Historic, religious or civil buildings, in addition to their architectural and artistic dimension, have a great significance in virtue of the long process that goes back to its origins, especially if it is the Antiquity, and is linked to the privileged location they occupy, where happened events not registered by the chroniclers, but that are roots of identity of the place and its surroundings. Therefore, the archeology of these buildings and places gives us access to knowledge of a process that transcends the current reality of the building itself, which includes its background and reveals data from stages in which documentary evidence is scarce or does not exist. Archaeological information thus comes to cover historical gaps of epochs without written information, about precedents that otherwise would have remained hidden. Thus understood from archeology, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is a complete history of the Jacobean event from moments long before the “Inventio”, and informs us of a city before the Middle Ages, which came to be believed to be non-existent in the absence of an ancient history .
In the excavations that were carried out under the cathedral presbytery and in the subsoil of the basilica of Compostela, at different chronological times, a series of material remains have been collected which give us valuable data of the dynamic dimension of the Jacobean phenomenon, such as its origin chronological, its evolution in time and evidences of the pilgrimage in the time. These are fragments of ceramics, coins, glass beads, etc. There is Roman pottery from the end of the first century to C. in the middle of the third century AD, which refers us to the first Roman nucleus; (VIII-X centuries), and its medieval apogee and construction of the Romanesque cathedral (XI-XIII centuries), to the late Middle Ages and Modern times. There is also a diversified number of coins that include pieces from Roman to modern times, and as a chronological and geographical reflection of the pilgrimage it is significant to evidence the presence, in addition to copies of the Spanish kingdoms, of French coins along with others from different European origins, Such as German or Italian.
The ornamental tiles of marble and porphyry typical of the mosaics, typical of Roman buildings, or glass objects dating from the first and second century, in tune with more recent finds in the Plaza de la Quintana and the Cloister, come to confirm the existence of an important HIGH-IMPERIAL ROMAN SETTLEMENT in what will later be the apostolic locus. From here the dynamic interpretation of the archaeological findings allow us to know a conversion as a center of sepulchral cult that generates the city of Compostela, first around the Roman tomb edifice, then guarded in the basilicas of the astures kings and then in its splendid cathedral Romanesque, constituting elements recognized by archeology as roots of the Jacobean phenomenon that transforms a local sepulchral cult into a pilgrimage cult of European dimension.
Although not exhaustive archaeological pretension, from the multidisciplinary approach of this analysis, it is interesting to outline three major archaeological findings for the context of the tradition: The gravestone of Bishop Teodomiro, the Roman tomb edifice and the paleocristian Necropolis.
THE SEPULCRAL GRAVESTONE OF TEODOMIRO is the tombstone of the tomb of the bishop who led the discovery of the apostolic tomb. Ignored for centuries, it is discovered during excavations of the subsoil of the cathedral between 1946 – 1959, in a semi-enclosed enclosure half the southern wall of which was Alfonso III basilica, place that today occupies the southern edge of the current cruise. It is a large granite slab of more than two meters long by almost a meter wide, which has engraved the cross of Alfonso II and an inscription that reveals to us the historicity of the character and the importance of his discovery: only a very relevant discovery could generate the transfer from the original headquarters of Iria to a new place, to build there its episcopal seat without ecclesiastical designation, and to place there its own burial, in full harmony with the sepulchral cult that underlies in Compostela.
ROMAN SEPULCRAL EDICLE. In the explorations carried out between 1875 and 1886, a funerary monument of Roman influence attributed to the first century was found beneath the presbyter’s basement. The absence of a lower access door and a comparative study with other buildings of the time allow us to recognize that it is a question Of a building of two plants, a lower one destined to sepulchral chamber, and another superior dedicated to the oratory or memorial cult, united to each other by an inner staircase, and that through the time will undergo a series of transformations as we will see. Studies of 1988 have revealed as a significant significance the existence of a marttirial fenestella, or small window to obtain relics of cloth by contact with the remains (brandeum), an indication that it is a cult of Christian martyrs of Roman times , Because it is original of the Roman wall, not by posterior rupture. In this work, Isidoro Millán Gonzalez-Pardo reveals a surprising finding when making a series of slides in the side graves, which allowed to discover the plug of the fenestella with the inscription ATANASIO MARTIR, precisely one of the disciples of the Jacobean legend, in spelling Greek and Hebrew with signs of mystical symbolism, which could be related to the cemetery of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. The finding, labeled controversial and questionable, has remained dormant for years until the recent studies of Enrique Alarcón, University of Navarra, finds in this inscription other meanings that would revalidate the Jacobean Tradition. He announces the discovery of the word Jacob interlaced with the Greek word “martyr” – meaning “witness” -. For Alarcón the symbolism of the inscription is very rich, with allusions to the Jewish feast of Shavu’ot, equivalent to that of Christian Pentecost, with ritual signs of the beginnings of Christianity. The find refers to the inscriptions found in the tombs of the primitive Judeo-Christian cemetery in Jerusalem. Alarcón recalls that it is at Pentecost that the apostles set out to preach to all peoples, by order of Christ to leave Jerusalem and be their witnesses until the Finis Terrae. In this line he maintains that the inscription refers to Santiago as fulfiller of that mandate: witness of Christ in the Finisterre; Although there is nothing to indicate that, at the beginning of the Christian Era, what we now call Finisterre already had that name, there is much historical documentation that for many Greek and Roman scholars the western end of the earth was found there, Which is a contemporary reference, so that the finding, in his opinion, “confirms the tradition” that places the Apostle in Hispanic lands and his burial in the Compostela temple.
The hypothesis, controversial and questionable, needed academic confirmation, but it is still a criterion that, with all the prudence that the case deserves, must also be placed in the relation of criteria and arguments.
PALEOCHRISTIAN NECROPOLIS. The excavations of 1946-1959, carried out in various phases in the subsoil of the basilica of Compostela, reveal an intricate series of necropolis in which, from the second and third centuries, Roman, Sueva and Medieval tombs took place in Where it is surprising the existence of common elements that speak of a Christian cult that is transmitted around the main tomb towards which they are oriented.
The conclusion of these findings, even with room for further analysis and research, leaves no doubt that Compostela is not an invention or a montage, but a true finding, with antecedents not reflected in the chronicles, which keep a surprising approximation with the Legendary Tradition Jacobean.