Art on the Camino

Learn about the vast artistic wealth on the Camino.

Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, north aisle of the transept (2013) by D. RovchakSpanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way


Architecture is the “Art of designing and constructing buildings,” according to the dictionary, and has the ability of housing other arts within it. The main elements include: plan, structure, form, walls, doorways, as well as supporting and supported structures (adintelados and abovedados). Image shows the interior of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

The Pórtico de la Gloria of the Cathedral of Santiago (12th century) by Master MateoSpanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way


Sculpture is the art of representing a figure in three dimensions: height, width, and depth, like architecture. In the same way, sculptural art varies depending on how light falls on the object, as it is or how it relates to the background and also depending on your angle. The image shows a masterpiece of Romanesque sculpture: the Portico of Glory (el Pórtico de la Gloria) in the Cathedral of Santiago, from 1188.

Interior of the Cathedral of Santiago (1849) by Jenaro Pérez VillaamilSpanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way


Painters depict figures in color and in two dimensions, (height and width), while using perspective to give the illusion of a third (depth). While architects and sculptors are limited by natural laws, painters can represent the world how they imagine it. This is a painting by Jenaro Pérez Vaillaamil from 1849.

Front of the church of Santiago, Carrión de los Condes (12th century)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

Sculpture, Iconography

This is one of the simplest and most beautiful Romanesque doorways, at the church of Santiago in Carrión de los Condes (1160). The simple composition of the semicircular arch contrasts with the opulent iconography of the upper frieze, implying that it is a place where simple people acquire superior knowledge.

Altarpiece in the church of Santiago in Cigales (17th century)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

Altarpiece Art

In the Catholic Christian churches of Latin rite, it is common for an altarpiece to be used, a collection of painted or carved figures that represent a story or event usually placed behind the altar. In most Jacobean churches, such as the Church of Santiago in Cigales, the Apostle St. James watches over the altarpieces.

Leon Cathedral Stained Glass (13th century)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

Stained Glass Art

While Romanesque pictorial art is mural, Gothic painters took advantage of the large windows used to lighten the weight of the building to display stained-glass art. The use of color and images endow the temple with its symbolic and religious instruction functions. Image shows the spectacular stained-glass windows of León Cathedral.

Chapel of the Hermitage of San Félix de de Oca (2015)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

Visogothic Art

From the old Visogothic monastery of San Félix de Oca (6th to 9th centuries) all that is left are the remains of the apse of its chapel on the edge of the Camino, which has some ashlars and carved stone remains of Roman origin.

Chapel of San Salvador de Samos or del Ciprés (9th-10th Centuries)Regional Government of Galicia

Mozarabic Art

The cypress tree has been standing next to the chapel dedicated to San Salvador for more than 1,000 years. It is possibly an old monastic cell belonging to the nearby monastery of San Julián and Santa Basilisa in Samos.

Church of Santa Cristina de Lena (2017)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

Asturian Art

Narthex and inostasis (Visigothic origin), semicircular raised arches (Mozarabic influence), plus the use of ashlar and masonry walls, are the defining feature of this beautiful work of art dating back to the mid-9th century, the church of Santa Cristina de Lena,

Romanesque church of San Martin de Frómista (2012)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

Romanesque Art

Few images are more representative of Spanish Romanesque architecture than the temple of San Martín de Frómista (mid-11th century), which had to undergo significant restoration in 1904 under the aesthetic canons of the time to remove all the additions and recover its original image.

Mudéjar Art

Mudéjar art (carried out by Muslims on Christian land) has been described as “Romanesque in brick,” characterized by the use of thick walls that gradually become thinner with height, vaulted interiors, and scarce use of columns. One such example is the church of San Tirso de Sahagún in León.

Gothic Art

Gothic art is based on the balance between new technical knowledge, which allows the wall mass to be lightened while increasing their height, while creating a new sacred image, and the transcendent from the very center of the cities. Image shows the impressive Burgos Cathedral.

Convent and Church of San Marcos (2011)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

Renaissance Art

The Renaissance tried to recover classic models of antiquity, but instead of imitating them, sought to interpret them and put their own stamp on old Greco-Latin works. This was performed using classical orders and by creating meticulously mathematically calculated structures. This is perfectly depicted in the convent of San Marcos, in León.

The Obradoiro Square (1738-1750) by Fernando Casas Novoa and Domingo AndradeRegional Government of Galicia

Baroque Art

Baroque art is the art of movement: clever manipulation of architecture, dramatic sculptural tension, capturing spatial perspective and urbanism in the layout of the city. One example is the Facade of the Obradoiro of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

Pazo de Raxoi (1766)Regional Government of Galicia

Neoclassical Art

Neoclassicism, under the influence of the century of reason and enlightenment, is a new return to the classical artistic Greek canons, seeking the best aesthetic harmony in floor and elevation, a defining feature of the new times in religious buildings and civil buildings for public use. In the image, the main facade of the Rajoy Palace, seat of the city council of Santiago de Compostela and the presidency of the Junta de Galicia.

Interior basilica of La Virgen del CaminoSpanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

Contemporary Modern Art

Entering the basilica sanctuary of La Virgen del Camino is awe-inspiring for any pilgrim, especially when the building (1955–66) is the architect’s opera prima, or debut piece of work, of the Dominican friar Francisco Coello de Portugal y Acuña (Jaén, 1926–2013, Madrid).

Credits: Story

Federación Española de Asociaciones de Amigos del Camino de Santiago
Pilar de Luis Domínguez
José Antonio Ortiz Baeza

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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