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The 12th-century Portico da Gloria, behind the western façade, is in the narthex of the west portal. It is a remain from the Romanesque period. It is a masterwork of Romanesque sculpture built between 1168 and 1188 by Master Mateo at the request of king Ferdinand II of León. The vigorous naturalism of the figures in this triple portal is an expression of an art form, varied in its details, workmanship and polychromy (of which faint traces of colour remain). The shafts, tympana and archivolts of the three doorways which open onto the nave and the two aisles are a mass of strong and nervous sculpture representing the Last Judgment.
The central tympanum gives us an image of Christ in Majesty as Judge and Redeemer, showing His wounds in His feet and hands, accompanied by the tetramorph. He is surrounded on both sides by a retinue of angels carrying the symbols of the Passion. In the archivolt are represented the 24 Elders of the Apocalypse, who are playing musical instruments.
The column statues represent the apostles with their attribute; prophets and Old Testament figures with their name on a book or parchment. These were all polychromed. The faint smile of the prophet Daniel as he looks at the angel of Reims is especially noteworthy.
The middle pier represents Saint James, his face conveying an ecstatic serenity. The text scroll in his hand shows the words Misit me Dominus (the Lord sent me). Below him is the Tree of Jesse (the lineage leading to Christ), while above is a representation of the Trinity. It is customary for the pilgrims to touch the left foot of this statue, signifying that they have reached their destination. So many pilgrims have laid their hands on the pillar to rest, that a groove has been worn in the stone.
The lateral portals are dedicated to the Jews on the left and to the unbelievers on the right.
The right tympanum is divided into three parts and is dedicated to the salvation of the souls. In the centre are Christ and St Michael, flanked by Hell (represented by demons) and Heaven (represented by children). Purgatory is shown on the side. The left tympanum shows scenes from the Old Testament.
Demons are represented at the bottom of the pórtico, signifying that Glory crushes sin.
Behind the portico stands the statue of Maestro Mateo, the master architect and sculptor put in charge of the cathedral building programme in the 12th century by Fernando II. It is said that whoever butts their head three times against the statue will be given a portion of Mateo's genius and perhaps enhanced memory. There is usually a long line of visitors waiting to bump their head against the statue.Although he is now blocked off because a hole has started to indent into him from all the head bumps.
The sculptures in this portico have been a point of reference for Galician sculpture until the 15th century.

LONDON, Victoria & Albert Museum
The V&A collections include a vast nineteenth-century plaster copy of the Portico de la Gloria from the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Pilgrims entering the cathedral today via the main entrance in the west façade pass through the Portico de la Gloria, a masterpiece of late twelfth-century architectural sculpture. The photograph reproduced to the right shows the vast Baroque façade of the cathedral behind which the medieval masterpiece is now hidden. Click on the image for more information about the photograph.
The V&A’s plaster copy of the Portico was created in 1866 when casts were taken from the original by a team of specialists commissioned by the Director of the South Kensington Museum (as the V&A was then known). The Portico is now acknowledged as one of the great works of art of any time and place, but this wasn’t always the case.
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Categories & Keywords
Category:Travel and Places
Subcategory:Europe
Subcategory Detail:Spain
Keywords:Camino, Entrance, Galicië, Patrimonio de la Humanidad, Route of Santiago de Compostela, Spain, Spanien, Spanje, St James, The Way, Unesco, Way of St James, Weltculturerbe, Welterbe, Werelderfgoed, World Heritage, botafumeiro, finish, pelerins, pelgrim, peregrino, peregrino, pilger, portico da gloria, relics, santiago, santiago de compostela