Some works in the cathedral of Santiago bring to light pieces of the old choir of Maestro Mateo

The restoration work carried out in the Santiago’s cathedral in the last five years they have allowed the discovery of around thirty unpublished historical pieces, among them remains from the ancient stone choir made by the workshop of Master Mateo and a series of “magnificent” reliefs that represent the evangelical passage of the Slaughter of the Innocents.

The facilities of the Pazo de Xelmírez host from this Thursday an exhibition made up of all these pieces, recently discovered during the rehabilitation works that were carried out both in the crypt of the Portico of Glory as in the access stairway to the cathedral, located on the facade of the Obradoiro.

In parallel, an archaeological intervention was carried out directed by the architect Javier Alonso which resulted in the appearance of numerous works and sculptures, such as a fragment of sepulchral lauda, dated from the year 1085 but of unknown origin, which was reused as part of the pavement in the works of the crypt in the 17th century.

The dismantling of the paving at this point also made it possible to find various fragments of arched voussoirs (1250-1350) that respond to the model used in the missing medieval cloister of the cathedral and its adjacent chapels.

One of the main discoveries was also made in the course of the archaeological excavation of the crypt of the Portico, specifically a series of pieces and reliefs that would have belonged to a cycle dedicated to the ‘Massacre of the Innocents’, probably related to a chapel or altar disassembled shortly before the remodeling of the early seventeenth century.

Remains of the choir

The works also made it possible to recover a series of diverse materials and remains from the stone choir of Maestro Mateo. Between 1603 and 1604, this choir was brought down by the same team that, under the leadership of Ginés Martínez, was going to take care of the work on the western facade of the cathedral and used the remains as steps or paving slabs and filling elements in the remodeling promoted by the archbishop Maximilian of Austria.

Thus, several towers of the choir were located, reused at the beginning of the 17th century in the pavement of the extension of the crypt and in the Maximilian staircase, with two panels and fragments of a third decorated with rosettes and two decorated semicircular arches, in its spandrels, by rosettes.

Tombs were also found, the moat of the 10th century wall (built by Bishop Cresconio), a metallurgical bell smelting furnace (probably contemporary with the construction of the Romanesque cathedral), a second oven and a well.


During the presentation of the exhibition and the new discoveries made in the temple, Daniel Lorenzo, representative of the Catedral Foundation, insisted on the importance of this material for the “study and knowledge” of scientific specialists from numerous branches of knowledge and that it represents a “wake-up call” to investigate everything that the restoration process allowed to know and discover.

The mayor of Santiago, Xosé Sánchez Bugallo, highlighted the importance of the restoration work carried out, an “extraordinarily positive” intervention carried out “with absolute respect for heritage” and which has allowed to bring to light all this series of unpublished materials in order to study artistic evolution and history. From the temple.

One of the scenes from the Massacre of the Innocents.

One of the scenes from the Massacre of the Innocents.


For his part, the Government delegate, Jose Miñones, stressed the “extraordinary value” of these findings, which represent “the beginning of a new history” both for the future of the cathedral and to investigate and discover “much of the past” of this monument and which represent “living history” for the whole of the territory.

The Minister of Culture, Education and University, Roman Rodriguez, considered that the cathedral is “much more than an architectural temple”, since it is the element “in which thousands of Galicians identify themselves” and that other millions of people recognize as the image and symbol of Galicia.

“We mean ourselves with all that it means and with everyone its artistic and cultural treasures which constitute one of the most important cathedral complexes in the world, “insisted the regional minister, urging us to continue” improving “and” adding value “to all its elements.

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