One of the first Marian Temples of the world
The history of Santa María de Iria dates back to Roman times, although it is not known with certainty the actual moment when the primitive basilica was built. The existence of up to two pre-Romanesque temples is defended by some authors, which place them parallel to the development of Christianity in Galicia. Even at that time, one of them was dedicated to Virgin Mary, as its tradition links the appearance of the Virgin Mary to the apostle Saint James there to encourage him to preach his faith throughout the Iberian Peninsula.
A cathedral before Santiago de Compostela
The first documentary evidence that recognizes Iria Flavia as an episcopal headquarters dates back to the 6th century. The bishopric of Iria Flavia played a fundamental role in the discovery of the apostolic sepulcher, being Bishop Teodomiro who gave the account of the discovery around 820, that will forever link the Jacobean tradition to this church. The importance of these lands is confirmed with the fact that the basilica was commissioned in different moments, despite of the strong influence exerted by Compostela and the consecutive attacks into the lands of the Normans and Almanzor.
The passage from cathedral to collegiate church
With the definitive transfer of the Mitra to Compostela, the designation of a collegiate church was granted in the 12th century by Bishop Xelmírez, which would last until 1851. From that moment on, it was to be considered a parish, a rank which it still holds today. What remains of the period´s medieval splendor is the main entrance of the church with its 13th century Gothic traces. The pointed archivolts which frames a sculpted tympanum with a prominent portrayal of the Adoration of the three Wise Men.
The necessary Baroque remodeling
In the second half of 17th century the architect Melchor de Velasco reformed the chapel known as the Bishop’s Chapel of Quito. It will also be at the end of this century when the evident deterioration of the church is verified. As a solution, a contest is held where master projects are presented such as those by Diego de Romay or Gabriel de Casas, but it will be in fact a collaborator of the latter, Pedro García, who will be in charge of the Baroque construction at the beginning of the 18th century. This reconstruction, which had a tight budget, was financially supported, in part, by the donations of the Bishop of Quito, his tomb is in the chapel that bears the same name although his mortal remains were never transferred to Iria.
Sober lines host ornamented altarpieces.
Outwardly, the stepped towers noticeably display a clear Compostelana influence and in the interior nine altarpieces can be counted of varied imagery. The principal focus is the main altar, where we can find a stony Gothic Virgin Mary of to which in the 17th century the image of a kneeling Apostle was added. It is the work of Miguel de Romay, in a churrigueresque style. Nearby is the low choir that was probably made by the sculptor himself and the organ with a box in Rococo style. All this is preceded by a 16th century grid that houses the image of Saint James the pilgrim, also carved by Romay.
Other interesting facts
The church of Santa María la Mayor de Iria Flavia was declared an Asset of Cultural Interest in 1975. The peto de ánimas, located close to the temple contains an image of Saint Francis of Asis of the old gothic altarpiece of the collegiate church.
Visits in winter:
Monday to Saturday: 18:15 to 19:30 pm
Sunday: 10:30 am to 12:30 pm
Visits in summer:
Monday to Sunday: 10 am to 14 pm and 17 pm to 20 pm
Sightseeing schedules may be disrupted by the liturgical celebration.