remains in the crypt belong to Priscillian, a Spanish heresiarch.
Santiago is also only a few miles inland from the most westward coast of mainland Europe facing the Atlantic, so prior to Christopher Columbus's voyage of 1492, it was considered the edge of the known world, the Finis Terrae in Latin, Finisterre in Spanish and Fisterra in Galician (See also French FinistÚre and Land's End). Also, as the lowest-lying land on that stretch of coast, it took on added significance. Legends supposed of Celt origin made it the place were the souls of the dead gathered to follow the Sun across the sea. Those unworthy of going to the Land of the Dead haunted Galicia as the Santa Compa˝a.
Since the 11th century, Santiago has been the ideal ending spot for a Pilgrimage. People from Western Europe would walk St. James's Way for months to arrive finally at the great church in the main square to pay homage, and many pilgrims have laid their hands on the pillar just inside the doorway to rest their weary bones. So many, in fact, that a groove has been worn in the stone.
At the front of the baroque cathedral, a golden mollusc shell adorns the altar. A steady stream of pilgrims still queue there to kiss the shell, as another sign of homage.
The cathedral fronts on the main Plaza of the old and preserved city. Across the square is the Galician parliament building and, on the right from the cathedral steps is a hotel. The Obradoiro fašade of the cathedral, the best known, is depicted on the Spanish euro coins of 1 cent, 2 cents, and 5 cents (€0.01, €0.02, and €0.05).
Santiago also has a fine university which can be seen best from an alcove in the large municipal park in the centre of the city. The University ensures youth night life. Within the old town there are many narrow winding streets full of historic buildings. The new town all around it has less character though some of the older parts of the new town have some big apartments in them.