SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Spain, APRIL 13, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The cathedral that houses the remains of the Apostle James marks its 800th anniversary this year.
The cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Spain, was consecrated April 4, 1211, by Bishop Pedro Muniz, after more than 100 years of construction.
It sits over the place where the tomb of the Apostle James was discovered at the beginning of the 9th century, and it replaced the previous church, which was too small to receive the thousands of pilgrims who arrived every year from all over Europe.
Archbishop Julián Barrio Barrio has written a pastoral letter to mark the anniversary.
The archbishop said that those who visit the cathedral ask where so much beauty could come from. “Here humanity gives the best of itself,” he said, to show how God the Father and neighbor are important.
“On its walls flows the history of the faith inherited from the apostles,” the prelate continued. He added that it is natural to “admire the artistic beauty of its stones” but that this admiration gives way to the “spiritual wealth.”
He noted, “In one of his catecheses Pope Benedict XVI stressed two elements of Romanesque and Gothic art that we must consider pastorally when it comes to understanding its meaning: to keep in mind the religious soul that inspired these works, and to appreciate that the strength of the Romanesque style and the splendor of the Gothic cathedrals remind us that the way of beauty is a privileged and fascinating path to approach the mystery of God.”
A cathedral is a “symbol of the religious, cultural and social life,” Archbishop Barrio said. “[…] Its city was born looking at it.
“Its silhouette identifies, inspires and attracts us. We admire not only its grandeur, its antiquity capturing the echoes of history and making us ecstatic with its beauty, but also its mysterious enchantment and its symbolism, which it is necessary to interpret.”
He compared a majestic cathedral to the “spiritual temple that is built in the interior of souls and that shines with the splendor of divine grace.”
“We can consider our cathedral a teacher, when it explains the faith through the Portico of Glory, like an innkeeper, when he receives the pilgrim worn out by the anxieties and uncertainties of life, and as the guard that watches before the tomb of James the Apostle,” the prelate reflected.
The bishop of Santiago concluded his letter echoing Benedict XVI and expressing his hope “that the Lord will help us to rediscover the way of beauty as one of the itineraries, perhaps the most attractive and fascinating, to feel the Love of God and to love God.”